The State Funeral of HM Queen Elizabeth II
Monday: The State Funeral of HM Queen Elizabeth II - (BBC1, from 8am and ITV)
Although she was 96, her passing came as a shock to many, perhaps because she had been such a constant presence in our lives.
Her 70-year reign began in 1952, when Great Britain was still dealing with post-war austerity – rationing wouldn’t officially end for another two years.
Her coronation in 1953 was the first to be televised and would be seen as a pivotal moment in the development of the new medium, with many people buying their first TV sets just to watch it.
She was served by 15 Prime Ministers – the first, Winston Churchill, was born in 1874, 101 years before Liz Truss, who was appointed by the Queen on September 6.
So, Her Majesty’s funeral, which takes place today, will be seen as more than just a chance for the people of Britain and the Commonwealth to say their goodbyes.
It will also truly mark the end of an era.
To reflect the historic nature of the occasion, ITV has announced that it is launching its largest-ever outside broadcast, and that it will show the funeral live and uninterrupted on ITV’s main channel and simultaneously on all of its digital channels.
The last royal funeral to be broadcast on television was that of the Queen’s husband, Prince Philip, which took place on April 17 last year.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions, it was by necessity a more intimate ceremony and viewers were touched by the sight of the Queen sitting alone as she mourned her husband of nearly 74 years.
Today’s ceremony will be very very different.
The public have already been flocking to royal sites to leave their tributes – in fact, some officials had to tactfully ask mourners to stop leaving stuffed toys and marmalade sandwiches, a nod to the Queen’s memorable appearance with Paddington during her Platinum Jubilee celebrations.
(The link with Paddington has become so strong in people’s minds that BBC1 will show Paddington 2 this evening.)
That Jubilee was back in June, when the country came together to celebrate her reign.
Now, we will unite once again on a much sadder occasion, and our thoughts will be with her family as well as her subjects.
However, it is also a chance to remember and pay thanks for a life dedicated to duty.
The state funeral is due to take place at 11am at Westminster Abbey, which was also the site of her wedding and coronation.
As well as the royal family, the attendees will include heads of state, European royals and key figures from public life, and the service is expected to be conducted by the Dean of Westminster.
Queen Elizabeth II will then begin her final journey to St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.
There won’t be a dry eye watching!