Yolande’s Yard: Watching The Queen’s Funeral From Harlem By Yolande Brener

September 19, 2022

“This event illustrates how tradition and ritual can galvanize an entire country,” said Harlem World Magazine, founder, Daniel Tisdale.

“As I look at the service for Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain, like King, Kennedy, and so many others – I better understand what service, duty, and selflessness mean.” 

Queen Elizabeth II lived from 21 April 1926 to 8 September 2022. She reigned for 70 years and 214 days: the longest of any British monarch, the longest recorded of any female head of state in history, and the second-longest verified reign of any monarch in history. But for many, she represented a cozy, matriarchal figurehead, a mother of four, grandmother of eight, and great-grandmother of twelve, who was committed to duty, tradition, and being utterly reliable.

The Lying-In-State, which drew viewers from all over the world, ended at 6:30 am on the morning of Monday, September 19th. Then at 10:44 am the casket was borne in procession to Westminster Cathedral. The coffin was followed by the King, members of the Royal Family including Princes William and Harry, and members of the King’s Household. 

The Sceptre and Orb on top of the coffin were made in 1661, and the Sceptre has been used in every coronation since then. The Imperial State Crown, which sat on a velvet cushion on the Royal Standard-draped coffin, has existed in various versions since the 15th Century. The current version, with its purple velvet and ermine cap, was made in 1937 using gold, silver and platinum, and is set with 2,868 diamonds, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, 269 pearls, and four rubies.

The wreath on top of the coffin included rosemary “for remembrance” and myrtle, which is “the ancient symbol of a happy marriage.” The palace noted this was cut from a plant that was grown from a sprig of myrtle in the Queen’s wedding bouquet in 1947. The wreath also contained English oak, which “symbolizes the strength of love.” At the King’s request, the wreath was made in a totally sustainable way, in a nest of English moss and oak branches, and without the use of floral foam.

Before the service, the tenor bell was tolled every minute for 96 minutes, reflecting the years of Queen Elizabeth II’s life. The State Funeral of Queen Elizabeth II took place at Westminster Abbey on Monday 19th September at 11 am (6 am EST). It ended ten days of national mourning. Two thousand guests attended the service, including President Joe Biden, who was the only world leader not to arrive by coach. The President and his wife traveled instead in his armored limousine, nicknamed “The Beast.”

The Dean of Westminster and the Archbishop of Canterbury presided over the service, the order of which can be read here: The State Funeral. Among those participating in the service were Shermara Fletcher, Principal Officer for Pentecostal and Charismatic Relations of Churches Together in England, and representatives of Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh, Baha’i, Jewish, and Zoroastrian communities.

Following the funeral, the casket was transported from Westminster Abbey to Wellington Arch. There it was transferred to a hearse for the journey to Windsor Castle where thousands of people waited along the Long Walk to catch a glimpse. The funeral procession along the public areas was accompanied by horses and military bands. 

Related: The Fab Princess Di Visits Harlem Hospital New York 1989 (Update).

A Committal Service, attended by eight hundred guests, took place in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor, at 4 pm (11am EST). Prior to the final hymn, the Imperial State Crown, the Orb and the Sceptre were removed from Her Majesty The Queen’s coffin, and placed on the altar. At the end of the final hymn, the Lord Chamberlain “broke” his Wand of Office and placed it on the coffin. The Queen’s final resting place is together with The Duke of Edinburgh, in The King George VI Memorial Chapel in Windsor.

The line to view the Queen’s coffin was miles long over the weekend. People waited up to 22 hours in the cold to view the closed casket at the Lying-In-State. The atmosphere in the line was kind and cooperative. The Tate Modern offered free coffee and toilets. Some people felt that the sharing in the line was an experience in itself. One person in line said it was, “an incredible piece of history to pass on to our grandchildren.”

Here are a few reactions from members of the public. 

Kelley from Virginia Water:

“The news of the death of our Queen really broke my heart. This is not my country of birth but it has become my home and I love it with all my heart and Queen Elizabeth II somehow embodied everything great about the UK with her faithful, understated service, amazing sense of humor and steady leadership. We have lost something very precious.”

Fiona from London:

“When I heard the breaking news that the Queen had died, it’s weird but I had tears in my eyes. I hugged my friend and then immediately went to call my mum.  It has been very emotional really. I’m not getting into any debate, but have read both for and against the royals. There will never be a queen here again in our lifetime. The next three will all be kings. My eyes have water in them again.”

Sheree from New York:

“I am numb, raw and so emotional, thinking of my parents and a time gone by, living in London, and leaving England, just brought up lots of emotions for me. I never knew that Her Majesty said this: ‘Grief is the price we pay for love.” 

On her 21st birthday in 1947, the Queen said, “I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service.” Most would agree that she kept her word.

As the Archbishop of Canterbury said at the funeral, “People of love and service are rare in any walk of life … Few leaders receive the outpouring of love the Queen has seen … She was joyful, touching a multitude of lives.”

Read more Yolands Yard by Yolande Brener here.

Yolande Brener

Yolande Brener is an English writer living in Harlem, NY. She is the author of Holy Candy, a book about faith, love, and change. She is a seeker and lover of the arts as she talks about on her Yolande Brener blog. She’s published work in New York Press, Fiction Magazine, The Promethean, and Harlem World Magazine. She has received awards from The British Film Institute, the Arts Council of Great Britain, the NYC Parks Department Poems in the Park, and Writer’s Digest e-Book Awards in Life Stories. www.yolandebrener.com.

Photo credit: 1-10) by Daniele Minns; 11-18 by Jan W.

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