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The expectation that the British royal family would use the queen’s funeral to build bridges with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle was rudely shattered Monday morning after the couple were seated in the second row at Queen Elizabeth’s state funeral.
In what looked very much like a calculated snub to Harry, he was seated in the second row with Meghan, alongside his cousins Beatrice and Eugenie and behind Prince Andrew, the disgraced son of the queen who was expelled from the working ranks of the family over his association with Jeffrey Epstein.
Harry and Meghan were on the right side of the church, behind King Charles. In the front row, in front of Harry, were Charles, Camilla, Prince Andrew, Princess Anne, her husband Sir Tim Laurence and Prince Edward and his wife Sophie (both were seen wiping away tears during the service).
Prince William and Kate Middleton, now the Prince and Princess of Wales, were also in the front row, along with their children—and, astonishingly, also in the front row were Anne’s children Peter Philips and Zara, who are not working royals and never have been Zara was accompanied by her husband Mike Tindall. Sarah, Duchess of York, Prince Andrew’s ex-wife and still close friend—once popularly known as “Fergie”—was also present at the service (and in the second row). King Charles looked visibly upset and bereft.
In the careful word of royal symbolism, where nothing is done by mistake, the placement of the Sussexes will have sent an unmistakable message to the Sussexes that they are now very much second-tier members of the family.
It was an extraordinary moment in an extraordinary day, the ceremonial aspects of which began as Big Ben tolled on the minute, as the queen’s body was carried out of Westminster Hall where she has lain in state for four days, prompting mile-long queues around London, by a bearer party of eight Grenadier Guards and borne on a gun carriage to Westminster Abbey for her funeral.
The day continued to deliver a breathtakingly epic spectacle, as crowds gathered to watch the Queen’s coffin be conveyed after the service through the streets of London, down the Mall festooned with Union Jack flags, to Buckingham Palace.
Earlier, on its way into the Abbey, the queen’s coffin was followed by a massed guard of ceremonially clad soldiers and pipers and a royal party including King Charles, Harry, William, and Andrew.
William wore military uniform, but Harry wore civilian clothes. The estranged brothers walked side by side behind the coffin.
Only serving members of the military are technically allowed to wear uniform. Old soldiers are, however, allowed to wear their medals on civilian clothes and Harry proudly displayed his as he marched solemnly behind the coffin.
The imperial crown was positioned on the top of the oak coffin, which was bedecked with the royal standard. A wreath, made from flowers gathered from her gardens, was placed on top of the coffin, with a hand written card from her son the king. It read: “In loving and devoted memory. Charles R.”
The funeral itself began with a military precision that would have pleased the famously punctual late monarch at 11 am local time. It ended equally according to schedule an hour later at noon local time, with a rousing rendition of “God Save the King,” then a two-minute silence in the Abbey and across Britain.
Prince George, 9 and Princess Charlotte, 7, the elder children of William and Kate, joined the cortege when the coffin was brought into the church. The palace was said to have been keen for them to have a public role to underline the continuity of the monarchy. Kate wore a pearl and diamond choker that belonged to the queen, which Princess Diana also once wore.
The children were among 2,000 mourners to be assembled at Westminster Abbey Monday for the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, who ruled Great Britain for over 70 years.
Joe Biden arrived shortly after 10 am local time, and was the only world leader allowed to arrive in a private vehicle. He arrived in the Beast, the fortified presidential limousine, in a reduced motorcade of six vehicles. Other leaders arrived by bus. Former British prime ministers, and the present prime minister, Liz Truss, were also in attendance.
The royal family united behind the queen’s coffin as it was carried out of Westminster Abbey after the service in a procession en route to Wellington Arch. As the post-service funeral procession headed towards Buckingham Palace, it was expected to be observed by the queen’s devoted present and former staff. Later, the queen will be buried in a private committal ceremony in Windsor.
The funeral took place in the same church where the queen was crowned in 1953, with guests including Kate Middleton’s parents, Michael and Carole joining a jaw-dropping cast of global dignitaries. The first hymn was the moving “The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended.”
It was expected that up to 100 heads of government or state would attend the funeral, dwarfing the estimated fifty who attended Nelson Mandela’s memorial. It is believed to be the biggest gathering of world leaders in history.
Vladimir Putin was not invited however other controversial leaders were, including Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro. Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman was reportedly invited but was not expected to attend.
Members of European royal families, many of whom were relatives of the queen, were in attendance, including Belgium’s King Philippe and Queen Mathilde, King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, King Felipe and Queen Letizia of Spain and the royal families of Norway, Sweden , Denmark and Monaco. Also in attendance were the Emperor of Japan, the King of Bhutan, the Sultan of Brunei.
Up to two million members of the public were expected to line the streets of London to pay their respects to the queen when Her Majesty’s funeral cortege makes its final journey from Westminster Abbey to Windsor, where she will be buried with her beloved late husband, Prince Philip.
Many of the VIPs were shuttled into the Abbey by coach, after assembling at a Chelsea hospital.