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Queen Elizabeth burial brings post-war British imperial era to an end

Queen Elizabeth II was laid to rest after 10 somber days of mourning that marked a historic moment for the United Kingdom. U.S. President Joe Biden was among more than 100 heads of state to attend her funeral in London.

(CN) — Queen Elizabeth II was buried with great pomp and ceremony at Windsor Castle on Monday, bringing to an end an era that she helped define following World War II as she oversaw the fading of the world's largest empire in history.

U.S. President Joe Biden was among more than 100 heads of state to attend her state funeral service at Westminster Abbey before her coffin was driven to Windsor Castle, where the royal family held a private service before her body was buried.

It was Great Britain's first state funeral since Winston Churchill was interred in 1965 and it featured her coffin being carried by gun carriage through the streets of London and accompanied by a massive military parade.

The funeral was watched on television by millions of people around the world. The British royals are among the world's most famous and wealthiest families and Monday's funeral events were a display of Britain's imperial glory.

Elizabeth died on Sept. 8 at age 96 at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. She was the longest-reigning British monarch and much beloved for her many good qualities, including her warm smile, humility and sense of humor.

Her death marked the end of an era not just for Britain but for the world. When she ascended to the throne following the early death of her father in 1952, Stalin was still in power in the Soviet Union and Harry Truman was U.S. president.

Over the course of her reign, Elizabeth traveled extensively as she tried to ease the slow dismantling of the British empire following World War II and forge relations with leaders around the globe.

Among her more memorable trips, she visited the Great Wall of China in 1986 and the Kremlin in 1994. She toured the United States in 1957, a trip that included lunch with Herbert Hoover, the former president, in New York City.

The British monarch is the head of state not only in the U.K. but also in 14 other former colonies, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Jamaica and a number of smaller island nations. When she became queen, she was the head of state in 32 nations. The drive for independence is expected to pick up following her death.

She met 13 of the past 14 American presidents and helped cement the so-called “special relationship” between the U.S. and Britain. The only president she didn't meet was Lyndon B. Johnson.

She died only two days after giving her official blessing to Great Britain's newest prime minister, Liz Truss, the country's third female leader. Her eldest son, Charles, has taken over as sovereign and led the royal family in mourning. Charles has taken the thrown as King Charles III.

Her death brought much of British life to a halt as the country entered a period of state mourning and witnessed round-the-clock media coverage marked by encomiums, hagiography, royal history and expressions of national sorrow and dismay.

Mourners get emotional at Westminster Abbey before Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral in London on Monday, Sept. 19, 2022. (Anthony Devlin/Pool Photo via AP)

In the 10 days of public mourning since her death, Britons have shown how much they adored their sovereign as huge crowds gathered to pay their respects as her coffin lay in state at Westminster Hall, an ancient building on the Parliament grounds in London.

The line of mourners seeking to pay their respects to the queen stretched 5 miles and the wait lasted 24 hours, prompting the authorities to advise people not to join the queue.

Huge crowds also turned out for Elizabeth's grand funeral procession on Monday as her coffin was taken by gun carriage from Westminster Hall to Westminster Abbey before being carried by a state hearse to Windsor Castle outside London, passing by tens of thousands of people lining the roads.

On Sunday, Biden was among hundreds of foreign dignitaries and heads of state who signed a book of condolences at Lancaster House. He told reporters how much first lady Jill Biden and he enjoyed the queen's company when they had tea and crumpets with her last year.

“She was the same in person as she – as her image: decent, honorable, and all about service,” he said. “Our hearts go out to the royal family – King Charles and all the family. It’s a loss that leaves a giant hole.”

Biden was given special honors by Britain as he was the only foreign head of state allowed to arrive at Westminster Abbey in his own limousine, an armored vehicle known as “The Beast.” Other world leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and Emperor Naruhito of Japan, were driven to the funeral service in buses.

On Sunday, King Charles III and his wife, Camilla, who is known as the queen consort, held a reception for the gathering of foreign leaders at Buckingham Palace. It was considered to likely have been the largest gathering of heads of state in history.

Elizabeth was laid to rest in the King George VI Memorial Chapel alongside her parents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, known for decades as the queen mother. King George died in 1952 and the queen mother passed in 2002. It is also the final resting place of Princess Margaret, the queen’s younger sister, who also died in 2002.

Elizabeth's husband, Prince Philip, was buried in April 2021 in the chapel's main royal vault during a solitary funeral ceremony due to coronavirus restrictions. His coffin was moved Monday so it could be next to the queen's.

The royal family issued photographs of a masked Elizabeth sitting alone inside the chapel for her husband's burial, a scene that sparked a wave of grief and admiration for the queen. They were married for 73 years.

Courthouse News reporter Cain Burdeau is based in the European Union.

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