Canadians rose early on Monday to watch Queen Elizabeth’s state funeral service in groups or alone at home, saying they felt a sense of history occurring before their eyes.
Canada’s longest-serving head of state died on Sept. 8 at her holiday home of Balmoral Castle in the Scottish Highlands at the age of 96, setting off 10 days of national mourning in the United Kingdom.
While some made the trip to London to pay their respects, many took in the early-morning proceedings from their residences or local viewing parties.
Const. Tad Milmine, a member of the Calgary police force, traveled to the British capital to observe the funeral procession, saying he felt “overwhelmed” during the two minutes of silence when a hush fell over the crowd of tens of thousands he was standing with outside Buckingham Palace.
“All you could hear was the birds chirping … You could just sense how much the queen was loved here and around the world,” he said in a telephone interview.
About 6,000 kilometres to the west, in Yellowknife, Marie York-Condon arose at 4 a.m. local time to begin watching what she referred to as a “monumental historical event” that reminded her of when she swore allegiance to the queen as a civilian member of the RCMP.
York-Condon said she wanted to honour a queen who had served Canada well, adding she felt strong emotions as the casket entered Westminster Abbey where the funeral service took place.
“I’m very affected by the fact that the person I dedicated my service to is no longer there,” she said.
Joe Young, a Halifax resident, said he didn’t experience personal sadness as he watched the ceremony, but had a sense he was observing an important occasion where religion and politics were “rolled into one.”
Young, a 67-year-old retiree who worked in the aviation industry, said that while he isn’t a strong monarchist, he admired the queen’s dedication to duty.
“As a Christian trying to figure out the way in the modern world, (the queen) lived a faithful life,” said Young, who is active in the Anglican Church of Canada.
His favourite moment of the funeral was the reading of prayers by a variety of Christian leaders, though Young added he wasn’t pleased a more formal translation of scripture “which used thee and thou” was read, rather than more contemporary English versions.
Meanwhile, Chelsea Taylor watched with about 30 guests at the Burgundy Lion Pub in Montreal as tea and coffee were served along with scones and sweets beginning at about 5 a.m. local time.
The 27-year-old federal public servant had the day off work and wanted to mark the occasion in a distinct way, adding she is “not religious” and didn’t feel a connection to the religious liturgy.
“I don’t feel I have super strong emotions. It was just enjoyable to feel that you’re watching a part of history happening,” she said. “I also felt how strange it must be for the Royal Family to be in the spotlight while they’re grieving.”
The funeral, which was attended by a Canadian delegation led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and included involvement from the RCMP, started at the Abbey at 6 a.m. ET, and concluded about an hour later as the casket processed through the streets of London.
Milmine said he flew to the funeral on a hunch that he wanted to be there in person to experience the emotions of the event, and he wasn’t disappointed.
“I’m grateful to be here … To be here it brings it all home and makes you realize: She is gone, we have lost our queen.”
—Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press