Beside him, his Queen Consort looked bereft at times, but she knows she must now become the “strength and stay” that Prince Philip was to the Queen. When events moved on to Windsor, and the more intimate committal ceremony inside St George’s Chapel, she walked beside her husband as the coffin was carried down the nave.
Almost every detail of the day had been decided in advance by the Queen herself, but she left one gap in the schedule for her son and heir to fill.
She wanted the King to choose one of the hymns sung at the committal service, and after talking the matter over with the Dean of Windsor, David Conner, the King chose Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation, sung to the music Westminster Abbey, which in turn was adapted from the Alleluyas in Purcell’s O God Thou Art My God.
The words of the hymn, which date back to 7th century Latin, describe Jesus as “the precious cornerstone”, a sentiment which echoed the late Queen’s own deep religious beliefs.
She regarded Christ as the cornerstone of her own life and reign, pledging allegiance to God at her coronation before any of her subjects had pledged allegiance to her,. The King, who in accordance with tradition did not speak at either of the services, thought deeply about his personal input to the ceremonies, using such symbols to communicate his love and his sorrow.
As well as being King, Charles is also a father and a grandfather, and by giving his blessing for Prince George and Princess Charlotte to take part in the coffin procession at Westminster Abbey he was not only showing his trust in his family but was also sending a reassuring and powerful message to the people: that the future of the monarchy is secure.
Until the committal ceremony was almost over, the most powerful symbols of monarchy – the Imperial State Crown, the orb and sceptre – had remained on the Queen’s coffin, giving the impression they still belonged to her and that the King, though officially proclaimed, remained in a period of constitutional limbo.