Solemnity and spectacle: Britain prepares for Queen Elizabeth’s funeral

Britain prepares for Queen Elizabeth’s funeral

Britain prepares for Queen Elizabeth’s funeral


Grandkids, both princes, honored their grandmother, a queen, at a vigil Saturday that yet again mixed grand spectacle and personal grief. 

“The reputation of Britain is that it’s a nation of ‘stiff upper lips,'” said Jon Sopel, who was a longtime anchor with the BBC. “I think with the Queen’s death, we’ve shown that we’ve got a wobbly lower one as well.”

Prince William, Prince of Wales (left) and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex (right) hold a vigil at the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II, lying in state in Westminster Hall in London, September 17, 2022, ahead of her funeral on Monday.


Sopel spoke with correspondent Seth Doane not far from where Queen Elizabeth II has been lying in state at Westminster Hall, ahead of tomorrow’s funeral. 

“It’s going to be a grand occasion,” said Sopel, “the likes of which we have not seen in this country since Winston Churchill’s funeral in 1965.”

That was the last state funeral here. The U.K. has not buried its sovereign since the Queen’s father, King George VI, in 1952. 

Doane asked, “The plans for this were incredibly detailed, called the Operation London Bridge?”

“And the operation has swung into gear,” Sopel replied.

Planning took decades, with consideration of every detail, from altering flight schedules to ensure quiet, to making sure bouquets included clippings from the Queen’s properties.

The imperial state crown was on display in Wednesday’s precisely timed procession atop a coffin fashioned from oak from a royal estate. 

Queen Elizabeth honored with grand procession through London


Doane said, “The pageantry is quite incredible.”

“And when I see that pageantry, there is a little part of me that feels this immense pride in this nation, and the rich history,” said Sopel. “And I have to be honest, there’s a little part of me that thinks, who knew there were so many costumes sitting in a wardrobe somewhere, waiting to be brought out on this occasion?”

These images can be interpreted in different ways, said University of London marketing professor Pauline Maclaren: “And that’s the double-edged sword of reinforcing the tradition through their pomp and pageantry and rituals, if you like. Because for many people, it is a reminder of Britain’s imperial past.”

Maclaren noted, while early polls have been positive for the royals, this may be a honeymoon period. “We need to separate the support for the Queen from the support of the monarchy,” she said. “I come from Northern Ireland, so the monarchy has always been more problematic there.”

This past week, the King traveled to Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, countries making up this not-always-united kingdom. A 2014 independence referendum in Scotland was narrowly defeated.

Sopel said, “What you could end up with is ‘Great Britain,’ as it’s sometimes called, not looking so great, when we’ve lost Scotland and we’ve lost Northern Ireland, and you’re just left with a rump England and Wales.”

“And you think that’s more of a possibility now with the King Charles than it was with the Queen Elizabeth?” asked Doane.

“Yes, because I think that the Queen acted as this amazing viscous glue that bound these separate parts of the United Kingdom together.”

Today’s mass mourning reminded Sopel of a description of Churchill’s funeral, when it seemed London had two rivers – the Thames, and the sea of people paying tribute.

The funeral tomorrow at Westminster Abbey is expected to be the biggest gathering of dignitaries, heads of state, and members of European royal families that this city has seen in decades. It’s a send-off, and a salute, on a grand scale. 

Watch the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II live on CBS Monday, September 19 beginning at 5:30 a.m. ET, or online at, and on the CBS News mobile app. You may also stream live via Paramount+. 

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Story produced by Erin Lyall and Jon Carras. Editor: Chad Cardin.

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