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News > News from the Worthian Network > Reflections from my seat at the Queen's funeral

Reflections from my seat at the Queen's funeral

Major General Tim Tyler C'71 tells us his thoughts having been in Westminster Abbey
Major General Tim Tyler C'71
Major General Tim Tyler C'71

I had the great privilege of representing Royal Star & Garter at the funeral service for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in Westminster Abbey.

My wife and I walked to Westminster from Kensington. The roads were closed; there were police and security personnel to be seen but otherwise silence as if the world had stopped. As we got closer people emerged from everywhere, all going the same way; there was a sense of expectation. My wife headed for St James’s Park and The Mall as I walked towards the inevitable security checks before entering the Abbey. I met old friends and made new acquaintances, all united in respect for Her Majesty and her extraordinary legacy.

I have been in the Abbey before for ceremonial occasions but none like this. It was immediately clear that this sad but uplifting event was bringing together peoples and organisations from every corner of the world.  The Queen and the Royal Family have a very strong relationship with the Armed Forces which I have enjoyed over the years but Queen Elizabeth had clearly had just as strong and invigorating relationships with everyone!

I was sitting next to two wonderful people: Brian Roberts, recently awarded the MBE for his work with Healing Hands Network which provides support to those who are suffering from the mental, physical and emotional after-effects of war, particularly in Bosnia and Herzegovina and now to British military veterans; and Victoria Clayton of the Shire Horse Society which, of course, takes a special interest in the Household Cavalry drum horses. We were sitting near holders of the Victoria Cross and George Cross and among representatives of all the orders of knighthood.

As the processions of dignitaries arrived: Heads of State, Prime Ministers, members of the Royal Household, religious leaders of many, many faiths and the Royal Family, I found myself thinking of the weight of history there today.  Five generations of my family have had Queen Elizabeth as our monarch. I could feel this concentration of history and could sense the presence of the Royal Star & Garter residents, most of whom have lived through the changes witnessed by Queen Elizabeth, our Patron for 70 years, and who were watching the service on TVs in our Homes in Solihull, Surbiton and High Wycombe.

The atmosphere changed from the moment the coffin was carried into the Abbey. The service was, of course quiet, contemplative and with a sense of sadness for an irreplaceable loss. This was the place of the Queen’s marriage and coronation and now the place for us all to say farewell. But the Archbishop of Canterbury reminded us that this was a moment for celebration of a remarkable life and the transition of Her Majesty into the heavenly estate to which Christians aspire. For me the highlight of the service was the singing of the anthem composed for the service by Sir James MacMillan CBE based on St Paul’s letter to the Romans in which, after a quiet opening, the choir erupted into a joyous and almost chaotic ‘Alleluia’.

After the service I set off to find my wife in the packed St James’s Park. I was crowded with people who wanted a photograph of the Order of Service. People clearly respected the solemnity of the occasion and they wanted to be a real part of it and not just spectators.

What a joy it was to be in my uniform again. I lost count of the number of people who thanked me for all the organisation of the period of mourning and the funeral – I explained that I had had no responsibility, but they just wanted to thank the Armed Forces who are held in such respect. There were many soldiers from various units assisting with security and directing and advising the visitors, doing a fantastic job. I stopped to chat to quite a few and that immediate empathy was obvious, independent of rank and age, just soldier to soldier. These young men and women will, in time, be veterans and I am sure that Royal Star & Garter will be there to provide our ‘Care with courage’ following the example set by Queen Elizabeth and with the continued love and commitment of our President, Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra.

Major General Tim Tyler C’71

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