I have been greatly moved by the response of the British and International Communities in Luxembourg in response to the passing of Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. We opened a book of condolence and an area in which to place floral tributes the morning after Her Majesty’s passing. The hundreds of visitors to sign our book of condolence or to lay floral tributes at the British Embassy was testament to the very high regard in which she was held across the world. We were most honoured to have a visit from HRH Grand Duke Henri to sign the book, as well as PM Bettel, President of CDD Etgen, and a number of VIPs including representatives from the European Commission and European Institutions and fellow Diplomats. In addition we saw many long term British residents as well as holidaymakers and people of all nationalities who wished to make their own heartfelt tribute. During the period of National mourning (until the morning after the funeral) I had the unique honour to personally meet the majority of those visitors myself. I also had the honour to meet with TRH the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess at Luxembourg Airport prior to their departure to London to attend His Majesty the King’s Reception, the Lying in State, and the State Funeral. We reflected jointly on the state visits to Luxembourg and London in the 1970’s, and the role of constancy and continuity that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II had played throughout the world.
“The Queue” to watch the Lying in State was a very British phenomenon, but one in which people of all nationalities participated. The Lying in State was screened live on BBC Parliament Channel and made strangely absorbing watching. Old and young, from across the United Kingdom with even the occasional celebrity appearing, hundreds of thousands of people came to queue alongside the River Thames where Her late Majesty had sat in a boat in the pouring rain for her Golden Jubilee Pageant. Past London landmarks as night fell and dawn broke, the queue snaked as people queued all through the night in the chilly September weather to pay their own tribute in person. Unanimous among those interviewed by the press, were the words “a key moment in history.” Thousands of people wanted to play their part in that moment.
The British Embassy was closed on the day of the funeral (with staff having worked weekends since the announcement of Her Majesty’s passing), in line with a declared British Public Holiday. So I, like many British people, watched the State Funeral and its associated processions on the television. I found this to be a deeply moving occasion, but also one where I felt extremely proud to be British. Of course having worked much of my career in the Ministry of Defence, and being a Fellow of the Westminster Abbey Institute, I recognised some of those participating in the funeral procession and in the funeral itself. Over 200 countries and international organisations were represented at the State Funeral as the tenor bell of Westminster Abbey tolled 96 times in tribute to Her late Majesty’s long life.
During the state funeral there were many moments paying tribute to British history, including the numerous flags of the Realms and the Commonwealth, as well as the participation of their own troops. The procession was led by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (who were riding the horses they had gifted to Her late Majesty The Queen) The pulling and breaking of the State Gun Carriage (built in 1901 and usually stored in Portsmouth) by 142 Royal Naval Ratings had been used for Royal Funerals since that of Queen Victoria, and was last used in the funeral of Lord Mountbatten in 1979, which I remember watching as a child. It was fitting that the State Hearse on its journey “back to London” from RAF Northolt (where incidentally the Queen’s Colour Squadron of the Royal Air Force played a magnificent role) had been fitted with lights. This had apparently been done on the request of Her late Majesty, who had always known that the public wanted to be able to pick her out in a crowd, and was thus known for her wonderful block colour outfits and narrow brimmed hats. At Wellington Arch we heard a Royal Naval Piping party, a tradition recognising the Royal Naval service of His late Majesty King George VI in the Battle of Jutland in the First World War, as well as of course, the Royal Naval service of Her late Majesty’s Queen Elizabeth’s own husband in World War II. We also noticed some personal touches which were perhaps the most emotional, the singing of the hymn “The Lord’s My Shepherd” which had been sung at the wedding of the young Princess Elizabeth and the Prince Phillip; the piper’s lament, the silk headscarf on the empty saddle of Emma, Her late Majesty’s pony which she had been able to ride until only very recently, the corgis Muick and Sandy with the young footmen at Windsor Castle looking on, seven year old HRH Princess Charlotte wearing a small horseshoe brooch in tribute to her Great Grandmother, and the flowers from the Royal gardens on the coffin including English oak leaves. This was a state funeral with over 4,000 military personnel involved, but it was also a public sharing in the private grief of a family who had lost their matriarch, open for all to see.
The Anglican Church in Luxembourg held a service of reflection on the evening of Friday 9 September, and since that time we have worked alongside them to organise a service where more people will have the opportunity to come together and pay tribute to Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. To that end we have organised a Service of Commemoration on Sunday 2 October at 16h45 at Cathédrale Notre-Dame, We are most grateful to the Anglican Church for their hard work in putting together this service so quickly, and to Cardinal Hollerich for allowing use of the very fine Notre Dame Cathedral for this special service. A number of people within the British community have come forward to offer to participate in this service, and for that we are very grateful. The service is open to those of all faiths, or none, and we have invited some representatives of the recognised faiths including the Communauté Musulmanne au Luxembourg, the Consistoire Israélite de Luxembourg, the International English-speaking Catholic Community and the Eglise Orthodoxe à Luxembourg to participate.
As a nation we have mourned, and will continue to greatly miss Her late Majesty. This is, after all, the end of the second Elizabethan age. Our constant has gone. But Monarchy is by its very nature enduring, and just as this week we witnessed removal of the Imperial State Crown, Orb and Sceptre from the coffin, we also sang God Save the King, and witnessed King Charles III standing forwards and pledging to take forward the duty of the monarch. As we watched the funeral, and its processions, we saw the line of succession and the next three generations of monarchs, our King, Charles III, William, the Prince of Wales, and HRH Prince George, a nine year old promise of the future.
Amcham would like to thank Ambassador Thomas for this lovely reflection of the Queen.