Windsor, Queen’s Final Resting Place, Has a Long Association With Her

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WINDSOR, England— Queen Elizabeth’s final journey began more than a week ago in Scotland when her coffin left Balmoral, the country estate she adored, where she sought tranquillity, and where she died.
On Monday, that odyssey ended at a place that by all accounts she loved just as much: Windsor Castle, the home she favored throughout her long reign and the place where she was buried alongside her husband, father and other family members.
In Windsor, as in London, thousands gathered in the sunshine to pay their respects, lining the imposing approach to the castle, known as the Long Walk, to see the funeral procession.
Like the events in London, this, too, was a ceremony executed with military precision and with the pomp and pageantry at which Britain excels.
But after the state funeral at Westminster Abbey, attended by world leaders, Windsor was where the royal family bade farewell to the queen — a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother — when her coffin was lowered into the royal vault. A lone piper played a lament, the sound of which faded into the distance as he retreated.
For people who live in or around Windsor, which sees itself as the home of the monarchy, the event was poignant because of the long connection with the queen.
Windsor was the place that the young Elizabeth spent much of her time during World War II. When she became queen she routinely spent weekends at the castle, enjoying its expansive grounds where she could walk with her dogs or ride horses.
When fire ripped through parts of Windsor Castle in 1992 it was one of several malign events that year that contributed to what the queen called her “annus horribilis.”
More recently the castle — which has been a royal home and fortress for 900 years — became a refuge for the queen during the pandemic. She was seen only last year on horseback on the castle grounds.
“It seems right to come and pay our respects and watch her journey home,” said Ben Pearson, from nearby Maidenhead, as he awaited the coffin several hours ahead of its arrival in Windsor.
Windsor is also special for the British royal family, so special that it took the name of the town as its own in 1917, during World War I, when Britain was at war with Germany. Sensing the unpopularity of all things German, the royal family became the House of Windsor by a proclamation of King George V, replacing the historic name of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.
Just a few hundred yards from the queen’s private apartments in Windsor lies St. George’s Chapel, which was begun in 1475 by Edward IV and completed by Henry VIII in 1528, and which is now her last resting place.
Throughout Queen Elizabeth’s long life this was a place of worship and the scene of important ceremonies including Garter Day as well as royal weddings, such as that of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in 2018.
St. George’s Chapel is also the preferred burial place for the royal family, and it was there just last year that the queen mourned the death of her husband of more than 70 years, Prince Philip. The queen was seen seated alone at a sparsely attended service and masked to comply with coronavirus rules.
Monday’s events at Windsor had strong echoes of that funeral as King Charles, the new monarch, and other members of the royal family walked behind the queen’s coffin, just as they had done last year behind that of Prince Philip. (In his case, at his request, the hearse was a Land Rover S.U.V. that he had helped modify.)
At some earlier points in Britain’s history, Westminster Abbey, where the queen’s state funeral took place on Monday morning, was the more popular resting place of British royalty. Among those who lie there is Elizabeth I. But King George II, who died in 1760, was the last monarch to be buried in Westminster Abbey.
After the funeral of Prince Philip last year, his coffin was lowered into the royal vault at St. George’s to await a post-mortem reunion with the queen. That was taking place at a private service on Monday evening, where the queen’s remains were to be buried alongside those of Prince Philip in the King George VI Memorial Chapel. That, small, chapel also accommodates the remains of the queen’s father, mother and her sister, Princess Margaret.
Given her long association with Windsor, Monday’s procession to the castle and the committal service felt to many like a homecoming for Queen Elizabeth.
Karl Dixon, who traveled on Friday from Glossop, around 200 miles away, and had slept in a motor home since, said he was drawn to Windsor, rather than going to London to view the queen’s coffin lying at rest as thousands of others had done.
“It was also her home, and her late husband is buried here as well as a lot of her ancestors,” said Mr. Dixon, a landscape gardener. “I just felt this is the final resting place,” he added.
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