We gather in this great Abbey to mourn and to give thanks. It is a fitting place to do so. A place where the story of our nation and the story of the woman we commend to her Heavenly Father are intertwined.
Here Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon was married and became Duchess of York; here she was crowned Queen; here, as Queen Mother, she attended the coronation of her daughter. It is fitting, then, that a place that stood at the centre of her life should now be the place where we honour her passing.
In the 10 days since she left us, there have been countless tributes and expressions of affection and respect, including those of the many people who have queued and filed past her coffin. Like the sun, she bathed us in her warm glow. Now that the sun has set and the cool of the evening has come, some of the warmth we absorbed is flowing back towards her.
If there is one verse of scripture which captures her best, it is perhaps the description of a gracious woman in Proverbs. It says: "Strength and dignity are her clothing and she laughs at the time to come." Strength, dignity and laughter, three great gifts which we honour and celebrate today.
For her family, that maternal strength – given across the generations to children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren – has been a precious gift and blessing. Its loss is felt keenly today. There was nothing remote or distant about her sense of dignity. Her smile, her wave, the characteristic tilt of her head: all made the point beyond words.
Strength, dignity and, yes, laughter. We come here to mourn but also to give thanks, to celebrate the person and her life, both filled with such a rich sense of fun and joy and the music of laughter. With it went an immense vitality that did not fail her. Hers was a great old age, but not a cramped one. She remained young at heart, and the young sensed that.
Proverbs has more to say, words we can summon now as we commend to her Heavenly Father his faithful servant Elizabeth – Queen, Queen Mother, Queen Mum – deeply loved and greatly missed. It says of a woman of grace: "Many have done excellently, but you exceed them all."Reuse content