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The funeral brought the world together in a remarkable display of British soft power

The service in Westminster Abbey brought together world leaders in a way that few events do. It was a United Nations of shared reflection, writes John Rentoul

Monday 19 September 2022 18:03 BST
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This was a show that did not put Britain on the world stage; it was a show for which Britain was the world stage
This was a show that did not put Britain on the world stage; it was a show for which Britain was the world stage (Getty)

Service in life; hope in death.” Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, summed up the message of the funeral. They were not just pious words: the service in Westminster Abbey brought together world leaders in a way that few events do. It was a United Nations of shared reflection.

This was a show that did not put Britain on the world stage; it was a show for which Britain was the world stage, a display of the soft power of British ceremony and history. The English language and Christian religion don’t unite everyone, but they are inclusive enough to bring a TV audience of billions together.

World leaders were equalised by the occasion and by the logistics of bussing them in. Hierarchy persisted, naturally. The president of the US was allowed to come in his own car, asserting the rights of the sole superpower. Sinning leaders were not invited – Afghanistan, Belarus, Myanmar, Russia, Syria and Venezuela were off the list, with Iran, Nicaragua and North Korea in the disapproval zone (ambassadors only), and China in a twilight category of its own.

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