LONDON: Flags on government buildings returned to full mast and an epic clean-up operation was under way on Tuesday as British public life resumed after the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II.
Around 250,000 people queued round the clock to view the queen’s coffin as it lay in state in the days leading up to the funeral, the UK government said, while more than 26 million watched the event on television.
Liz Truss, appointed prime minister by the queen just two days before she died on September 8, flew to the UN General Assembly hours after delivering a biblical reading at the lavish funeral.
En route to New York, Truss praised the “huge outpouring of love and affection” shown toward the late monarch, as well as the “huge amount of warmth toward” her successor, King Charles III.
King Charles, 73, and his family will remain in mourning for another seven days.
That means no official engagements after he spent an exhausting week touring his new kingdom and attending to the ornate pageantry of a role that he has spent a lifetime preparing to take on.
The royal Twitter account published a picture of Queen Elizabeth hiking in 1971 at her Balmoral retreat in Scotland, where the longest-reigning monarch in British history died at the age of 96.
The photograph was accompanied with the words: “May flights of Angels sing thee to thy rest. In loving memory of Her Majesty The Queen.”
The quotation is from the tragic conclusion of William Shakespeare’s play “Hamlet,” and was also used by King Charles in his first national broadcast the day after his mother passed away.
Britain’s National Grid said there was a drop-off of two gigawatts in usage on the UK power network — the equivalent of 200 million lightbulbs being switched off — from 10:30 am to 11:00 am (0930 to 1000 GMT) on Monday.
“This was because people were stopping their usual activities in time for the funeral,” a spokesman told AFP.
The funeral attracted one of the biggest television audiences in Britain in modern times, with an estimated average audience of 26.2 million watching on TV sets alone.
The Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board will produce official figures next week, which will also include people watching on devices other than TVs, such as smartphones and tablets.
The BBC said the majority of the British public — 32.5 million — had at some point tuned into their coverage during the funeral, peaking at 22.4 million simultaneously watching BBC footage on TV.
Following a public holiday for the funeral, business life was resuming, and workers were busy clearing up the debris left by the estimated million-plus people who lined the streets of London on Monday.
St. John Ambulance said they and the London Ambulance Service had treated more than 2,000 people and taken around 200 to hospital during mourning events.
A sea of flowers has been left in London’s Royal Parks, which said the tributes would eventually be taken away, composted down and then re-used in planting projects.
A spokesperson said they would store any teddies and artefacts that have been left and then work out “what we do with them over the next few months, with discretion and sensitivity.”
Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan said she did not know the final cost of the state funeral at Westminster Abbey, which entailed a vast security operation for hundreds of foreign heads of state and royals.
But she told Sky News television the British public would agree that it “was money well spent.”
Donelan said around 250,000 people viewed the queen’s coffin lying in state at Westminster Hall, though her culture ministry was still crunching the numbers.
A man accused of grabbing the flag on the coffin appeared in court on Tuesday charged with two public order offenses.
Judge Michael Snow at Westminster Magistrates Court said 28-year-old Muhammad Khan was “delusional.”
He ordered Khan to remain in a London mental health hospital before his next court appearance.
No date has been fixed for the coronation of King Charles, Donelan said.
That event will return the spotlight to Westminster Abbey and to debate over whether the new king can play the same unifying role his mother did.
But with the departure of the only monarch most Britons have ever known, attention was turning back to the country’s soaring inflation problem and the crisis stemming from Russia’s war in Ukraine.
There are also deeper fissures over the very future of the United Kingdom, as Scotland’s nationalist government agitates for another independence referendum, and as Northern Ireland turns majority-Catholic for the first time.
“Is it possible that in the Windsor vault now lies buried the person who, more than any other, served to cohere these islands?” commentator Jonathan Freedland wrote in The Guardian newspaper.
“The last 10 days have been a holiday from the usual political polarization: admiration for the queen was one of the few things most people could agree on,” he said.
For most UK media, the focus remained on the grandeur with which the country and the world bade adieu to Queen Elizabeth.
“An outpouring of love,” The Daily Telegraph headlined, above a picture of King Charles draping military colors held in life by his mother over her coffin in Windsor Castle.