The religious service, with a New Testament reading by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, was meant to honor the queen’s role as head of state. Five former prime ministers that she met with over the decades were on hand: John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Theresa May.
“The queen has been a constant through everything,” said Sharon Kent, who traveled from Devon in southern England to take part in the festivities. “Whether you’re patriotic or not, she’s always been there.”
On Friday, the palace said the queen would also miss the Epsom Derby, a horse race she has attended for decades. That is perhaps an even more painful blow to Elizabeth, a dedicated horsewoman who has had entrants in the derby. (The closest she came to a victory was in 1953, not long after her coronation, when Aureole, a racehorse bred by her father, King George VI, finished second.)
The queen, the palace said, planned to watch the race on television at Windsor Castle, the home to which she has largely retreated since the coronavirus pandemic first forced her to curtail her public schedule in early 2020.
With the queen missing, the spotlight inevitably swung to the younger generation of royals. But just as inevitably, it resurfaced the intergenerational tensions that have spilled out from behind the palace walls.
Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, made the splashiest entrance at St. Paul’s on Friday, emerging from their Range Rover to a welling of cheers — interrupted by a few boos — from the crowd. Once they were inside, every head turned as the couple walked, holding hands, through the cathedral’s soaring nave to their seats.