LONDON (AP) -- To the solemn beat of military bands, the coffin of the Queen Mother was carried through the heart of London on a gun carriage Friday as Britain honored the woman whose life spanned a tumultuous century of upheaval and change.
Draped in her personal standard and topped with a diamond-encrusted crown and a single wreath of white roses from Queen Elizabeth II, the Queen Mother's coffin was taken to Parliament, where it will lie in state for four days to let people pay their final respects.
"In loving memory, Lilibet" read a note on the wreath from the queen -- using her childhood pet name -- to her mother, who died Saturday at age 101.
Hundreds of royal guards in red tunics and gleaming black bearskin hats, sailors in white caps and members of the Royal Air Force in light blue escorted the solemn procession, their ranks passing by at the slow march used for funerals.
"It's the end of a great woman's life," said Mick Davids, 58, from Shere, southern England, who spent the night on the sidewalk outside St. James's Palace to watch the ceremony.
Fourteen members of the royal family, including Prince Charles and his sons Prince William and Prince Harry, walked behind the coffin, which was greeted by the queen as it arrived at Parliament. Many of the royal mourners were dressed in military uniforms and escorted by Britain's military chiefs.
Eight guardsmen carefully lifted the coffin from the gun carriage when it reached Parliament and carried it on their shoulders into the building. Clergymen walked in front with golden crosses. Inside it was met by the queen, accompanied by royal and parliamentary officials dressed in flowing gold and black robes and white horsehair wigs.
As Prime Minister Tony Blair looked on solemnly and a choir sang psalms, the coffin was carried into the medieval Westminster Hall and laid on a purple-draped dais, flanked by four large burning candles. The archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, gave thanks for the Queen Mother's "example of faithful duty and unwearied service, and for the loyalty and love which she inspired."
Following the brief service, the queen, looking tired and strained, left with the rest of the royal family in a convoy of Rolls Royce limousines and returned to Buckingham Palace. The eyes of Prince Charles, who was close to his grandmother, glistened with tears as he left the building.
As the procession left for Westminster Hall, 28 gun salvos were fired from nearby Green Park -- one every minute of the journey. The coffin was carried on a cannon of the Royal Horse Artillery and flanked by artillerymen in ceremonial black and red uniforms.
Police estimated the crowd at about 250,000.
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