Queen Elizabeth II: Tewksbury calls funeral ‘personal’

Former Canadian swimming star Mark Tewksbury was among thousands of people to honor Queen Elizabeth II at her funeral on Monday in London.

A funeral is “personal” to him.

Tewksbury, a three-time Olympic medalist and member of the Order of Canada, was on the list of dignitaries Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced last week who would attend the funeral.

In what he described as a day of “many mixed emotions”, Tewksbury said he felt more connected to the queen as a human being.

“I am a person who truly respects the queen for her duty and service, and dedicates and represents various organizations and charities, and I have tried to live my life in the same way,” Tewksbury told The Canadian Press. “So I consider it (as) more of a personal connection, as opposed to a monarchy’s institutional connection.”

The 54-year-old, was part of a Canadian delegation that included actress Sandra Oh, performer Gregory Charles and Cross of Valor recipient Leslie Arthur Palmer.

Contrary to Tewksbury’s expectations, funeral rituals are not rigorous.

“I think it’s going to get extremely rigid,” he said. “There was a lot of process, but it didn’t go over the top. We went to a rehearsal (for) the rest of us in the honor procession on Saturday. And it was comfortable. You just proper identification and a proper color path is required to get into certain areas, but it’s less than I expected.

“We were all very clear about what we had to wear. If I were a civilian, I would have to wear mourning or dark suits because I have certain Canadian Medals and some medals. There’s only one stipulation about what you wear in your clothes.… Who comes when and the order of things, and that’s quite to be expected.”

The group toured the entirety of Westminster Abbey before returning, with Tewksbury’s group sitting near the front of the Abbey’s west entrance, allowing them to see people arriving for the remainder of the funeral.

In the presence of people from different parts of the Commonwealth, there are different methods of honoring the queen. Some see it as a celebration of her life, while others solemnly mourn. According to Tewksbury, the city of London was “buzzing” with people.

Arriving at church a few minutes after 10 a.m. (GMT), service begins at 11 p.m., with the group leaving the church just before 12:30 p.m.

“Today certainly felt like a change of tune in a nice, very respectable way,” said Tewksbury. “It’s a kind of sadness – quiet, still and peaceful.”

“It was a very nice service indeed. It wasn’t too long and honored the queen beautifully, both as a human being and as a monarch.”

Along with it being “a great honor as I expected”, Tewksbury is proud to be able to represent Canada with the diversity in its delegation.

“We have a gay man, a black man and an Asian woman. We are really diverse. We are probably some of the youngest people in the honor profession.

This report by the Canadian Press was first published on September 19, 2022.

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