Explainers

Queen Elizabeth II had plans for her own funeral: Here’s what they are

According to officials at Buckingham Palace, Queen Elizabeth II had been consulted on all arrangements for her state funeral including order of service, music and readings

FP Explainers September 19, 2022 14:40:42 IST

The conclusion of the state funeral will be marked by a lament played by the Queen Elizabeth II's piper. AFP

Mourners began arriving at Westminster Abbey for the state funeral of Britain’s longest-serving monarch Queen Elizabeth II after the lying-in-state ceremony at Westminster Hall formally concluded.

Guests began entering the Gothic medieval abbey, where Elizabeth was married in 1947 and crowned in 1953, shortly after 8 am on Monday with dignitaries including heads of state set to be driven by bus to the abbey.

Meanwhile, huge crowds filtered in overnight and early morning in central London to secure a spot to watch proceedings.

But did you know the Queen had requested a flurry of personal touches for her own funeral service?

Let’s take a closer look:

Palace aides told the BBC that the Queen had been consulted on all the arrangements and that order of service including music and readings is expected to reflect the Queen’s personal preferences.

As the service nears its end, the Last Post will be played.

That will be followed two-minute silence across the nation including Heathrow airport, which will stop all departures and arrivals for 30 minutes from 11.40 am Monday and Windsor Castle, as per Hindustan Times.

The conclusion of the state funeral will be marked by a lament played by the Queen’s piper, who would serenade the Queen every morning outside her bedroom window as a wake-up call, as per ABC.

As this ABC piece notes, “The fact that planning for the state occasion began many years ago, with the Queen consulted on every single aspect, adds a whole new level of poignancy. It’s as if the sovereign is speaking to her people one last time, a final act to unite not just her subjects in the UK and her realms, but viewers around the world.”

For her the bell tolls

A bell at Westminster Abbey has begun tolling 96 times, once for each year of Queen Elizabeth II’s life. The abbey’s Tenor Bell struck at 9:24 am Monday and was due to toll once a minute until the queen’s funeral service begins at 11 am.

Afterward, a funeral procession will wind through city streets with the coffin carried on the state gun carriage as it makes its way to Windsor Castle to be laid to rest.

A host royalty from across the world gathered at Westminster Abbey as the mortal remains of Queen Elizabeth II – the longest ruling queen of Britain – awaits the final journey

The ceremonial processions taking Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin to London’s Westminster Abbey and then towards her burial place at Windsor reflect the ancient traditions of the British monarchy.

Royal Navy sailors will use ropes to pull the queen’s lead-lined coffin mounted on a gun carriage from Westminster Hall to Westminster Abbey. Their comrades in a team of 142 sailors will walk alongside to act as a brake if necessary.

This tradition dates back to Queen Victoria’s funeral in February 1901.

The horses meant to haul the gun carriage weighing more than two tons panicked and began kicking, threatening to drop the coffin.

One of the queen’s relatives, Prince Louis of Battenberg, a Royal Navy captain, suggested to the new king, Edward VII, that this problem could be avoided by replacing horses with sailors.

Nine years later when Edward VII himself died, this idea was put into practice again and it has since become an unchanging tradition at state funerals.

Eight soldiers from the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards will have the task of carrying the queen’s coffin from Westminster Hall to the gun carriage outside, and then into Westminster Abbey.

One of the most ancient in the British army, the regiment is among five infantry regiments that make up the Queen’s (now King’s) Life Guard.

The regiment’s soldiers normally wear tall bearskin hats, a uniform they copied from the grenadiers of Napoleon’s Imperial Guard, defeated at Waterloo in 1815.

The soldiers will be accompanied by Service Equerries to the Queen, attendants who assist the royals in carrying out public duties.

Three regiments will play a particularly important role in the procession, marching very close to the queen’s coffin.

The Queen’s state funeral will take place at Westminster Abbey in London at 3.30 pm IST followed by a procession. Graphic: Pranay Bhardwaj

The Yeomen of the Guard, the oldest military unit in the British Army created in 1485, and the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen at Arms are two former bodyguard units for the royals that now perform only a ceremonial role.

The Yeomen of the Guard always wear a red-and-gold uniform dating back to the Tudor era (16th century).

One of their best-known activities is searching the Palace of Westminster for gunpowder before the State Opening of Parliament.

This annual ritual commemorates the Gunpowder Plot, a failed attempt led by Guy Fawkes to blow up King James I and parliament in 1605.

They will be followed by members of the Royal Company of Archers, who acted as bodyguards for Elizabeth II whenever she was in Scotland.

Some detachments from other regiments in Britain and from the armed forces of the Commonwealth, a group of countries headed by the British monarch, will rejoin the funeral procession from Westminster Abbey to Wellington Arch at Hyde Park Corner near Buckingham Palace.

While members of the royal family led by the new King Charles III will follow the casket, following them will be members of the queen’s royal household, including the most senior officer of the royal household, the lord chamberlain.

Floral tributes are laid by members of the public outside Windsor Castle onto Cambridge Drive, near the Long Walk, Windsor, on Sunday ahead of the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. AP

In front of them will come the pipers and drummers of the Scottish and Irish regiments, and the Brigade of Gurkhas made up of soldiers from Nepal who are part of the armed forces. There will also be 200 Royal Air Force musicians.

Around 6,000 soldiers, sailors and air crew from the British armed forces will take part in the procession, Chief of the Defence Staff Admiral Tony Radakin told the BBC on Sunday.

At several points along the route they will perform a royal salute, for example when they pass the Victoria Memorial commemorating the queen.

“For all of us, this is our last duty for Her Majesty the Queen and it’s our first prominent duty for His Majesty King Charles,” he said.

At Windsor, the queen’s crown, orb and sceptre will be removed and placed on the altar.

The most senior officer of the royal household, the lord chamberlain, breaks his “wand of office” and places it on the coffin, symbolising the end of her reign.

The lead-lined oak casket, draped with the queen’s colours, will then be lowered into the Royal Vault as a lone bagpiper plays a lament.  A private interment ceremony will take place at the adjoining King George VI Memorial Chapel later Monday.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: September 19, 2022 14:40:42 IST

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