As a new era dawns in Britain, arrangements for a final farewell to Queen Elizabeth II are underway.
After a record-breaking reign, the monarch died at her Balmoral residence in Scotland on Thursday. Her son, King Charles III, has asked for a period of Royal Mourning to be observed from Friday, Sept. 9, until seven days after the Queen’s funeral, according to a Buckingham Palace statement.
The date of the funeral will be confirmed “in due course,” the statement added. Here’s what you can expect to happen in the coming days.
How will the Queen’s coffin return to London?
Preparations are currently being made for her remains to be transported back to London. The coffin will first leave Balmoral, the Queen’s Scottish rural retreat, for the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh. The property is the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland.
It will then likely travel in procession to Edinburgh’s St Giles’ Cathedral where the Queen will lie in rest before being moved down to London. We don’t yet know exactly how the coffin will travel south; routes are available by both rail and air.
How can the public pay their respects?
Historical precedent suggests that once in London, the Queen will likely lie in state at Westminster Hall, the oldest part of the Palace of Westminster.
Past monarchs’ coffins have rested on a raised platform – or catafalque – in the middle of the hall, guarded around the clock by units from the Sovereign’s Bodyguard, Foot Guards or the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment.
Brass plaques in the 11th-century hall mark the spot where Edward VII lay in state in 1910, George V in 1936, George VI in 1952 and Queen Mary a year later. The hall, which is more than 1,000 years old, is also where wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill lay in state in 1965.
The Queen Mother was the most recent member of the royal family to lie in state in the hall (and only the second royal consort to be granted the honor) in 2002. On that occasion, her grandsons – Prince Charles, Prince Andrew, Prince Edward and Viscount Linley – took part in the guard, in what is unofficially called “The Vigil of the Princes.”
King George V’s sons also stood guard at his lying in state. The palace has yet to confirm who might participate in the guard for the Queen.
The coffin is likely to remain there for several days and it’s at this point that members of the public will be able to file past the platform and view the monarch’s coffin. Thousands are expected to queue, with some potentially sleeping out overnight in a bid to pay their respects.
What might the Queen’s funeral look like?
As monarch, Queen Elizabeth will automatically be granted a publicly funded state funeral. It will take place at Westminster Abbey sometime in the next two weeks, though the exact day will be confirmed in due course.
The abbey was founded in 960 AD by Benedictine monks, and is one of the most recognizable landmarks in London. It has often been the setting for royal milestone moments like coronations, weddings and funerals throughout the years.
We’re still a few days away from a guest list, but heads of state and dignitaries from around the world will likely make their way to the British capital to celebrate the Queen’s life and 70-year service to the nation. Other familiar faces will be some of the Queen’s 15 former prime ministers and senior lawmakers.
British royal family members who hold high military rank, the consort of the sovereign, and the heir to the throne are normally granted ceremonial royal funerals instead, as was the case for Prince Philip’s funeral in April 2021.
According to a 2013 House of Commons briefing note, the major differences between state and ceremonial funerals are that a state funeral requires approval by parliament and that the gun-carriage carrying the casket is drawn by Royal Navy sailors, rather than horses.
The tradition of the sailors began at Queen Victoria’s state funeral in January 1901. According to the royal family’s official website: “The horses that were supposed to pull the gun-carriage became restless standing in the cold and were behaving in a dangerous manner, so … a team of sailors took over the task of pulling the gun carriage to St. George’s Chapel.”
A handful of non-sovereigns have been granted the honor of a state funeral, including Isaac Newton, Horatio Nelson, the first Duke of Wellington and, of course, Churchill.
After Churchill’s death in 1965, it was Queen Elizabeth II who submitted a note to Parliament, stating that the wartime leader had “served his country unfailingly for more than 50 years and in the hours of our greatest danger was the inspiring leader who strengthened and supported us all.”
Where will the Queen be interred?
After the Queen’s funeral service, her coffin will make its final journey out of London and towards Windsor. Its destination is the now-familiar St George’s Chapel within the grounds of Windsor Castle.
Prince Philip’s memorial service was held there, as well as more jubilant occasions like the nuptials of the Queen’s grandchildren.
Following the service for the Duke of Edinburgh in 2021, his coffin was lowered into the Royal Vault, set below the chapel, where many royal family members have been laid to rest. However, with the Queen’s death, he is expected to be relocated and the pair reunited to lie together at the King George VI memorial chapel elsewhere within St. George’s.
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