Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral will break centuries-old tradition.
Until that moment, the liturgy in memory of the deceased monarch was held in the chapel “St. George” in Windsor – a favorite place of most royals. However, the ceremony will now take place at Westminster Abbey. The change of venue is necessary because of the expected huge crowds of people.
The chapel “St. St. George’s is the usual venue for most royal ceremonies, including Prince Philip’s funeral last year and the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
The change of venue is the first since the funeral of George VI in 1760.
Who Buries the Royals?
It’s not that easy to become a funeral director for the British royal family. Until recently, this activity was carried out by the ninth oldest family business in the whole of Great Britain. CPJ Field has been around since 1690 and first arranged the funeral of the Duke of Wellington in 1852.
Later, the same firm organized the funerals of King Edward VII and Queen Victoria.
For 300 years, the Field family has been in this business, maintaining a delicate balance between centuries-old traditions and modernity. Queen Victoria’s funeral, for example, “set the tone” for change in the conduct of royal funerals. She wished to be buried as a “soldier’s daughter”. The customs introduced during her burial remain valid to this day.
The Royal Family’s current undertakers are Levertgen and Sons. They organized the funerals of Princess Diana, the Queen Mother and Prince Philip. In addition to arranging the funeral ceremony itself and everything related to it, funeral agents for kings and queens have a duty to be prepared for the sudden death of a monarch or member of the royal family. This includes keeping the royal chest in storage.
Unusual traditions – now and through the ages
During the royal funeral, Big Ben will start tolling at 9am. If tradition is followed, the clock should strike as many times as the monarch has been on the throne. For Elizabeth II – 70 times. This tradition was performed for the funerals of Edward VII, George V and George VI.
At the same time, the royal jewels will be cleaned in the Tower of London.
The day has been declared a holiday, including for banks, and the London Stock Exchange will be closed. This will lead to a brief collapse of the British economy.
There have definitely been cases of unusual moments in the past. Queen Victoria’s funeral set a new standard for carriage of the monarch’s coffin. Why? Because the horses pulling the hearse got scared and broke away from the harness. This necessitated a change in protocol and at recent royal funerals the royal hearse is pulled by members of the Royal Navy.
For the funeral of Elizabeth II, the rehearsal was done again with horses.
The funeral of Elizabeth’s father, King George VII, included the largest number of heads of state to date. However, in the most important place of the procession – right behind the hearse – rode the royal fox terrier – Caesar.
Ceremonies with full state honors in Great Britain are mostly ‘reserved’ for the royal family and almost no other members of society are entitled to them. Very few exceptions are made.
The father of the theory of evolution, Charles Darwin, was honored with a huge funeral in Westminster Abbey. Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was also buried with such a ceremony after special permission from Elizabeth II and the British Parliament.
However, one of the strangest sights remains the so-called “The Vigil of Princes.” During the funeral of King George V, his sons – King Edward VIII, the Duke of York, the Duke of Gloucester and the Duke of Kent stood together to guard their father’s remains. The vigil was repeated years later at the funeral of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, but with her grandchildren.