When Queen Elizabeth II died on September 8 at the end of an extraordinary life and the longest reign of any British monarch, a chain of events was set in motion that had been planned for decades. The arrangements for transporting the Queen back to London, for her lying in state and for her funeral had been meticulously prepared well in advance.
The Queen’s funeral is set to take place on Monday, September 19, the eleventh day of a 12-day official mourning period. The funeral had been planned for the tenth day of the period, but as that day would have been a Sunday, it was settled that the funeral would be on the Monday instead. The day has been announced as a Bank Holiday in the United Kingdom, meaning that businesses, shops and schools will largely be closed.
Prior to the funeral, there are four days when the Queen lies in state at Westminster Hall, having arrived there from Balmoral, via Buckingham Palace, on Wednesday 14th September. Huge queues have been snaking along the river in London as people lined up to pay their respects to the monarch. For the lying-in-state, the coffin is covered in the Royal Standard, and topped with the imperial state crown, the orb and sceptre that make up the instruments of state. A national ‘Moment of Reflection’ is due to take place on Sunday 18 September at 8pm, the night before the funeral, when the public is encouraged to reflect on the Queen’s life.
On the morning of the state funeral, the coffin will be transferred to the state carriage at 10.35am; the carriage, drawn by the traditional 142 royal naval ratings, will lead an elaborate procession from the Palace of Westminster to Westminster Abbey. The procession itself is scheduled to begin at 10.44am, in which the King, his siblings the Princess Royal, the Duke of York and the Earl of Wessex will walk behind the carriage to the Abbey. Behind the Queen’s children will walk her grandsons, the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Sussex and Peter Phillips. The state funeral service will be conducted at 11am, attended by more than 2000 guests, including many heads of state such as the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the French President Emmanuel Macron. The congregation will begin taking their seats from 8am.
The service will be conducted by the Dean of Westminster, while the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, will preach the sermon. The UK’s Prime Minister, Liz Truss, will read one of the lessons. The service will end with the commemorative bugle call known as the ‘Last Post’, a two minute silence to be observed by the entire nation at 11.55am, and a lament played by the Queen’s personal piper.
State funerals are rare occasions, usually only granted to monarchs, although exceptions have been made for extremely important figures such as Winston Churchill and Isaac Newton. Churchill’s funeral in 1965 was in fact the most recent state funeral in the UK. The organisation of the funeral (as well as all the arrangements preceding it) is the responsibility of the Earl Marshal, a position held by the Duke of Norfolk, who has been planning for the event for decades.
Following the service at Westminster Abbey, the coffin will return to the gun carriage and travel in a procession to Wellington Arch at Hyde Park Corner, again followed by the King, his siblings, and the Prince of Wales and Prince Harry. The Queen Consort and Princess of Wales will travel to the Arch by car, along with the Duchess of Sussex and Countess of Wessex. The route will pass through Parliament Square, the Mall and Constitution Hill, with members of the armed forces lining the route. In Hyde Park, the King’s Troop Royal Artillery will fire minute guns, and Big Ben will toll throughout the entire hour of the procession.
The procession is made up of seven groups dedicated to public service, each supported by a service band. Mounties from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police will be in the lead, followed by members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the NHS, along with units from the Armed Forces of the Commonwealth.
At Wellington Arch the coffin will be transferred from the gun carriage to a hearse, which will then proceed to Windsor. Once there, a further procession will take it to St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, travelling up the Long Walk on the way. The passage along the Long Walk is expected to take place from 3.10pm. The committal service at the chapel will follow at 4pm, attended by 800 people. During this service, the crown, orb and sceptre will be removed from the coffin, to be returned later to the Tower of London.
Finally, the burial will take place in a private family service at 7.30pm at King George VI Memorial Chapel. The Queen will be laid to rest next to her husband the Duke of Edinburgh, who died in 2021.