The ceremonial processions taking Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin to Westminster Abbey in London and then to her burial place in Windsor reflect the ancient traditions of the British monarchy.
– Towed by the Royal Navy –
Royal Navy sailors will use ropes to pull the lead-lined coffin of the Queen mounted on a gun carriage from Westminster Hall to Westminster Abbey. Their comrades from a team of 142 sailors will walk alongside them to act as a brake if necessary.
This tradition dates back to Queen Victoria’s funeral in February 1901.
The horses intended to pull the gun carriage weighing over two tons panicked and began kicking, threatening to topple the coffin.
One of the queen’s relatives, Prince Louis of Battenberg, a captain in the Royal Navy, suggested to the new king, Edward VII, that this problem could be avoided by replacing the horses with sailors.
Nine years later, on the death of Edward VII himself, this idea was revived and has since become an enduring tradition at state funerals.
– Porters in bearskins –
Eight soldiers from the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards will be tasked with carrying the Queen’s coffin from Westminster Hall to the outside gun carriage and then to Westminster Abbey.
One of the oldest in the British Army, the regiment is one of five infantry regiments that make up the Queen’s (now King’s) Life Guard.
Soldiers in the regiment normally wear large bearskin hats, a uniform they copied from Napoleon’s Imperial Guard grenadiers, defeated at Waterloo in 1815.
The soldiers will be accompanied by Service Equerries to the Queen, attendants who assist the Royal Family in carrying out their public duties.
– Honor guard –
Three regiments will play a particularly important role in the procession, marching close to the queen’s coffin.
The Yeomen of the Guard, the oldest military unit in the British Army established in 1485, and the Honorable Corps of Gentlemen at Arms are two former royal family bodyguard units which now serve only a ceremonial.
The Yeomen of the Guard still wear a red and gold uniform dating from Tudor times (16th century).
One of their best-known activities is the search for gunpowder in the Palace of Westminster before the official 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 Elizabeth II’s bodyguards whenever she was in Scotland.
Selected detachments from other regiments from Britain and the armed forces of the Commonwealth, a country group led by the British monarch, will join the funeral procession from Westminster Abbey to Wellington Arch at Hyde Park Corner near Buckingham Palace.
– The royal house of Elizabeth II –
While members of the Royal Family led by the new King Charles III will follow the coffin, following them will be members of the Queen’s Royal Household, including the highest ranking officer in the Royal Household, the Lord Chamberlain.
Ahead of them will come the pipers and drummers of the Scottish and Irish regiments, the Brigade of Gurkhas made up of Nepalese soldiers who are part of the armed forces. There will also be 200 musicians from the Royal Air Force.
– 6,000 men –
Some 6,000 British armed forces soldiers, sailors and pilots will take part in the procession, Chief of Defense Staff Admiral Tony Radakin told the BBC on Sunday.
At several points along the route, they will take a royal salute, for example as they pass the Victoria Memorial commemorating the Queen.
“For all of us, this is our last duty to Her Majesty The Queen and it is our first important duty to His Majesty King Charles,” he said.