I’m going to use this post to cover Queen Elizabeth’s funeral procession over the next six days, beginning with the events of Sunday and ending with the lying-in over this coming weekend. I will cover her funeral on Monday, September 19 in a separate post, as well as any odds and ends that crop up in the meantime.
Sunday, September 11
Queen Elizabeth’s coffin was transferred from Balmoral to Holyrood, accompanied by her daughter, The Princess Royal, and her husband, Vice Admiral Timothy Laurence. The journey took six hours, with people lined up along the streets to witness the passing of the cortege. Crowds alternated between respectfully clapping and throwing floral tributes, to a subdued silence that made for eerie moments.
They were met at the palace by Queen Elizabeth’s younger sons, The Duke of York and The Earl of Wessex, as well as Edward’s wife, The Countess of Wessex. While in Scotland, Edward and Sophie are also known as The Earl and Countess of Forfar. Images of Anne curtsying before her mother’s coffin are incredibly heartbreaking.
Queen Elizabeth’s coffin rested overnight in the Holyrood Throne Room.
Back in London, King Charles met with Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland. The Prince of Wales also spoke to Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, presumably taking the call from Windsor, however it’s possible he spent time in London
Meanwhile, proclamation ceremonies were held in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, akin to what we saw on Saturday at St James’s Palace.
Monday, September 12
King Charles and Queen Camilla visited Westminster Hall, the oldest part of the Palace of Westminster, dating back to 1097. Its famous wooden roof was designed by Richard II back in the 14th century. If you’ve ever taken a tour of Parliament, it’s the large stone chamber where the tours begin and end, marking such momentous occasions as the trial of Sir Thomas more during Henry VIII’s reign, for example.
While Parliament no longer meets there (obviously), it is still used for ceremonial occasions to address both the House of Lords and the House of Commons. Monday’s meeting provided an opportunity for both Houses to express their condolences to The King.
King Charles and Queen Camilla then flew from London to Edinburgh, meeting The King’s siblings at Holyrood for the Ceremony of the Keys, which formally transfers possession of the palace from Queen Elizabeth to her successor. All four children and their spouses then traveled with the cortege up the Royal Mile from Holyrood to St Giles’ Cathedral for a prayer service.
While this was happening, The Duke of Sussex released a statement acknowledging the death of his grandmother. I will note that Harry’s timing here is notable – if memory serves, the timing of his statement on the passing of The Duke of Edinburgh last year was so close to the release of William’s as to appear to compete with it. Waiting two full days is almost certainly an acknowledgement of both how momentous this moment is to the monarchy and the new normal within the family.
After the prayer service, The King met with Scottish Parliament. After a two-minute silence for Queen Elizabeth, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon delivered remarks, including:
“I was one of hundreds lining the streets with my mum, and by luck we ended up close to her car as it passed by. Nine-year-old me was absolutely convinced I had caught her eye. That nine-year-old girl could not have imagined more than 35 years later, being in the front passenger seat of another car, this time with the Queen at the wheel, driving through the Balmoral estate.”
In The King’s remarks, he quoted Robert Burns.
In the evening, the Vigil of the Princes was conducted at Queen Elizabet’s coffin in St Giles, led by King Charles and his three siblings. The practice essentially stand guard around their mother’s body, while mourners have the opportunity to file through the cathedral and pay their respects from a distance.
It’s an incredibly difficult moment to imagine. The practice was started in January 1936 with the passing of Queen Elizabeth’s grandfather, George V, at the behest of his widow, Queen Mary. At that time, the late king’s coffin was guarded by his own four sons – Edward VIII, the future George VI (Queen Elizabeth’s father), The Duke of Gloucester, and The Duke of Kent.
The ceremony was only conducted on one other occasion – the funeral of The Queen Mother in 2002. King Charles was one of the princes called upon. You can get a sense for how intense this is here:
Tuesday, September 13
This morning, The King and Queen visited Belfast, marking the next stop on their lightning tour of the UK to receive condolences and mark the new reign.
As we speak, Queen Elizabeth’s coffin is being transferred from St Giles to RAF Northolt, where it will then be flown to London. Anne will accompany her mother.
They are due to arrive in London at around 7:00 PM GMT. The coffin will be met at Buckingham Palace by The King, The Queen, William, and Catherine. From here on out, proceedings will all become London-centric.
5:16: PM GMT: Now that we’ve caught up on events from the last few days, let’s turn our attention to a few other odds and ends from the weekend. First, if you’ve been worried about Queen Elizabeth’s remaining corgis, don’t be – Andrew and his ex-wife, Fergie, have agreed to take them on, so they will move to Royal Lodge at Windsor.
Second, the Palace confirmed that all working members of the Royal Family will wear military uniform for the procession to Westminster Hall, the Westminster vigil, and Queen Elizabeth’s official funeral next Monday. With one notable exception: Andrew, who was made to step down from public life following the Jeffrey Epstein scandal and his 2019 BBC interview, will be allowed to wear his uniform “as a special mark of respect” at the Westminster vigil only.
Not given such an exception? Harry. The party line for this is that Andrew was Queen Elizabeth’s son. Now, we’ve seen a clear line drawn in the sand between Queen Elizabeth’s children and grandchildren over the last few days, which is a notable visual given that for the last five years or so, emphasis has been put on the succession. As such, King Charles, Queen Camilla, William, and Catherine have been front and center. But Queen Elizabeth’s funeral has reverted focus back on the older generation, with Anne in particular serving a senior role in accompanying her mother’s coffin as it traveled from Balmoral to Edinburgh and, now, to London. Even at Holyrood, you saw her step forward before her brothers, her rank in the birth order outstripping, for a moment, the line of succession.
So, ok, that’s a rationale. I disagree with it, and I think a lot of people do. It’s interesting, because I’m still against Saturday’s Windsor walkabout, a moment in which Harry was allowed to take a highly visible role. But now, the Royal Family is once again demarcating the difference between him and royals still serving in public life. Given a choice, I would have done this the other way around – leave Harry and Meghan out of walkabouts, but let Harry one last moment in uniform while he pays his final respects to his grandmother. Doing so would also lessen the offense many will – and do – feel about Andrew, a man accused of sexual abuse, being allowed to do so.
Seeing the kerfuffle playing out online, a spokesperson for the Sussexes said:
“Prince Harry, The Duke of Sussex, will wear a morning suit throughout events honouring his grandmother. His decade of military service is not determined by the uniform he wears and we respectfully ask that focus remain on the life and legacy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.”
This is a very interesting change in tone from the Sussex camp, if for no other reason than it supports King Charles. We’ll see how long it lasts.
5:36 PM GMT: King Charles and Queen Camilla have landed in London and are traveling towards Buckingham Palace. Queen Elizabeth’s coffin is following.
5:42 PM GMT: Queen Elizabeth has left Scotland for the last time.
6:55 PM GMT: Queen Elizabeth’s flight has landed in London.
7:00 PM GMT: Anne has released a statement acknowledging her mother’s death:
“I was fortunate to share the last 24 hours of my dearest Mother’s life. It has been an honour and a privilege to accompany her on her final journeys. Witnessing the love and respect shown by so many on these journeys has been both humbling and uplifting.
“We will all share unique memories. I offer my thanks to each and every one who share our sense of loss. We may have been reminded how much of her presence and contribution to our national identity we took for granted. I am also so grateful for the support and understanding offered to my dear brother Charles as he accepts the added responsibilities of the monarch. To my mother, the Queen, thank you.”
8:05 PM GMT: Queen Elizabeth’s coffin has arrived at Buckingham Palace. Crowds have been gathering outside the Palace gates and along the streets for the last few hours. The cortege will be received by The King, The Queen, William, and Catherine. Also present will be Queen Elizabeth’s younger three children, their spouses, the rest of her grandchildren, and their spouses. Finally, her niece, Lady Sarah Chatto, and her nephew, The Earl of Snowdon – the children of Queen Elizabeth’s sister, Princess Margaret – will be there, too.
It had been thought the family’s welcome of the cortege would be public – it now appears that tonight will serve as a private wake. After an intense five days full of public appearances and behind-the-scenes work duties, this marks the first time the entire family will be reunited for a private moment to grieve.
If any photos are released, I will provide an update. Otherwise, events may be on pause until tomorrow, which will see Queen Elizabeth’s coffin transferred from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall.
9:08 PM GMT: King Charles and Queen Camilla have been photographed leaving Buckingham Palace. This is noteworthy, to me at least, because it looks like they are still living in Clarence House at the time being, which isn’t unusual.
Ok, let’s get into today. Queen Elizabeth’s lying-in-state at Westminster Hall has begun. It will continue until Sunday, while her funeral will take place on Monday, September 19. At 2:22 PM GMT, the procession carrying Queen Elizabeth’s coffin left Buckingham Palace, headed towards Westminster Hall, which is inside the Palace of Westminster (better known as “Parliament) today. The specific departure time was timed for the slow-moving cortege to reach Parliament Square at 3:00 PM GMT.
Directly behind the coffin walked all four of the late Queen’s children in a row – King Charles III, The Princess Royal, The Duke of York, and The Earl of Wessex. As expected, all were in military dress, with the exception of Andrew.
The row behind them included The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Sussex, and Peter Phillips (Anne’s son and Queen Elizabeth’s eldest grandson). Only William wore a uniform in that row.
Traveling in cars came other senior royals and members of the family. Queen Camilla and The Princess of Wales traveled in one, The Duchess of Sussex and The Countess of Wessex in another. This particular alignment isn’t surprising, however I will admit that I half-wondered if we would end up seeing Kate and Meghan in one car and Camilla and Sophie in another given the heavy emphasis on generational seniority (as opposed to the line of succession) in recent days. This was very much the right call given that it would be hard for the Kate/Meghan combo not to inspire an entirely unnecessary wave of conversation re: their relationship.
Today’s event marks the first that summons the entire family in a public space. We’ve obviously seen a lot of the Windsors over the last six days, however it’s been piecemeal, with only Charles, Camilla, William, and Charles’s siblings participating in official functions. The walkabouts and viewing of the tributes has been decidedly voluntary, if expected.
In Westminster Hall, a 20-minute prayer service was conducted with participation from the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Dean of Westminster.
At its close, the Royal Family departed. Now, Queen Elizabeth’s coffin will remain guarded by a constant vigil, while members of the public will be able to queue to file past and pay their last respects. Among those who are keeping vigil are several politicians – the first leg includes Prime Minister Truss and Leader of the Opposition Sir Keir Starmer.
A few odds and ends, in no particular order – it is abundantly clear how emotional and devastated the family is. Today, as we’ve seen since Thursday, several have struggled to maintain their composure or completely broken down in public. This is rare, but understandable. I think many of us have been taken aback by how keenly we’ve felt Queen Elizabeth’s death – across the board, there was an element of shock that doesn’t quite configure with the fact that she was 96. Somewhere in the back of my head, I’m pretty sure I’m surprised she wasn’t immortal, even though I’ve known this day was coming.
It is significant that William and Harry were side-by-side in the procession. As we saw last year when Peter was placed between them as a buffer, there have been moments it appeared to be torture for the two of them to engage at all. Between the Windsor walkabout on Saturday to today, there does appear to have been a truce. Whether it’s temporary, whether there’s any substance behind it, or whether either’s heart is actually in it, we don’t know. Frankly, the moments playing out right now outstrip the importance of their relationship, and so while I am commenting here and there, I will likely wait to dig into all of that until after the funeral.
Finally, Harry and Meghan were holding hands when the Royal Family walked out of the Hall. Every royal couple has their own style and there’s certainly no hard and fast rule that says they can’t. Even more, I understand that this is a very emotional moment for Harry, and one which may well bring back memories of 1997. However, there is a time and a place and in events like this, the Royal Family are expected to embody their positions and their grief is a reflection of what the public is enduring, albeit in a less personal way. There are moments when Harry is mourning his grandmother, and there are moments when he is a prince of the blood mourning his sovereign alongside the nation, and today was the latter. At the end of the day, it’s really not that important, but it was illustrative of how the Sussexes conduct themselves and, arguably, their discomfort with their one-time royal lives.
In terms of next steps, at some point, things are a little up in the air. At some point the King and Queen will make a visit to Wales to mark the final stop on their lightning tour of the UK to receive condolences.
As we learn more, I’ll update accordingly. In the meantime, if there are questions or topics you want covered, leave a comment here or message me on Instagram.