Queen’s funeral plans: Everything you need to know – from how to watch to royal traditions | UK News

The plans have been honed over years, a strict timetable of procedure for what will be the biggest state funeral and security operation ever held in the UK.

The funeral for the Queen, Britain’s longest reigning monarch, takes place on Monday, and details of what will happen on the day have now been announced by Buckingham Palace.

It will be a day of emotion and sadness, but also a celebration of the monarch’s life and 70-year reign, and thousands are expected to line the streets in London and Windsor to pay their respects as she makes her final journey.

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Queen Elizabeth II portrait

Millions more will be watching at home in the UK and around the world as the funeral is televised in what could become the most watched broadcast in history.

It has been 70 years since the death of the previous monarch, Queen Elizabeth II’s father George VI, so the vast majority of people in the UK are unaccustomed to the traditions and pageantry that have been on display over the last few days. And for those who do remember her father’s reign and death, the Queen’s funeral, taking place in the digital age, will be incomparable in scale and much more accessible.

The man in charge of the operation, the Earl Marshal, the Duke of Norfolk, says the state funeral will “unite people across the globe and resonate with people of all faiths”, and pay a “fitting tribute to an extraordinary reign”.

Here is our guide to the event – from details of the rehearsals and everything happening beforehand to the Queen’s burial, other state funerals and the historic significance of the locations.

What time is the Queen’s funeral, where does it take place – and why?

Westminster Abbey floor plan
Guards and Royal Navy march past Westminster Abbey during a rehearsal for the funeral procession of Queen Elizabeth II in London, Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022. The Queen will lie in state in Westminster Hall for four full days before her funeral on Monday, Sept. 19. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
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Pic: AP/Felipe Dana

After several days of her coffin lying in state, the Queen’s funeral will be held at Westminster Abbey in London on Monday, starting at 11am. Poignantly, this is where she married Prince Philip 75 years ago and her coronation also took place here in 1953.

Breaking centuries of tradition, this is the first funeral service for a monarch to take place at Westminster Abbey since the ceremony for King George II in 1760, as they were later held at Windsor. However, the funerals for both Princess Diana and the Queen Mother took place here in 1997 and 2002 respectively.

It is thought the move was chosen by the Queen herself, according to reports, as the venue can hold more people and the London location is better to accommodate crowds.

The funeral will be conducted by the Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle Dean of Westminster, while the sermon will be preached by the Most Reverend and Right Honourable Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Choirs of Westminster Abbey and His Majesty’s Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace will perform under the direction of James O’Donnell, the Abbey’s Organist and Master of the Choristers.

What happens before the service?

Queen's Crown

A continuous vigil of her coffin is kept by the King’s Body Guards at the Palace of Westminster. Each watch lasts for six hours, with individuals within those watches keeping vigil for 20 minutes.

The coffin is draped with the Royal Standard, on which lie the Instruments of State, the Imperial State Crown, the Orb and the Sceptre. These will remain for the duration of the event.

A national moment of reflection takes place the day before the funeral, at 8pm on Sunday, and will be marked by a one-minute silence.

Community events and vigils may be organised to observe this across the UK, but people can also mark the moment privately at home or on doorsteps alongside neighbours. Those who want to pay their respects overseas are also encouraged to observe the one-minute silence at 8pm BST.

The Queen’s lying in state closes at 6.30am on the morning of the funeral. Following this, her coffin will be taken in a grand military procession from the Palace of Westminster to Westminster Abbey, which is closed for preparations until the funeral.

Following the coffin will be the King, members of the Royal Family, and members of the King’s household.

And what happens afterwards?

Prince of Wales leaves after paying his respects to Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Hall, London, where the coffin will lie in state ahead of her funeral on Monday. Picture date: Wednesday September 14, 2022.

Following the funeral, the Queen’s coffin will travel in procession from Westminster Abbey to Wellington Arch, also known as Constitution Arch, which was built as an original entrance to Buckingham Palace and sits between the corners of Hyde Park and Green Park.

From there, the coffin will travel to Windsor. Here, the hearse will travel in procession to the gothic St George’s Chapel, which sits within the walls of Windsor Castle, via the Long Walk. A committal service will then be held at St George’s.

This is the church regularly chosen by the Royal Family for weddings, christenings and funerals – where Prince Harry and Meghan were married in 2018 and where Prince Philip’s funeral was held just last year.

Later in the evening, there will be a private interment service with senior members of the Royal Family.

Where will the Queen be laid to rest – and will it be with Prince Philip?

The Queen and Prince Philip pose at Broadlands in Hampshire for their diamond wedding anniversary in 2007
St George's Chapel floor plan

The Queen’s final resting place will be the King George VI memorial chapel, a small annex to the main chapel at Windsor – where her mother and father were buried, and where the ashes of her sister, Princess Margaret, are kept.

Reports on why Margaret was cremated differ – some say she opted for this as she felt a burial was “too gloomy”, others say her decision was influenced by the fact there was not much room left for typical burials.

When Prince Philip died, he was temporarily laid to rest in the Royal Vault at St George’s, but will now be moved to the memorial chapel to join the Queen.

The Navy’s important role

An early morning rehearsal for the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II in London, ahead of her funeral on Monday. Picture date: Thursday September 15, 2022.

The procession will involve a total of about 6,000 representatives from all three armed forces, with members of the Navy towing the gun carriage which will carry the Queen’s coffin to Westminster Abbey.

This follows the tradition set at the funeral of Queen Victoria in 1902, when horses panicked and a party of sailors were commandeered to haul the carriage through the streets of Windsor.

Since then, the carriage, originally built in 1899, has been kept in an environmentally secure room at HMS Excellent in Portsmouth – where its custodian, Lieutenant Commander Paul “Ronnie” Barker turns its wheels a quarter-turn each week to ensure they do not become bowed by gravity.

And the role of the former head of MI5…

Queen Elizabeth II with Director General Andrew Parker during a visit to the headquarters of MI5 at Thames House in London in 2020

Lord Chamberlain – Baron Parker of Minsmere – is the most senior official of the Royal Household, and the former head of the spy agency.

He headed the Queen’s working household and it is his job to ensure the smooth running of all the different departments.

On ceremonial occasions, the Lord Chamberlain carries a white staff and a gold key, the symbols of his office – and tradition dictates that he must now break his staff over the Queen’s grave – a symbolic gesture marking the death of the sovereign he serves.

The last Lord Chamberlain to break his staff in this manner was the Earl of Clarendon over King George VI’s grave in 1952.

The Queen’s journey to Westminster Abbey

The route from Westminster Hall to Westminster Abbey

On the day of the funeral, after lying in state finishes at Westminster Hall at 6.30am, the doors will be closed in preparation.

Shortly after 10.35am, the Queen’s coffin will be lifted and carried in procession to the state gun carriage of the Royal Navy positioned outside the north door.

The gun carriage will then set off at 10.44am, with the route to the abbey lined by members of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines.

A tri-service guard of honour will take place on Parliament Square, accompanied by the band of the Royal Marines.

The procession will arrive at 10.52am and the coffin will be carried into the abbey for the service.

Westminster Abbey floor plan

The doors to Westminster Abbey will have opened at 8am to allow the general congregation to take their seats.

The ceremony itself

Invited heads of state and overseas government representatives, including foreign royal dignitaries, will travel collectively from Royal Hospital Chelsea to the abbey.

The funeral will be conducted by the Dean of Westminster, with Prime Minister Liz Truss and the Secretary General of the Commonwealth to read Lessons. The Archbishop of York, the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and the Free Churches Moderator will say prayers.

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What is a state funeral?

The sermon will be given by the Archbishop of Canterbury, who will also give the commendation. The Dean of Westminster will then pronounce the blessing.

Towards the end of the ceremony, at about 11.55am, the Last Post will sound, followed by a two-minute silence to be observed in the Abbey and throughout the UK.

The national anthem will be played and there will be a lament at the close of service at around midday.

The coffin will be followed out by the King, the Queen Consort and members of the Royal Family.

Procession to Wellington Arch

Members of the Royal Family will walk in procession from the abbey to Wellington Arch, where the procession is due to arrive at 1pm.

The King and members of the Royal Family will again follow in the procession, which will also include detachments from the Armed Forces of the Commonwealth. Minute guns will be fired in Hyde Park by the King’s Troop, Royal Horse Artillery.

Big Ben will toll throughout this procession.

At Wellington Arch, the coffin will be transferred from the gun carriage to the state hearse to travel to Windsor. As the procession departs, the parade will give a royal salute and the national anthem will be played. His Majesty The King and Members of the Royal Family will then depart for Windsor.

The Queen Consort, the Princess of Wales, the Duchess of Sussex and the Countess of Wessex will follow by car.

The Queen's cortege will travel from Westminster to Windsor

At Windsor

St George's Chapel floor plan

There will be a procession led by a dismounted attachment of the Household Cavalry, with pipers and drums and a band from the Coldstream Guards. Members of the Queen’s personal staff will follow.

The route will be lined by the armed forces. Minute guns will be fired and a bell will toll.

The procession will halt at the West Steps of St George’s Chapel, and the coffin will be carried inside.

Some 800 people, including members of the Queen’s Household and Windsor estate staff, will attend the committal service, which starts at 4pm.

The coffin will be lowered into the Royal Vault as the Dean of Windsor reads a psalm.

The Queen’s piper will play a lament as he walks away.

The Archbishop of Canterbury will give a blessing, and the national anthem will be sung.

The burial

The Queen's cortege will travel from Westminster Abbey to Windsor Castle

The burial service will be entirely private, taking place at 7.30pm and conducted by the Dean of Windsor.

The earth that will be scattered onto the coffin will have been gathered from the royal mausoleum at Frogmore.

How has such a large operation been rehearsed?

In the quiet of the early hours of the morning on Thursday, thousands of military personnel took part in preparations for the procession of the Queen’s coffin from Westminster Hall to Wellington Arch.

Bagpipes sounded at 2.45am, marking the start of the procession through the dark and quiet streets of the capital, with many areas sealed off for the operation.

Towed by almost 100 naval personnel and bearing a black coffin, the State Gun Carriage travelled from Westminster Hall, on to Westminster Abbey, and then through central London.

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Stand-in coffin used for funeral rehearsals

While the rehearsal was held early for as much privacy as possible and to avoid disruption, hundreds of mourners who had waited in line overnight to pay their respects to the Queen lying in state got to witness the historic preparations.

Those who were there saw the Scots Guards marching away from New Palace Yard and on to the abbey, followed by sailors pulling the gun carriage using white ropes, and several members of the Household Cavalry on horseback.

Four soldiers stood either side of the coffin as it was taken into Westminster Abbey, where indoor procedures were also rehearsed.

Mournful brass and drums heralded the coffin leaving the venue before the procession moved on to Wellington Arch.

At around 5.20am, the sound of brass playing God Save The Queen rang out from under the arch, before the state hearse departed through the Apsley Gate of Hyde Park between rows of Household Cavalry.

Beethoven’s Funeral March and the hymn Jerusalem could be heard before the sun came up.

What is a state funeral and who else has received one?

Winston Churchill's funeral. Pic: AP
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Pic: AP

A state funeral is a public funeral ceremony held to honour people of national significance. While usually reserved for monarchs in the UK, Britain’s last state funeral was that of former prime minister Sir Winston Churchill (pictured above) in 1965.

The Queen herself granted permission for the use of both Westminster Hall and St Paul’s Cathedral for his ceremony, acknowledging that the nation should “have the opportunity to express their sorrow” over the death of an “inspiring leader who strengthened and supported us all” during Second World War Two.

Prince Philip, the Queen Mother, Princess Diana and Baroness Thatcher all had ceremonial funerals, which share many of the same features. A ceremonial funeral was also held for King Richard III in 2015 following the discovery of his skeleton under a car park in Leicester in 2012, more than 500 years after his death.

Who will attend (and who won’t)?

U.S.President Joe Biden stands next to Britain's Queen Elizabeth as they meet at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, Britain, June 13, 2021. Arthur Edwards/Pool via REUTERS

Westminster Abbey can hold up to 2,200 people. On the day of the funeral, world leaders, politicians, public figures and those who worked with the Queen, as well as monarchs from other countries, will join members of the Royal Family to pay their respects.

The Queen’s four children – King Charles III, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward – will be present, as will Camilla, the Queen Consort, and the monarch’s grandchildren – Princes William and Harry, Peter Phillips and Zara Tindall, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, and Lady Louise Windsor and James, Viscount Severn.

Spouses of all close family are expected to be present too, including Catherine, the Princess of Wales, and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex.

Prime Minister Liz Truss, Labour leader Keir Starmer and other UK politicians will also attend.

Members of Europe’s royal families, from countries including Spain, the Netherlands, Monaco, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, and Greece, are likely to fly to London for the funeral, and about 500 foreign dignitaries are also expected to attend.

US President Joe Biden and his wife, First Lady Jill Biden, were among the first to say they would be there, and French President Emmanuel Macron has also confirmed his attendance.

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Your questions answered
King Charles in pictures

It is understood all holders of the Victoria Cross or George Cross are able to attend and nearly 200 key workers and volunteers recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list have also been invited.

Invites have not been sent to Russia, Belarus, Myanmar, Syria, Venezuela or Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, while Iran, North Korea and Nicaragua have been invited only at an ambassadorial level, according to Whitehall sources.

The UK does not have diplomatic relations with Syria or Venezuela, while the political situation in Afghanistan since the Taliban swept to power a year ago means no representative has been invited from Kabul.

You can read more on who is set to attend here.

Attendance is by invitation only. However, as they did as the Queen’s body travelled from Balmoral to Edinburgh, thousands are expected to line the funeral cortege route and millions around the world will watch at home on TV.

Security for the event

Members of the royal family, Sophie, Countess of Wessex, the Prince and Princess of Wales and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, walk as the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II, draped in the Royal Standard with the Imperial State Crown placed on top, arrives at Westminster Hall, London, where it will lie in state ahead of her funeral on Monday. Picture date: Wednesday September 14, 2022.

The complexity of organising the funeral, with dignitaries from around the world expected, has been compared by Whitehall insiders to organising hundreds of state visits within a matter of days, while normally there might only be two or three a year.

It presents a huge logistical, diplomatic and security challenge, with practice runs taking place in the dead of night.

The complex seating plan could only be formalised once guests had responded to the invitations – the deadline was on Thursday.

Air Marshal Edward Stringer, a former director of operations for the Ministry of Defence, was involved in revising the planning for Operation London Bridge back in 2017, and says procedures will have been revised and updated regularly since then.

Plans are carried out in accordance with the monarch’s wishes, he says – and gives the example of the Queen approving for her body to be flown on a C-17 cargo plane, the same used for aid missions in Ukraine and for evacuations in Afghanistan, in the event it needed to be.

According to reports, the Queen said that if the plane was “good enough for my boys, it’s good enough for me”.

The funeral will be the “biggest security operation ever mounted” and the plans are “given regular revisits… and of course the sad passing of the Duke of Edinburgh during the pandemic will have made the whole business very real again”.

One example of changes that have been made recently includes the announcement that NHS workers will be involved, Air Marshal Stringer said. “Well, that wouldn’t have happened pre-pandemic. So [the plan] is continually revised and of course will be revised again in light of what King Charles wants.”

The scale of the operation is “unprecedented” with “global public interest”, he added.

“The plan is nothing, the planning is everything. Lots of planning and repeating the planning – you think through all the contingencies and what might happen and the plan itself might always have to change within the last week, but at least if you’ve thought about all possible options, you can adjust quite quickly.”

One aspect to consider is so many heads of state being in the same place at the same time.

“You have an unprecedented collection of global VIPs – and it’s the British state’s responsibility to look after them. There’s a lot to consider.”

Transport

People travelling to London by train are being urged to stay for lunch to avoid mass crowds at Tube and train stations once the procession leaves the centre.

A full weekday timetable will operate, with about 250 additional services, including some overnight trains.

Transport for London (TfL) said most Tube lines will remain open for an additional hour until about 1am on the night of the funeral, to ensure people can “travel around the capital safely”.

On the roads, National Highways will pause any planned closures of motorways serving London until after the funeral.

Martin Fellows, who is leading the organisation’s planning for the mourning period, said some of the worst potential congestion hotspots on motorways are the M25 and roads feeding into London such as the M1, M3, M4, and M11.

He advised motorists to “allow plenty of time for your journey” and make sure vehicles are “well prepared”.

London Victoria coach station and many central London roads will be closed on Monday.

Most National Express coaches due to depart from or arrive at London Victoria will use Wembley Stadium instead, while Megabus will switch to Hillingdon.

More than 100 of Heathrow Airport’s flights will be also be cancelled to avoid aircraft disturbing the funeral.

The airport said it wants to ensure the skies over London will be quiet during the two-minute national silence as the Queen’s funeral at Westminster Abbey nears its end shortly before noon.

No flights will be allowed to take off or land from 15 minutes before the silence starts until 15 minutes after it ends.

Departures and arrivals will also be halted during the arrival of the funeral cortege and procession at Windsor Castle, and diverted around the castle during the private family service on Monday night.

British Airways – the most-affected airline – will cancel 100 short-haul flights due to the restrictions. Virgin Atlantic said it will cancel four flights.

Heathrow warned that many roads near the airport will be closed on Monday due to the events in Windsor, and passengers are “strongly advised” to use London Underground and rail services to get to and from the airport.

The history of Westminster Abbey and the monarchy

FILE - In this June 2, 1953 file photo, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II wearing the bejeweled Imperial Crown and carrying the Orb and Scepter with Cross, leaves Westminster Abbey, London, at the end of her coronation ceremony. On Monday Feb. 6, 2017, Queen Elizabeth II marks her Sapphire Jubilee, becoming the first British monarch to reign for 65 years. (AP Photo/File)
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Pic: AP

As an 11-year-old girl, the Queen watched as her father was crowned at the Abbey, a venue that has been linked to the Royal Family since the 11th century, when Edward the Confessor rebuilt the church.

King Edward was the first to be buried here in January 1066. From then until 1760, some 13 kings of England – including Henry V and Henry VII, four reigning queens including Elizabeth I, 11 queen consorts and two other queens, including Mary Queen of Scots – have been buried in the Abbey. Since George II’s burial in 1760, royal burials have been at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, or in the nearby mausoleum at Frogmore.

Queen Elizabeth’s own coronation also took place here.

The last funeral for a British monarch

The King...s George coffin was piped aboard... when it was placed on the gun carriage on reaching Windsor on Jan. 28, 1952. The long cortege proceeded through the draped streets of Windsor, lined with thousands of mourners to St. George...s Chapel, When another wail of pipes was sounded. O.P.S. general view of the cortege with Windsor Castle in the background on January 28. (AP Photo)
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Pic: AP

Prince Albert, Duke of York, the second son of King George V and Queen Mary, was proclaimed King in December 1936, following the abdication of his brother Edward VIII over his relationship with American divorcee Wallis Simpson.

He took one of his middle names, George, on succeeding to the throne.

George VI died on 6 February 1952 and his coffin lay in Westminster Hall where a short service was held and more than 300,000 people turned out to pay their respects. His funeral service took place at St George’s Chapel in Windsor on 15 February 1952.

The Queen’s coffin

The bearer party carries the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II into Westminster Hall, London, where it will lie in state ahead of her funeral on Monday. Picture date: Wednesday September 14, 2022.

The coffin is constructed out of English oak, lined with lead, and was made decades ago, according to experts.

Former Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Prince Philip and Princess Diana all had such coffins made for them, Sarah Hayes, manager for the Coffin Works museum in Birmingham, has said.

“It’s to preserve the body for as long as possible, it’s really about slowing down the process of decomposition,” she said.

This is especially important for the queen because her coffin will be eventually placed in a church, not buried in the ground, she added.

The coffin is made of oak from the Royal Family’s Sandringham Estate according to royal tradition, Ms Hayes said.

How will music play a part?

American dancer and film star Fred Astaire seen broadcasting on the American radio in November 1941. (AP Photo)
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Pic: AP


Funeral marches by classical composers Beethoven, Chopin and Mendelssohn will be played at the ceremony, as they were during the funeral procession for Queen Victoria in 1901, according to a former military music director.

“Everything that we do in state ceremonial is born out of a golden thread of history, heritage and tradition,” retired Lieutenant Colonel Graham Jones, former senior director of music for the Household Division, said.

Throughout his 40-year career serving as a military musician and then director of music, Lt Col Jones was responsible for planning, co-ordinating and delivering the music for major state ceremonial events such as the funeral of the Queen Mother, the Queen’s birthday parade, and the Armistice Cenotaph Parade.

He said the funeral service at the abbey could reflect the Queen’s personal taste in music, which was said to include musicals such as Oklahoma! and show tunes such as Cheek To Cheek, performed by Fred Astaire (pictured above).

“That’s a matter between church and monarch, to decide the service and service content, and I know there has been quite a little bit of rumblings in the media about Her Majesty’s top 10 favourite tunes and will any of those feature in the service,” he said.

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