Why is the Queen’s coffin lead-lined? How much the coffin weighs and the royal tradition explained

Queen Elizabeth II is being laid to rest in a state funeral on Monday 19 September.

Her coffin was moved several times ahead of the date, firstly when a funeral cortege took the late monarch’s body from Balmoral to Edinburgh in a solemn procession last Sunday.

The coffin rested at St Giles’ Cathederal in the Scottish capital overnight, before being flown down to London to Buckingham Palace.

After lying in state for five days at Westminster Hall, Elizabeth II will make her final journeys on Monday, firstly to Westminster Abbey and then to Windsor Castle – here’s everything you need to know about her coffin.

The funeral of Queen Elizabeth II

Why is the Queen’s coffin lead-lined?

The Queen’s coffin is made from English oak and lined with lead, which is a traditional design choice for members of the Royal Family, according to reports.

Using lead prevents air and moisture from building up, aiding preservation. Experts say airtight coffins are particularly important when they are laid to rest above ground.

The design of the Queen’s coffin appears to have been confirmed by Andrew Leverton, of Leverton & Sons, the firm that acts as undertakers to the Royal Family. Four years ago, Mr Leverton told The Times the coffin is made of English oak and lined with lead.

It is thought the Queen’s coffin was constructed around 30 years ago alongside the Duke of Edinburgh’s.

The Queen’s coffin has been moved several times since her death (Photo: AFP)

“My understanding is that the Queen and all members of the Royal Family have coffins made while alive… so there is no delay, the coffin is there,” Matthew Lymn Rose, managing director of A W Lymn, The Family Funeral Service, told i.

The concept of lead lining can be traced back to the Victorian era, when it was necessary to protect bodies in an airtight sealed coffin for the benefit of the deceased and the public when they are laid to rest above ground.

Mr Lymn Rose said: “Most people are buried under ground. If you have a coffin vault or a family chamber in a church, then that coffin remains above ground and open to the elements. A sealed coffin is very important.”

Sarah Hayes, manager for the Coffin Works museum in Birmingham, said lead-lined coffins were not only reserved for the Royal Family.

“Winston Churchill also had a lead-lined coffin, so it’s not only the Royal Family, but it does tend to be associated with a person’s social standing or status and the funeral director they choose.

“JH Kenyon, the royal undertakers until 1991 would have specialised in lead-lined coffins for this reason. They did many high-status funerals, including Churchill’s.

“Oak and elm seem to have been the chosen woods when it came to making coffins, but in terms of royal coffins, they are often made from oak on the Sandringham Estate. That’s the distinction here, and oak in general is often chosen because of its distinctive grain pattern, but oak isn’t exclusive to royal coffins.”

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How much would the Queen’s coffin weigh?

The use of lead makes the coffin very heavy. According to The Times, eight military bearers will be needed to carry the Queen’s coffin on the day of the state funeral.

It has been reported that the coffin is estimated to weigh anything between 250kg (551lb) and 317kg (699lb).

Mr Lymn Rose said his firm, which is based in Nottinghamshire and has 27 branches, gets requests for airtight sealed coffins from families who intended to lay their loved one to rest above ground or if the coffin needs to be transported.

“Coffins are normally sealed by screwing the lid into the sides but that does not form an airtight seal.

“The modern process would be to zinc-line [the coffin]. Zinc is much thinner than lead, and more malleable.

“I have never, in my 20 years, seen a coffin lead-lined. The process of zinc lining is more simple, less costly, less weighty,” he said, suggesting the Royal Family still opted for the traditional method.

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