Why the Royal Navy feature at the funerals of British Kings and Queens
An estimated 4.1billion people around the world are set to watch the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II – with preparations for the historic day having been underway since the monarch’s passed away aged 96 on Thursday, September 8.
The service began at 11am but prior to that the Queen’s coffin travelled from Westminster Hall – where it has been lying in state – to Westminster Abbey.
The casket will travel in the State Gun carriage in a procession led by the Royal Navy – which will head through New Palace Yard, Parliament Square and Broad Sanctuary and the Sanctuary, before reaching the Abbey.
The traditions involved with the State Gun Carriage date back to the Victorian era – but just who is pulling it? And who are the pallbearers?
Who is pulling the carriage with the Queen’s coffin?
The State Gun carriage will be pulled by sailors from the Royal Navy – although it hasn’t always been this way.
The Navy only began pulling the gun carriage at royal funerals following the death of Queen Victoria in 1901 – and their involvement happened quite by accident.
Queen Victoria’s funeral took place in February of that year, on a wintry day, with her coffin originally set to be pulled to Windsor Castle from the station, by eight horses from the Royal Horse Artillery.
However the procession had been kept waiting – with reports suggesting the icy weather was to blame.
And according to one Royal Navy historian, when the coffin was finally loaded on to the carriage, the horses are said to have bolted – breaking the harnesses attaching them to it.
Sky News explained: ‘In 1901 when Queen Victoria was being taken to her funeral, the military gun carriage was pulled by horses, who after a long wait had become unsettled.
‘Finally when the late Queen had been placed upon the gun carriage they reared up, and broke their traces – the leather straps holding the horses to the gun carriage.
‘Captain Prince Louis of Battenberg who was a relation of the King, Edward VII, offered to get the Royal Navy who were lining the route, to take the ropes holding the crowd back, and connect this to the gun carriage. And Queen Victoria was taken to St George’s.’
There have, however, been other accounts over the years about what happened on that day.
One account from Sir Cecil Levita, who was in charge of the funeral cortege, suggests that one of the harnesses broke under the weight of the coffin, causing one of the horses to fall.
Who are the pallbearers for the Queen’s funeral?
The Ministry Of Defence has said that the bearer party who are carrying the coffin, will be from the Queen’s Company 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards.
There will be 10 pallbearers, chosen by the Comptroller, Lord Chamberlain’s office – who will walk alongside the Queen’s coffin.
The names of those in the bearer party or the pallbearers have yet to be confirmed – although a number of those who have carried the Queen’s coffin so far have been identified.
They have included Ben Tubuna, a soldier from Fiji, who helped carry the casket as it was taken to St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh.
Meanwhile Fletcher Cox, a 19-year-old from Jersey, was among those who carried the coffin into Westminster Hall, where it lay in state until the morning of the funeral.
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