Funeral of Elizabeth II: why the queen’s coffin will be pulled by sailors

Since Queen Victoria’s funeral in 1901, several great British figures have been entitled to this very special honor.

A course of only eight minutes, symbol of all the British tradition. This Monday for the funeral of Elizabeth II, at 11.44 am very precisely, the queen’s coffin will leave Westminster Hall to head for Westminster Abbey, 146 meters away.

For the trip, the coffin will be placed on a gun carriage, a platform usually intended to transport military artillery. And notable feature, it will be pulled by 142 or 144 sailors of the Royal Navy, using ropes.

The tradition of the gun carriage comes from a request from Queen Victoria. The sovereign had wanted for her funeral in 1901, to be buried “like a soldier’s daughter”, as explained on BFMTV Thomas Pernette, journalist at Point of view and author of “Elizabeth II, Hats Of The Crown”. As for sailors in the Royal Navy, again the custom comes from Victoria, but this time stems more from an accident:

“In 1901, Queen Victoria was buried in February. Her coffin was then pulled by horses, but they panicked, rushed and the coffin was almost overturned. It was then the sailors of the Royal Navy who came to the rescue and pull this coffin on a man’s back”, says Thomas Pernette.

A tradition reserved for great figures

A mythical anecdote, which has become tradition for the ceremonies of great British figures. For sovereigns, but not only: Winston Churchill had his coffin drawn in the same way in 1965, Lord Louis Mountbatten, Prince Philipp’s uncle, being the last to have had the right to this honor in 1979.

During this short but very solemn journey, the Queen’s children and grandchildren will follow the coffin. Her great-grandchildren, Prince George and Princess Charlotte will also be present, before a second journey which will take the coffin to Windsor Castle, the Queen’s final resting place.

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