Big royal events in the United Kingdom are often a mix of old and new, and Queen Elizabeth II’s memorial service and funeral will be no exception. Although there will be some surprising new features, the elements that seem traditional are not as old as they seem. While some new elements are revivals of the past.

The a modern history of royal holidays is one of the innovations and traditions to keep the monarchy popular and relevant. Public service and the monarch’s ability to represent the entire nation became the main topics.

The organization of public mourning for Elizabeth II, which began with her death on September 8 and will end after her funeral on September 19, is a huge national event. However, burials of sovereigns were not always public spectacles.

Early memories

Since the 18th century, all British monarchs have been buried at Windsor and for a long period funeral ceremonies took place at Windsor Castle.

The change began with the death of Queen Victoria in 1901. This was partly in recognition of her long reign of 63 years. But it was also the culmination of efforts, prominent during her jubilees in 1887 and 1897, to make the monarchy more public. This should have contributed to greater popularity in relation to the royal family in a society that was becoming more democratic – and potentially more critical of an ancient and privileged institution.

Queen Victoria on her deathbed.

The day of Queen Victoria’s funeral was declared a day of national mourning, during which all work was stopped. This was done on the basis that many people would come to the memorial service, which was then the main means of expressing public grief and respect.

For the first time since the death of a monarch, the Church of England has issued special memorial services for use in all local places of worship, and leaders of most other faith communities in Britain have also encouraged the organization of local memorial services.

Church and chapel services were crowded everywhere. The fact that Queen Victoria died at her home on the Isle of Wight created the opportunity for further mass demonstrations of grief as her coffin was carried in a long and slow procession through the streets of London en route to Windsor. lined up in huge crowds. Public processions remained central to the later funerals of monarchs, although now centered around Westminster.

Public affairs

After the death of Victoria’s successors, further measures were taken to involve the public.

When Edward VII died in London in 1910, an audience was held at Westminster Hall. His son George V insisted that access should be “democratic” and almost 300,000 members of the public paid their respects by passing the coffin. He also asked that all local memorial services on the day of the funeral begin at the same time as the service in Windsor to create simultaneous national participation in the prayers of remembrance.

A huge procession.
State funeral of Edward VII in 1910.

At George V’s own funeral in 1936, the day of mourning was replaced by a national two-minute silence to avoid job losses during the economic depression. The silence also connected the king’s death with the annual mass ritual of commemoration of those who died in the First World War.

His lies in the state more than 750,000 people visited. Radio broadcasting created a wide audience for public ceremonies, a new form of mass participation.

Two more additions were made in 1952 to honor King George VI, who had achieved great public prominence during the Second World War.

Following the funeral in Windsor, a special memorial service was held at St Paul’s Cathedral, attended by members of the government, parliament and other national leaders. The memorial service and funeral procession in London became the first royal events to be broadcast on television and radio.

Commemorating Queen Elizabeth II

Many aspects of the royal celebrations since 1901 remain an integral part of the 2022 event, but there are also new elements.

Some of these features are the result of advances in television and electronic media, others are tributes to reigns even longer than that of Queen Victoria.

The United Kingdom’s state of the union has also influenced the plans, which the civil service and Buckingham Palace have maintained and regularly revised since the 1930s, for the “death of the crown” – more recently known by the code name “Operation London Bridge“.

The Union weakened from 1952 with the development of pro-independence parties and the delegation of the administration. The plans include measures to help maintain the monarchy’s position in various parts of the union during the delicate transition between sovereigns. The new King and Queen consort will therefore attend ‘national’ memorial services in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Soldiers carry the coffin.
The Queen’s coffin is carried into St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Nuno Viega/EPA-EFE

The unexpected moment was the death of the Queen in Scotland, which allowed for a highly publicized and televised tour of many communities. It also led to a procession and additional public laying of the coffin in Edinburgh in addition to the memorial service in St. Giles’ Cathedral.

Another factor that has influenced the new additions is the public expectation that fees should be more accessible and visible, that they became under Queen Elizabeth II.

The transition from Elizabeth II to Charles III appeared to be a delicate one due to constant criticism of the royal family, including the new king. The recent problems have been with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and the Duke of York, but the deeper problems are with the break-up of the king’s first marriage, Diana’s popularity and the outpouring of grief after her death in 1997.

Thus, additional opportunities were created for national leaders and the public to emphasize their respect for the monarchy. The the return of state burials to Westminster Abbeywhich was distributed by 1760, was probably long planned.

The Abbey can accommodate a larger congregation than Windsor’s St George’s Chapel, and its central location allows more people to watch the procession – as seen at the funeral of Diana and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, in 2002.

Moving national memorial service in St. Paul’s Cathedral from the time of the monarch’s funeral until the day after the queen’s death provided a clearer focus for the start of national mourning. New air address of the kingthe first broadcast of the accession board and the unusually early television coverage of the king’s receiving condolences and congratulation of parliament all of them were intended to facilitate the change of the sovereign in the public consciousness.

Now there will be a a moment of silence on the Sunday evening before the funeral, as well as a two-minute silence on the day of the funeral itself. Reviving a national day of mourning will also increase public participation, allowing large audiences to watch broadcasts of funerals and drawing massive crowds to the procession route and viewing points in London.

Both the great popular admiration for the late queen and the successful commemoration of her memory can be measured by the extent to which members of the public are willing to pay their respects. A huge number of people are expected long queueperhaps even for a night to attend her repose for five days in Westminster Hall – as before long queues for repose at St. Giles’ Cathedral. On the day of the funeral, even more people are expected to travel to London to witness processions and ceremonies in and around Westminster Abbey to say goodbye.

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