The Queen's Funeral Procession Is An Elaborate Celebration Of Her Life. Here's How To Follow It.
On September 8th, Buckingham Palace confirmed that Queen Elizabeth died at 96 years old, after reigning for more than 70 years.
On September 8th, Buckingham Palace confirmed that Queen Elizabeth died peacefully at 96 years old, after reigning for more than 70 years. Senior royals gathered at Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, after concerns over her health grew early Thursday.
Not long after the Queen’s death, now-King Charles III released a statement: "We mourn profoundly the passing of a cherished sovereign and a much-loved mother. I know her loss will be deeply felt throughout the country, the realms, and the Commonwealth, and by countless people around the world."
Queen Elizabeth’s Legacy
Queen Elizabeth leaves behind four children, eight grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren, and a legacy that will carry for generations.
Elizabeth II, in full Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, was a young mother when she ascended to the throne, at only 27 years old, with two young kids and served for 70 years. Through her reign, Elizabeth was a visible working mother when it was uncommon.
She oversaw a vastly changing world — the UK she ruled at the beginning of her time as the Queen is far different from the UK, and the world, she has left behind. Her children grew up, and had children, who have had their own children. Many worldwide view her legacy as as figurehead of the British monarchy as one that is inextricable from, and deeply symbolizes, the long history of British colonialism.
In 2015, Elizabeth became the longest-reigning queen regnant — a title given to a queen who has ascended the throne through birthright and not marriage. It's likely to be a long time before another queen regnant takes the throne. Princess Charlotte is currently third in line to the throne, and her cousin Princess Lilibet is seventh. But the line of succession will shift to Prince George’s children, if he has his own kids.
What Happens Next?
With the Queen’s passing, Prince Charles is now officially known as King Charles III. His coronation, which is the traditional crowning ceremony for new sovereign, isn’t likely to happen for months to come.
The ceremonies, and contingencies, that follow the death of Queen Elizabeth are rooted in tradition that have held for years.
One of those contingencies is Operation Unicorn, the codename for the plan set in place in the eventuality that the Queen passed away in Scotland. But what is Operation Unicorn? How will the Royal institution, and the British public, mourn the Queen’s death?
Operation Unicorn, Explained
On September 9th, the Queen’s coffin will move to the ballroom at Balmoral Castle, where she died, and it will be covered in a wreath of flowers that will be changed daily. Staff members who work at Balmoral will pay their respects during this time.
On September 10th, the coffin will be moved from the ballroom at Balmoral by the estate head and other bearers into a hearse. Her body will then be transported to Holyrood, Edinburgh, her Scotland residence, where it will rest until the following day.
On September 11th, King Charles III and Camila, now known as the Queen Consort, will arrive in Holyrood and be met with a 21-gun salute. Other members of the royal family are likely to join King Charles, including the Queen’s other children and grandchildren.
It’s not known at this time whether all members will be in attendance (like Meghan Markle or any of the Cambridge children), but those that are there, will take part in a procession from Holyrood to Edinburgh's St. Giles’ Cathedral. Following the procession, a service will be held at St. Giles’ where the Queen’s coffin will rest for 24 hours, and members of the public will be able to pay their respects.
On September 12th, the Queen’s coffin will leave St. Giles’ Cathedral by vehicle to be transferred to the royal train. The train will travel slowly during the 393-mile journey from Edinburgh to London as well-wishers greet the train, throwing flowers as a sign of respect as it slowly passes by overnight.
On September 13th, with the Queen’s body back in London, Operation Unicorn is officially completed. And the wider plans known as Operation London Bridge will then get underway.
Operation London Bridge, Explained
Once the Queen’s body is back in London, she will be transferred to Buckingham Palace and will rest in the throne room. Her body is expected to stay there until September 14th when it will be moved to the Palace of Westminster (also known as Westminster Hall) in a gun carriage procession.
The Queen’s coffin will be move slowly through the procession in a vehicle while King Charles follows. Both Prince William and Prince Harry, along with the Queen’s other children, will follow the procession on foot. It’s not known if any of the younger members of the royal family — like Prince George — will walk the procession, but it’s unlikely he will attend this ceremony.
When the procession stops at the Palace of Westminster, the coffin will be taken to the hall and following a short service, she will “lie in state” under armed guard for the next five days. At this time, the public is not given access, instead military personnel and the Yeoman of the Guard will hold a continuous vigil.
Near the end of the five days of guard, a public viewing will be held for 24-hours at the hall where thousands, if not millions, of people who wish to pay their respects are expected to file past.
The Queen’s Final Send-Off
On September 18th, ten days after the Queen’s death, the funeral send-off will be held at Westminster Abbey where the Queen’s coffin will make the short journey from the Palace of Westminster.
Several VIPs are expected to attend the service at Westminster Abbey, including foreign dignitaries and all surviving former British prime ministers, and members of the royal family.
It’s not known whether all members will attend, however if the Cambridge kids were to attend a public ceremony — particularly Prince George and Princess Charlotte — it’s most likely to be the service at Westminster Abbey, since both attended a similar service for the late Prince Philip last year. Also, if Meghan were to attend with Prince Harry, it’s most likely to be this service as well.
The funeral service is expected to last approximately 1 hour, starting at 6 a.m. EST where pallbearers carrying the coffin will stop at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior before a national two-minute silence.
The final event, a procession will carry the Queen’s coffin from Westminster Abbey, past Buckingham Palace to Wellington Arch. Queen Elizabeth II will be laid at her final resting place with her parents and sister in Windsor Castle's King George VI Memorial Chapel. The remains of the Queen’s late husband, Prince Philip, who passed away in April 2021, will be moved from the Royal Vault to be buried beside her.
Will The Service Be Viewable In The US?
Many UK-based media outlets are likely to cover most of the 10-days of events, but the Queen’s final send-off will be covered globally.
Live streaming of BBC News coverage is available on its website, which is likely to stream the ceremony. ITV News, another UK-based media outlet, is likely to show live-streaming and coverage of the events as well.
More details on any US-based coverage is likely to come in the next few days.
This story is developing and will be updated.