Royal funerals: pomp, pageantry and sometimes privacy

By: AFP      Published: 04:00 PM, 16 Apr, 2021
Royal funerals: pomp, pageantry and sometimes privacy

With a limited guest list, social distancing, and a congregation in facemasks due to coronavirus guidelines, Prince Philip's funeral on Saturday will be a royal funeral like no other.

Major send-offs for senior royals since World World II have tended to be very public affairs, with pomp, pageantry and popular fervour.

1952: King George VI

On February 6, 1952, King George VI died suddenly after a long illness at the age of 56.

At his funeral on February 15, his coffin was carried to Paddington station in west London on a gun carriage from Westminster Hall at the Palace of Westminster, where he lay in state.

It was then transported to St George's Chapel in Windsor where he was laid to rest.

A silent crowd lined the route along London's foggy streets during the three-hour procession. Big Ben rang out 56 times to mark the age of the king.

His eldest daughter, who at the age of 25 had become Queen Elizabeth II, followed in a horse-drawn coach.

A year later on March 24, George's mother, the dowager Queen Mary, died aged 85. Over two days, 120,000 people paid homage at Westminster.

1979: Lord Mountbatten

On August 27, 1979, Louis Mountbatten, the Queen's cousin and last viceroy of India, was killed at the age of 79, by an IRA bomb placed on his boat.

The assassination rocked the United Kingdom. Mountbatten was a decorated naval commander, the uncle of Philip, and mentor of his eldest son, Charles, Prince of Wales.

On September 5, hundreds of thousands of people gathered in London along with representatives of the British armed forces, US Marines and French, Canadian, Indian and Burmese soldiers to pay him a solemn farewell.

After the service at Westminster Abbey, an escort of six tanks took the coffin to Waterloo station where it was then taken to Romsey, near Southampton, southern England, for burial at the town's abbey.

1997: Princess Diana  

On September 6, 1997, the country came to a standstill for the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, who died in Paris on August 31 in a car crash aged 36.

Her death sent shockwaves around the world. Millions of people lined the streets and an estimated 2.5 billion people watched the service on television.

When the procession passed Buckingham Palace, Queen Elizabeth II, who had been criticised for her stand-offish initial reaction to the death of the former wife of Prince Charles, publicly bowed her head.

Her young sons, princes William and Harry, walked, heads bowed, behind their mother's coffin.

Elton John sang his reworked hit "Candle in the Wind" at the Westminster Abbey service. Diana's brother Charles Spencer rebuked the royal family in his eulogy.

Diana was buried at Althorp, the family's historic home in Northamptonshire, on an island in the middle of a lake.

2002: Princess Margaret  

Led by Queen Elizabeth II's frail 101-year-old mother, also called Elizabeth, the royal family on February 15, 2002 buried the monarch's younger sister Princess Margaret, who had died six days earlier aged 71 after a series of strokes.

The private funeral was attended by some 450 family and friends, including 30 or so members of the royal family such as the Queen, Margaret's ex-husband Lord Snowdon, and her two children Viscount Linley and Lady Sarah Chatto.

Despite concerns over her own health, the Queen Mother attended the sombre service at St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle.

It was exactly 50 years since she buried her husband, King George VI. In a break with royal tradition, Margaret was cremated.

2002: Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother

Just seven weeks after Margaret, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother died in her sleep on March 30 at Windsor. Her funeral on April 9 marked the end of an era.

The royal matriarch was the last empress consort of India and a link to a bygone age. She was much loved as a symbol of resistance to the Nazi enemy during World War II.

Over four days, more than 200,000 people filed past her coffin paying their respects.

The funeral at Westminster Abbey was attended by more than 2,000 people, including monarchs and representatives from numerous countries.

The abbey's tenor bell chimed for 101 minutes to mark every year of the Queen Mother's life.

More than a million people lined the 37-kilometre-(23-mile) route taken by the funeral procession to Windsor.

She was interred with her husband at the King George VI memorial chapel, where Margaret's ashes also lie.