The Queen has paid tribute to the country’s war dead as she commemorated the centenary of the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior.
She took part in a small service at inside Westminster Abbey, wearing a face mask in public for the first time. Face coverings are required by law in certain indoor settings including places of worship.
The original plans for the Queen to re-trace the processional route of the unknown warrior – and that of her grandfather King George V – had to be scaled back because of coronavirus.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of both the Tomb, inside Westminster Abbey, and the Cenotaph in Whitehall.
Both were first honoured on 11 November 1920 – two years after the end of World War I.
The King laid flowers on the coffin of the soldier – who was brought to London from the WWI battlefields in France – and he then scattered soil from France on the coffin as it was lowered in place at Westminster Abbey.
The serviceman was one of four bodies which were exhumed in Northern France in 1920 and then taken to a British base where a senior military commander chose one of them at random to become the body to represent all those who had fallen in battle and buried without a name or a proper grave.
Buckingham Palace called the Queen’s visit to the tomb “a personal tribute” ahead of Remembrance Sunday.
She took part in a small private ceremony with the Dean of Westminster where they shared “prayers and a moment of reflection” before the Queen’s Piper played a lament, The Flowers of the Forest.
The Queen laid a bouquet of orchids and myrtle flowers on the tomb which was based on her own wedding bouquet from 1947.
All Royal brides since the Queen’s mother, Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon when she married the future King George VI in 1923, have placed their wedding bouquet on the grave of the Unknown Warrior in an act of remembrance.
Lady Elizabeth, who went on to become the Duchess of York and then Queen consort to King George VI, laid the bouquet in memory of her brother Fergus, who was killed at the Battle of Loos in 1915.
The most recent royal brides to follow this tradition were The Duchess of Sussex and Princess Eugenie in 2018 and Princess Beatrice in 2020.
The Queen Mother also wanted her funeral wreath to be placed at the tomb which happened at the Abbey the day after her funeral.
The processional route of the coffin was to be retraced this year, but like many other Remembrance Sunday events they had to be scaled back.
The public has been asked not to attend the ceremony at the Cenotaph this year for the first time.
The word cenotaph derives from two Greek words, kenos - “empty” - and taphos - “tomb”.
The Cenotaph we know today replaced a temporary structure which was erected on Whitehall to mark the first anniversary of the Armistice in 1919.
The architect Edwin Lutyens was commission to construct a permanent memorial from Portland stone and it was unveiled for the first time on 11 November 1920.
On that day, King George V placed a wreath on the coffin of the unknown soldier at the Cenotaph. He later went to Westminster Abbey with his two sons, the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VIII, and the Duke of York, the future King George VI and father of the current Queen.
The Unknown Warrior became an important symbol of mourning for bereaved families, as he represented all those who lost their lives in the First World War but whose place of death was not known, or whose bodies remained unidentified.
Today, the tomb remains a solemn tribute to all service personnel who have lost their lives in combat.
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