It was a privilege to walk through St George’s Chapel this morning, replicating the exact path the Queen’s coffin will take in just a few hours time, before she’s buried there. As I walked up to the chapel I was struck by the heavy scent of the flowers. The ground is covered by tributes, left outside the castle grounds by members of the public in recent days and carefully placed here by castle staff. I noticed too some official tributes, one from the the prime minister and another the first minister of Scotland. I think whatever religion you are, or aren’t, walking into a place of worship is often awe inspiring, and this was just that.
Inside St George's Chapel where the Queen will be laid to rest on Monday 19 September.
Walking into the nave, the giant west window looms behind you and the spectacular gothic stone vaulting towers high above. This is where most of the 800 congregation will sit, including past and present members of the Queen’s household. Next we walked through the huge organ screen into the quire, just as the King and Queen Consort will do behind the coffin this afternoon. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will be there too, provoking memories no doubt of when they walked down that aisle, under very different circumstances.
I stood in front of the catafalque, the platform on which the coffin will sit - it’s draped in a rich purple velvet. On the floor next to it I saw eight wreaths - private tributes from members of the royal family. Noticeably they were colourful, bright reds, blues and pinks. In contrast to the more subdued formal flowers on display, white lilies and roses with greenery picked from the grounds of Windsor Castle. Just feet away I saw the stone that marks the burial site of both Henry the VIII and Charles I - if ever you needed reminding of the fact that we are today witnessing the history that our children’s children will one day learn at school. We were shown the organ which will play music by a composer who taught the young Queen to play the piano. The choir will sing The Russian Kontakion of the Departed, which was also sung for the funeral of The Duke of Edinburgh. The service will be conducted by the Dean of Windsor who knew the Queen well, she attended many services here.
I think one of the most poignant moments will come, when, in complete silence the instruments of state - first the sceptre, then the orb - then the crown - are removed from the coffin and placed on the altar. Competing the circle from when Queen Elizabeth II was first crowned to now, the end of her reign. As the Dean reads a final psalm, the coffin will very, very slowly start to descend into the royal vault. Bagpipes will play, the sound gradually fading as the piper departs. The last time we saw the Queen there in that quire was at her husband’s funeral during the pandemic as she sat all alone. But in death, she won’t be. In a private service this evening in a tiny chapel at the north side of the main building the Queen will be buried alongside the Duke of Edinburgh, her parents, and the ashes of her sister.
The remarkable life of the Queen remembered in our latest episode of What You Need To Know