Why was a wand broken over the Queen's coffin and why was she buried with it?

King Charles II, left, watches as The Lord Chamberlain Baron Parker breaks his Wand of Office, marking the end of his service to the sovereign
King Charles II, left, watches as The Lord Chamberlain Baron Parker breaks his Wand of Office, marking the end of his service to the sovereign. Credit: AP

After the military splendour of the Queen's funeral in London, Her Late Majesty took her final journey to Windsor for a committal service at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle before she was buried beside her beloved Philip.

The service featured traditions symbolising the end of Elizabeth II’s reign, many of them never seen by the public before.

The final act of pageantry before the Queen's casket was lowered into the Royal Vault was the Lord Chamberlain “breaking” a wand that he then placed on the Queen's coffin.

The wand will be buried with her. What is behind this tradition and what is its meaning?

When was the wand broke?

Before the committal of the late monarch to the Royal Vault beneath the floor of St George's Chapel, the Imperial State Crown, Orb and Sceptre, were removed from the Queen’s coffin and placed on the altar of St George’s Chapel separating the Queen from her crown for the last time.

As the final hymn was sung, King Charles stepped forward and placed the Grenadier Guards’ Queen’s Company Camp Colour – a smaller version of the Royal Standard of the Regiment – on the coffin. The Queen was buried with this.

King Charles III places the the Queen's Company Camp Colour of the Grenadier Guards on the coffin. Credit: PA

Alongside the King, Baron Parker - the Lord Chamberlain who was the most senior official in the late Queen's royal household - stood in front of the coffin and symbolically "broke" his wand of office by dismantling it into two halves and laying them on her coffin.

What does the breaking of the wand mean?

The ceremonial breaking of the white staff signifies the end of the Lord Chamberlain's service to the Queen as sovereign. The "breaking of the wand" is a traditional part of a sovereign’s funeral, but this was the first time it had been seen by the public.

The last time this tradition was executed was in 1952, when the then-Lord Chamberlain, the Earl of Clarendon, did so over George VI’s grave in 1952.

Breaking the wand also creates a symmetry with the three Instruments of State that had been removed from the coffin.

Despite how it may have appeared, Baron Parker did not snap the wand into two, but instead unscrewed it in half.

Members of the Royal Family at the service in St George's Chapel. Credit: PA

Who is the Lord Chamberlain?

The former MI5 spy chief headed the Queen’s working household and it is his job to ensure the smooth running of all the different departments.

On ceremonial occasions, the Lord Chamberlain carries a white staff and a gold key, the symbols of his office.

Tradition dictates that the Lord Chamberlain breaks the white staff over the sovereign’s grave – a symbolic gesture marking the death of the sovereign he serves.

The late Queen meeting then M15 chief, later her last Lord Chamberlain, Andrew Parker, in 2019. Credit: PA

Andrew Parker, Baron Parker of Minsmere, officially took up his new role on April 1, following the Earl Peel’s retirement after more than 14 years in the post, just a week before the death of the Duke of Edinburgh.

The Queen hosted a ceremony at Windsor Castle for Baron Parker who oversaw Philip’s funeral as part of his role as the most senior official in the royal household. During the ceremony he was handed the Wand of and Insignia of Office and the Badge of Chancellor of the Royal Victorian Order.

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Lord Chamberlains are responsible for overseeing all royal departments, organising events including royal weddings, funerals and state visits, and liaising between the sovereign and the House of Lords.

Baron Parker served as director general of MI5 from April 2013 until 2020 and hosted a visit by the Queen to the intelligence agency.

He was the eight Lord Chamberlain who served the Queen during her 70-year reign.

What is the wand of office?

A thin, white staff, it is believed the wand of office was once used to discipline courtiers who were being to rowdy. The Lord Chamberlain would tap them with the wand as a warning to behave.