Queen Elizabeth II’s state funeral: What to expect


London (CNN) – The death of Queen Elizabeth II has set into motion an intricate period of mourning which will culminate with a huge state funeral on September 19 honoring her lifetime of devotion and steadfast service.

Codenamed “Operation London Bridge,” arrangements for Britain’s longest-serving monarch have been carefully poured over for years by the many agencies involved, with the Queen herself signing off on every single detail before her death. However, details were kept under wraps until the sitting sovereign, King Charles III, gave it all his final seal of approval.

The Queen will ultimately be laid to rest within St George’s Chapel, in the grounds of Windsor Castle, alongside her “strength and stay” of 73 years, Prince Philip. Here, we’ve put together a day-by-day guide on what will happen from now until the state funeral.

Following the Queen’s death, her oak coffin – draped with the Royal Standard for Scotland and a wreath of flowers – sat in the ballroom at Balmoral, where estate staff had the chance to pay their last respects. On Sunday morning, six of her gamekeepers carried the coffin to a waiting hearse.

At 10 a.m. (5 a.m. ET), the beloved monarch’s coffin embarked on its journey to the nation’s capital. However, it will not go there directly. It will first make a six-hour journey to Edinburgh and the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland. The trip by road ordinarily takes around three hours, however, it will be driven slowly so as to allow people to witness the hearse along the route and bow their heads as it passes.

An honor guard made up of the Royal Regiment of Scotland will greet the arriving hearse in Edinburgh with a royal salute before it is transferred to the Throne Room by a military bearer party.

Meanwhile back in London, the King will meet with the Commonwealth secretary general before he hosts the high commissioners from the realms of which he is now head of state in Buckingham Palace’s Bow Room.

On Monday morning, the King will start the day with a trip to Westminster Hall where both Houses of Parliament will express their condolences. He and his wife Camilla then fly to Edinburgh, arriving at 12:45 p.m. (7:45 a.m. ET), where they will head straight to the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

At 2:35 p.m. (9:35 a.m. ET), the Queen’s coffin will proceed to St Giles’ Cathedral for a service of prayer and reflection attended by the King and Queen Consort and royal family members, as well as a congregation made up “from all areas of Scottish society,” according to a senior palace official. Afterward, the coffin will rest there for 24 hours to allow the Scottish public to see it, in a tradition known as lying in state.

Following the service, the King will return to Holyrood where he will have an audience with Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, followed by a meeting with the presiding officer of the Scottish Parliament. Charles, accompanied by the Queen Consort, will later go to the Scottish Parliament to receive a motion of condolence.

That evening, at 7:20 p.m. (2:20 p.m. ET), the King and members of the royal family will mount their own guard – or vigil – of the Queen’s coffin.

On Tuesday, the King and Camilla will make a trip to Belfast, Northern Ireland. The couple will visit Hillsborough Castle and view an exhibition on the Queen’s long association with Northern Ireland. The King will then meet the secretary of state for Northern Ireland in addition to other party leaders, and receive a message of condolence led by the speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Back in Scotland, the Queen’s only daughter Princess Anne will prepare to accompany her mother’s body as it is flown back to London. At 5 p.m. (12 p.m. ET) the coffin will journey 8.2 miles (13.2 kilometers) by hearse to Edinburgh Airport, where it will depart for RAF Northolt.

A state hearse will bring the monarch’s remains to Buckingham Palace, where the King, the Queen Consort, as well as other members of the Windsor clan, will be waiting for the coffin’s arrival at around 8 p.m. (3 p.m. ET). The Dean of the Chapels Royal will conduct prayers and a bearer party found by The Queen’s Company, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards will place the coffin on trestles in the center of the Bow Room to rest overnight.

Wednesday will see an extraordinary silent procession take the coffin on a gun carriage from Buckingham Palace over to Westminster Hall, the oldest part of the Palace of Westminster, where the Queen will lie in state until the morning of the funeral.

For this journey, the coffin will be adorned with the Imperial State Crown and a flower wreath. The procession route will set off at 2:22 p.m. (9:22 a.m. ET) along The Mall, across Horse Guards Parade, past Downing Street toward Westminster.

In what is likely to be a poignant moment, members of the royal family will walk behind their beloved matriarch. They will be followed by senior staff from the royal households as well as close personal staff and members of the Household Division. As crowds watch the procession – which will take around 40 minutes – Big Ben will toll and minute guns fired by The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery at Hyde Park with echo across the capital.

The Queen’s coffin will be placed on a raised platform – or catafalque – in the middle of the hall and guarded around the clock by officers from the Household Division, the King’s Bodyguard or the Royal Company of Archers.

Upon its arrival at Westminster Hall, a short service will be conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, after which the hall will be opened to the public to pay their respects.

The funeral procession of the Queen's father, King George VI at Marble Arch in London on February 16, 1952.

Members of the public will be able to file past the Queen’s coffin during its first full day lying in state at Westminster Hall on Thursday.

Brass plaques in the 11th-century hall mark the spot where Edward VII lay in state in 1910, George V in 1936, George VI in 1952 and Queen Mary a year later. The hall, which is 900 years old, is also where wartime British Prime Minister Winston Churchill lay in state in 1965.

On Friday, the lying in state will continue for a second full day. Huge numbers of people are expected to line up in central London for a chance to visit the coffin and be part of this historic moment. Details of how the public can participate are to be released by the government in the coming days.

Separately, King Charles and Camilla will visit Wales on Friday, bringing their tour of all four nations that make up the United Kingdom to a close.

Public access to the lying in state continues into the weekend.

Sunday marks the final full day the Queen’s body will lie in state in Westminster Hall.

On the morning of Monday, September 19 – declared a public holiday across the UK – the Queen’s lying in state will end. The coffin will then travel in procession once more to Westminster Abbey for the state funeral, the details of which will likely come in the following days.

Westminster Abbey, founded in 960 AD by Benedictine monks, is one of the most recognizable landmarks in London. The historic church has been the setting for every coronation since 1066, and was where the then-Princess Elizabeth married Prince Philip in 1947. But there hasn’t been a funeral of a monarch there since that of George II in 1760.

Heads of state and dignitaries from around the world are expected to be invited to the British capital to join members of the royal family to celebrate the Queen’s life and unwavering service to the nation and Commonwealth. While a guest list has not yet been announced, US President Joe Biden plans to attend the funeral.

Other familiar faces at the televised service will be some of the 15 prime ministers to have served during the Queen’s reign.

At its conclusion, the coffin will travel in procession to Wellington Arch, before making its final journey out of London to Windsor.

The George VI Memorial Chapel in St George's Chapel, Windsor, where the Queen's father and mother were intered. A casket containing the Queen's sister, Princess Margaret's ashes is also in the vault.

Its destination is the now-familiar St George’s Chapel within the grounds of Windsor Castle. It’s where Prince Philip’s memorial service was held, as well as more jubilant occasions like the nuptials of the Queen’s grandchildren.

Following the service for the Duke of Edinburgh in 2021, his coffin was lowered into the Royal Vault, set below the chapel, where many royal family members have been laid to rest. However, he is expected to be relocated to lie together with the Queen in the King George VI Memorial Chapel, located elsewhere within St George’s Chapel.

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