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Vol I No. 1
History & Theology

Royal Funerals, St George's Chapel and the Royal Vaults (3): King George V, VI and later

by sinetortus

Queen Mary stands facing the Catafalque of King GeorgeV just before the Commital

With King Edward VIII (later Duke of Windsor) to the right of the Catafalque

20th January 1936

Below King Edward VIII can be seen just after scattering earth on the Coffin

King George V Funeral.jpeg

 

 

Her Majesty The Queen just after she has sprinkled earth on the coffin of her father King George VI

the Catafalque having just descended at  the Committal on  15th February, 1952

Just behind the Queen (to her left) stand Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) and the Princess Margaret

and behind them on the right stands Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh,

while on the far right,  in his stall as a Knight of the Garter,  Sir Winston Churchill can just be seen

 

While initially interred in the Royal Vault under St George’s Chapel the coffins of both King George V and his wife Queen Mary were later moved to the large tomb built for them near the Great West Doors of the Chapel.

 

 

After the death of King George the VI in 1952 it was decided to construct a completely new memorial chapel with its own small vault.  Accordingly,  he was first interred in the Royal Vault and then moved to the memorial chapel when it was consecrated 17 years later, in 1969. At that point his coffin, still covered by the royal standard that had been used at his funeral, was brought from the royal vault and buried in the new chapel.

The new memorial chapel was the first structural addition to the exterior of St George’s chapel since it was completed in 1528.

When Princess Margaret died in 2002, in compliance with her wishes she was cremated and her ashes were initially placed in the Royal Vault, before being moved to the George VI memorial chapel to be placed with her parents’ coffins when Queen Elizabeth,  the Queen Mother,  died only weeks later that same year

Within the chapel and above the vault lies a black marble gravestone, very simply inscribed “King George VI 1895-1952” and underneath “Elizabeth 1900-2002”.

 

 

After his funeral on Saturday 17 April, the Duke of Edinburgh was interred in the Royal Vault of St George’s Chapel but this will not be his final resting place as, when her Majesty the Queen dies, Prince Philip’s coffin will also be transferred to the King George VI memorial chapel to lie alongside her, his wife of 73 years.

 

 

An small historical addendum

An endowment for a wreath of primroses – in perpetuity.

As a minor episode of history, a long standing friend of the writer happened,  while at school  to be on duty as a prefect in St George’s Chapel just by the George VI Memorial chapel not long after Her Majesty the Queen’s father had been newly moved and  interred there.

(The visit was evidently at quite short notice as he was just warned to be ready for special visitors whereafter Her Majesty together with Queen Elizabeth (the widowed Queen Mother) and HRH Princess Margaret shortly came into view.

Their visit was occasioned by the wish to discuss the stained glass windows of which the design had yet to be settled.

In the subsequent conversation, Queen Elizabeth observed that her favourite flowers were primroses.

Many decades later, when Queen Elizabeth died in 2002, my friend wrote recalling this episode to Her Majesty the Queen and expressed the wish to offer wreath of primroses after the funeral.

Her Majesty was very touched by this gesture and accepted,  with the result that one of the very few wreaths in the actual tomb immediately after the funeral was this special wreath of primroses.

In a final page of this chapter  he subsequently gave an endowment to provide for a similar wreath of primroses to be placed on the tomb in perpetuity (a not inconsiderable gift as it turned out)