The Daily Telegraph

NHS doctors and nurses to walk ahead of coffin

Funeral to include members of the public alongside royalty and military at Queen Elizabeth’s request

- By Hannah Furness Royal editor

NHS doctors and nurses will be given the honour of walking in front of Queen Elizabeth II’S coffin at her funeral, it has emerged, as Buckingham Palace revealed details of a “fitting tribute to an extraordin­ary reign”.

Planned in line with the late Queen’s wishes, members of the public will join royalty, heads of state and the Armed Forces for a state funeral that Buckingham Palace hopes will “unite people across the globe”.

On Monday, a series of procession­s and three services held in Westminste­r Abbey and St George’s Chapel, Windsor, will commemorat­e the late Queen as “head of state, head of nation and head of family”, before she is interred alongside the Duke of Edinburgh in a private ceremony.

The Earl Marshal, the Duke of Norfolk, who is organising the funeral, yesterday said: “It is our aim and belief that the state funeral and events of the next few days will unite people across the globe and resonate with people of all faiths, whilst fulfilling Her Majesty and her family’s wishes to pay a fitting tribute to an extraordin­ary reign.”

Confirmati­on of the funeral details will allow a predicted million members of the public to plan their journeys to London or Windsor to pay their respects to the late Queen.

They have already turned out in their tens of thousands to see the coffin as it lies in state at Westminste­r Hall, with the queue extending nearly five miles last night – a wait of more than eight hours.

Yesterday, after a week of public mourning, the King and Queen Consort took a day out of the world’s gaze, with the King receiving a series of diplomatic telephone calls from Highgrove.

The Prince and Princess of Wales visited Sandringha­m to thank the Queen’s neighbours for laying flowers for her, with the Prince telling one well-wisher that walking behind the late Queen’s coffin from Buckingham Palace to Westminste­r Hall on Wednesday had “reminded him” of his mother’s funeral 25 years ago.

“It brought back a few memories,” he said. “It’s one of those moments when you think, ‘I’ve prepared myself for this, but I’m not prepared’.”

The Princess said the Royal family was “sticking together and sharing each other’s grief and helping each other cope”. A spokesman for the King said he extended his “sincere gratitude” on behalf of his family for the “messages of condolence received from around the world”.

The King and Queen Consort today travel to Wales, for the final stage of the tour of the four home nations to accept condolence­s.

Tomorrow, the King will visit members of the emergency services involved in the funeral and public mourning to thank them for their efforts.

It has also been confirmed that the night before the funeral, working members of the Royal family will gather at Buckingham Palace for a diplomatic reception to be attended by an unpreceden­ted number of world leaders.

Yesterday, the Earl and Countess of Wessex travelled to Manchester to light a candle for Queen Elizabeth in the cathedral and to pass on the Royal family’s gratitude to well-wishers. The Princess Royal returned to Scotland to thank representa­tives of her patronages.

Plans to ensure the skies above London and Windsor are quiet at the key moments of the Queen’s funeral were also confirmed yesterday.

British Airways has cancelled one in seven flights on Monday. The airline has suspended arrivals between 1.45pm and 2.20pm, and departures between 3.05pm and 4.45pm. No flights will take off or land at Heathrow between 11.40am and 12.10pm to ensure the twominute silence at the end of the funeral service can be observed.

The Earl Marshal described the task of organising what will be the mostwatche­d state funeral in history as “both humbling and daunting”.

He said: “Of course, these events are taking place against the backdrop of an outpouring of grief, affection and gratitude from people in the United Kingdom, the Commonweal­th, and across the world – all united in paying tribute to the Queen’s life of dedicated service.”

He added: “The respect, admiration and affection in which the Queen was held makes our task both humbling and daunting – an honour and a great responsibi­lity.”

The day of the funeral will see the late Queen’s coffin move from Westminste­r Hall to Westminste­r Abbey, with her four children, the Prince of Wales and Duke of Sussex, and other male family members walking in procession with her closest aides.

‘It brought back a few memories. It’s one of those moments when you think, “I’ve prepared myself for this, but I’m not prepared” ’

The coffin will be carried on the 123-year-old state gun carriage – towed by Royal Navy sailors – which has previously been used in the funerals of Queen Victoria, Edward VII, George V, George VI and Sir Winston Churchill.

At Westminste­r Abbey, in a service beginning at 11am, more than 2,000 guests will include heads of state, foreign royals and politician­s. Among them will be recipients of the Victoria Cross and George Cross, volunteers from the Queen’s charity patronages, the emergency services, and 183 key workers and community champions.

When the service has concluded, the coffin will be moved in procession to Wellington Arch, led by officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police followed by representa­tives of the George Cross foundation­s, staff of the NHS and detachment­s from the Armed Forces of the Commonweal­th. The coffin will then move by hearse to Windsor.

In St George’s Chapel, the late Queen’s past and present household will gather with the Royal family for a more intimate committal service.

Finally, on Monday evening, her very closest family will gather in the tiny King George VI Memorial Chapel for an entirely private service. She will be interred with her late husband, the Duke of Edinburgh.

‘Catherine said to me that as a family they’re all sticking together and sharing each other’s grief and helping each other cope’

‘I joked I had to be quick because I had to do the school run and she said she was heading back to London to do it as well’

After the hardest day, when they had been so much on show and had done their duty with such strength and dignity, came a moment to connect with the people for the Prince and Princess of Wales. They were only meant to stay for a short while, to see the flowers left at the gates of Sandringha­m House; an hour later, they were still talking to mourners, taking the time to thank as many people as they could for the care they were showing their family. These weren’t just brief handshakes and on to the next – at points, the couple, both visibly moved, seemed to be sharing the most intimate conversati­ons. The Prince spoke of how Wednesday’s procession had brought back terribly sad memories of walking behind the coffin at his mother’s funeral.

He described how incredibly “difficult” it had been, as he made the solemn journey through the streets of London behind his grandmothe­r’s coffin, following that very same route he walked 25 years ago as a boy.

“Doing the walk yesterday was challengin­g,” the Prince said in footage broadcast by Sky News. “It’s one of those moments when you think to yourself: I’ve prepared myself for this, but I’m not that prepared.”

Jane Wells, 54, who had come to lay roses at the gates, her own mother’s favourite, said: “I said to him that his mum would be really proud of him and he said that was really nice to say so.”

One onlooker told the Prince that she was close to tears, as many in the crowd were, to which he replied: “Don’t cry now – you’ll start me.”

Much of the crowd had come with no idea they were about to see the royal couple; they were simply coming to pay their respects.

Getting the chance to clasp the Prince and Princess’s hands and pass on their love and sympathy in person meant a great deal. It was clear how much it meant to the couple too.

The Princess of Wales, wearing a pair of diamond and pearl drop earrings believed to have belonged to the late Queen, told mourners the Royal family were “sticking together”.

Jill Clinton, 63, said: “Catherine said to me that as a family – and I did wonder what she meant by this – that they’re all sticking together and sharing each other’s grief and helping each other cope.”

They have, of course, had their three children to think of this week too.

The Princess told Katie Ward, 42, how keen she and her husband had been to ensure George, Charlotte and Louis had as “normal” a week as possible, especially as they have only just started at a new school. The

‘She said: “Do you want to put the flowers down?” And then we went down and she said “put the flowers down there and the corgi”’

Princess told one onlooker that though Prince George knew very well what had happened, and was old enough to understand this great loss, the younger two had perhaps grasped less of what has been going on over the past week.

The children were, she told a member of the crowd, settling in well at their new school near Windsor.

“I joked I had to be quick because I had to do the school run and she said she was heading back to London to do it as well.”

With more than a thousand people there, many of whom had been standing all morning in the Norfolk sunshine, you could have forgiven the Princess for not spotting a little girl clutching a toy corgi, but eight-yearold Elizabeth Sulkovska was overwhelme­d when Her Royal Highness leant down and asked if she’d like to lay her tribute alongside the others.

Through her tears, she recalled: “It was very exciting. I didn’t think that was going to happen. I was standing with a corgi and my flowers. She was coming round and then she said: ‘Do you want to put the flowers down?’ And then she picked me and we went down and then she said ‘put the flowers down there and the corgi’.”

The Princess appeared touched by the genuine warmth in the crowd and wasn’t afraid to admit how difficult the past week had been. Amanda Horn, 56, told Her Royal Highness she looked “very tired”, to which she replied: “We are all very tired but the crowds and people’s support is keeping us going.”

Prince William admitted the past few days had been “very surreal”. “He said it’s very hard and it feels very surreal, it doesn’t feel real,” said a Mrs Clinton, fighting back tears. “I said I can quite understand that, it doesn’t. And it’s your grandmothe­r. I remember losing mine, and it’s hard, it doesn’t matter who it is.”

One onlooker overheard the Prince say that “even though the Queen was 96, he thought she would go on forever”. The couple had come to Sandringha­m to thank staff and neighbours on the estate. Norfolk has always been a special place for them.

For the Prince, it holds happy childhood memories, but Anmer Hall – a beautiful red brick Grade II listed property on the Sandringha­m Estate which was given to them by Her Majesty – has also become their home.

It was where they spent much of lockdown, but it is also where they lived while Prince William worked as a pilot for the East Anglian Air Ambulance, and where they have enjoyed some of their happiest days, holidaying here whenever they could.

Locals might note their presence on a walk or in a pub, but no one would bother them; here, they are just another country family out for the day. Norfolk became, then, the place where they were able to enjoy some semblance of a normal, private life.

For many of the mourners, meeting the couple was a chance to tell them how firmly the nation has been holding them in their hearts.

“Catherine was saying how the Queen loved it here, and how they loved it here, and how it was a special place for them,” said Mrs Wells, who added that the Prince had told her he was “learning that she was everyone’s grandmothe­r – the way people have reacted. He said I still can’t get used to that.”

 ?? The Prince and Princess of Wales view flowers left in tribute to Queen Elizabeth at Sandringha­m ??
The Prince and Princess of Wales view flowers left in tribute to Queen Elizabeth at Sandringha­m
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 ?? ?? The Prince and Princess of Wales admire floral tributes left by the public, in memory of Queen Elizabeth, at the Sandringha­m estate in Norfolk
The Prince and Princess of Wales admire floral tributes left by the public, in memory of Queen Elizabeth, at the Sandringha­m estate in Norfolk

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