Tell me about… the Vigil of the Princes

As part of ‘Operation London Bridge’, the official plans for the Queen’s funeral, it is said that there will be a special vigil called ‘the Vigil of the Princes’ due to take place during her lying in state. But what exactly is this vigil?

If, indeed, it does happen, it will only be the third time in history that this solemn act has taken place – first in 1936 for George V and again for the Queen Mother in 2002. Both of those occasions saw male members of the Royal Family standing guard during the lying in state of the Monarch or Consort at Westminster Hall.

It first took place on the 28th January 1936 at 15 minutes past midnight, when King Edward VIII, Prince Albert, Prince Henry, and Prince George – the sons of the late King George V – entered Westminster Hall after it had been closed to the public for the evening. In their military uniform, they stood around the coffin in vigil.

There is no photographic record of this event as far as we know, but a painting by Frank Beresford does exist and was purchased by Queen Mary, George V’s widow, as a gift for her eldest son on his birthday.

It would not take place again for over 66 years, following the death of the Queen Mother. At 4:40pm on the 8th April 2002, Prince Charles, Prince Andrew, Prince Edward and David Armstrong-Jones took over from the Royal Company Archers, who were guarding the coffin of their grandmother, and took their places around it for 20 minutes.

Charles and Andrew were in the naval uniform, while Edward and David wore black mourning dress – Edward didn’t complete his Marine training, while David had never served in any of the armed forces.

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Standing watching the Changing of The Guard were two of the Queen Mother’s great-grandsons, Princes William and Harry.

We will have to wait and see if they will watch guard over their own grandmother at some point this week…

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