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Traditions Of A Ceremonial Funeral To Look Out For Tomorrow

As Britain prepares to say a final farewell to one of its most memorable Prime Ministers tomorrow, we examine some of the traditions that will be exhibited at tomorrow’s ceremonial funeral.

As I’m sure you’re all aware by now, Baroness Thatcher won’t be accorded a State Funeral (as conforms with her own wishes), but instead she’ll be accorded a Ceremonial Funeral, with full military honours; the so-called ‘next step up’.

To start with the gun carriage will be pulled by horses from the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery as opposed to Sailors from The Royal Navy. The reason gun carriages are pulled by sailors at State Funerals is because at Queen Victoria’s funeral, the horses became restless and sailors had to step in to ensure the gun carriage was pulled properly.

Soldiers, airmen and sailors lining the routes tomorrow won’t have bayonets fixed on their arms like they usually do for ceremonial occasions, this is because they are going to perform two special moves reserved solely for funerals. Those walking alongside the coffin (except for the footguards who won’t be armed as they’ll be carrying the coffin) will perform a special funeral ceremonial move with their weapon called ‘reverse arms’, where the weapon is tucked underneath the soldier’s arm and carried in slow time.

The street liners will be performing the second move as the coffin passes; called ‘rest on your arms reversed’. This is where they go from the present arms to a position where the weapon is lowered and the head is bowed. Both are represented in pictures below.

An example of 'Rest on your arms, reversed'.

An example of ‘Rest on your arms, reversed’.

Example of soldiers in 'reverse arms'.

Example of soldiers in ‘reverse arms’.


During the procession of the coffin from the chapel to St Paul’s Cathedral, the Honourable Artillery Company will fire Processional Minute Guns from the Tower of London with the first round fired as the wheels of the gun carriage start to roll and the last one as the carriage stops outside St Paul’s.

As the coffin is carried into the cathedral by members of each of the 3 armed services, in-pensioners from the Royal Hospital Chelsea will line the steps. The in-pensioners are a feature at many royal and ceremonial events, they are retired servicemen who have surrendered their Army pension to stay at the Royal Hospital Chelsea. They wear the famous tricorn hat and wear a scarlet tunic.

Parliament have already said that the bells of Elizabeth Tower (or more commonly, yet incorrectly known as ‘Big Ben’) will be silenced as a mark of respect for Baroness Thatcher. The bell at St Paul’s Cathedral will be chimed once, muffled, upon the arrival of the funeral cortege.

As is usual for the Royal Family, Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh will be the last people to arrive at the Cathedral for the funeral, before the gun carriage arrives.

The Lord Mayor of the City of London will attend the ceremony bearing what is known as the ‘mourning sword’ when in the Cathedral.

The drums of the military bands attending the service will be covered in black and the drum major’s mace will also be encased in a black case.

Baroness Thatcher’s funeral will take place tomorrow from 9.15am on BBC One.

photo credit: pmorgan via photopin cc

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