State funerals are public funeral ceremonies for people of national significance. In the UK this is typically the monarch, but there has been the odd occasion where other figures have been honoured, namely Winston Churchill.
State funerals are full of ceremony and tradition and are typically religious in nature. State funerals should not be confused with ceremonial funerals, which often share similar characteristics. The funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, the Queen Mother and Prince Philip were all ceremonial funerals, as was that of Margaret Thatcher.
Among memorable state funerals was that of Queen Victoria in 1901, mostly because she set precedent for all state funerals since. In her royal funeral plan, she left instructions about the funeral service and associated ceremonies, breaking with tradition in many ways.
Despite exclusively wearing black following the death of her husband, Queen Victoria apparently disliked funereal black, and opted for a white pall on her coffin. She also requested equerries (an officer of honour, with responsibility for horses) carry her coffin, rather than Dukes, who were traditionally pallbearers.
The last of the royal state funerals was that of King George VI in 1952; his funeral was memorable because his funeral procession was the first to be broadcast on television, although cameras were not allowed to film the service. The procession carried his coffin, draped in the Royal Standard and topped with his crown, orb and sceptre, from Westminster Hall, via gun carriage and train, to Windsor Castle.
Although state funerals are reserved for monarchs, it was always assumed Winston Churchill would receive one. Although his funeral plan had been ready since 1958, before Operation Hope Not was mobilised, it had to be approved by the Queen and Parliament. The Queen told Parliament that it was fitting that the people had the opportunity to express their grief associated with the loss of a leader who served his country in war and peace.
It’s never too early to start planning your funeral; contact us now or call 0800 411 8683 to see how Capital Life can help you organise a memorable and personalised funeral.
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