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Unique televised moment of coffin being lowered into the Royal Vault

Laura Elston, PA Court Reporter
·3-min read

The Duke of Edinburgh’s coffin descended into the Royal Vault during his funeral service, lowered by an electric motor.

It was a moment never seen before on television, with Joe Little, managing editor of Majesty magazine, describing it as “unique in British royal history”.

Usually, the movement of the coffin into the vault beneath the floor of the Quire of St George’s Chapel would take place in private.

Duke of Edinburgh funeral
Pallbearers place the the duke’s coffin on the catafalque during his funeral at St George’s Chapel (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

But for Philip’s funeral, the coffin began to move down incredibly slowly, as the Dean of Windsor read the Commendation and the Garter King of Arms proclaimed the lengthy list of the duke’s regal styles and titles.

Part of the lowering was filmed by the BBC cameras, which moved away at times to focus on other elements, including the Garter King of Arms, a piper’s lament, and the Actions Stations naval battle cry by buglers.

After the coffin descended, the open rectangular space leading to the vault could be seen in the floor of the Quire.

The Duke of Sussex, after bowing his head in front of the altar, was seen to glance down briefly towards the open vault as he made his way out of the chapel at the end of the service.

Royalty – Death of King George VI – Windsor
The Queen standing next to the opening of the Royal Vault at the funeral of her father George VI in 1952 (PA)

At George VI’s funeral in 1952, the king’s coffin was lowered into the vault but the proceedings were not televised so the working operation of the motor has not been broadcast before.

Photographs of the occasion taken from a distance show the new Queen Elizabeth II stood in front of the space in the floor after the coffin had descended.

She sprinkled earth into the vault and was stood with the widowed Queen Mother, her sister Princess Margaret and the king’s sister Princess Mary.

The Duke of Edinburgh at Windsor
The Duke of Edinburgh at Windsor last July (Adrian Dennis/PA)

Philip personally selected the regalia – the medals and decorations conferred on him by the UK and Commonwealth countries – together with his Royal Air Force wings and Field Marshal’s baton, which were pre-positioned on nine cushions on the altar in the chapel.

The Royal Vault at Windsor was created between 1804 and 1810 for George III, who died in 1820 and is one of three kings buried there.

Also interred in the vault are George IV and William IV.

Others buried there include George III’s wife Queen Charlotte and their daughter Princess Amelia, George IV’s daughter Princess Charlotte and Queen Victoria’s father the Duke of Kent.

Princess Margaret, who died in 2002, was cremated and her ashes were initially placed in the Royal Vault, before being moved to the George VI memorial chapel with her parents’ coffins when the Queen Mother died just weeks later.

It is not the duke’s final resting place.

When the Queen dies, he will be transferred to the church’s King George VI memorial chapel to lie alongside his devoted wife of 73 years.

The tiny chapel houses the remains of George VI, the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret.

George VI was interred into the Royal Vault first and moved to the memorial chapel annex when it was built 17 years later.