Why Prince Philip’s coffin being lowered into the Royal Vault was a historic moment

Leah Sinclair
·2-min read
Duke of Edinburgh funeral (PA Wire)
Duke of Edinburgh funeral (PA Wire)

The moment Prince Philip’s coffin was lowered into the Royal Vault has been described by royal commentators as “unique”.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral took place on Saturday at Windsor Castle when millions of viewers watched as his coffin was lowered into the vault beneath St George’s Chapel by an electric motor. 

According to royal commentators the internment normally takes place in private.

Joe Little, managing editor of Majesty magazine, described the idea of it being televised as “unique”.

“Clearly it’s an intimate moment, usually only witnessed by the royal family,” he said.

While cameras did not capture the entire process, TV coverage did show the start of the Duke of Edinburgh’s coffin being moved down.

Cameras then panned to trumpets being played to honour the duke’s life.

When the footage resumed in the main chapel, the coffin had fully descended into the vault.

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, Mr Little said.

Watch: Prince Philip's coffin and Freddie Mercury's casket made by same firm

Philip’s coffin was put into the vault on a catafalque in the quire and draped with his personal standard, and decorated with a wreath of flowers and his Naval cap and sword.

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.

The Queen’s father George VI was buried in the vault but was later moved to the King George VI Memorial Chapel, which was built next to the north Quire aisle between 1968 and 1969.

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

It is where the Queen will be laid to rest when she dies, at which point Philip will be moved there to join his wife of 73 years.

Watch: The wonderful life of Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh

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