Queen Elizabeth II's funeral breaks centuries of tradition

Corazon Miller
Source: 1News

Queen Elizabeth's funeral inside Westminster Abbey is breaking with centuries of tradition.

Instead of continuing down the path of Britain's previous Kings and Queens to the chapel at Windsor, her body will be carried from where its been laying in state at Westminster Hall on a shorter journey, across the road to the abbey.

Today's funeral will be the first since 1760 that a British monarch's final farewell will have taken place inside the gothic church.

Dean of Westminster David Hoyle says the Queen had a special relationship with the abbey.

"This is the church place where she was married in 1947 and this is of course the place of coronation," he says.

With Covid restrictions on large gatherings in the UK gone, thousands are expected to pack into the large space, with thousands more lining the streets outside to give thanks for the Queen's lifetime of service.

"There's a recognition that we as citizens and subjects want to be part of this," Hoyle says.

"It is much easier for us to be a part of it, if it is in a place like Westminster Abbey and not in a slightly more private space like Windsor."

King George II was the last King to have his funeral inside the central London Church 262 years ago. Since then two royal consorts have had their final rites there: Queen Alexandra, King Edward VII's widow, in 1925; and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother who died in 2002.

And in 1997 Diana the Princess of Wales' funeral saw thousands fill the pews inside Westminster Abbey. More than a million others lined the streets outside, and an estimated 2.5 billion tuned in via their televisions all around the world.

The use of St George's Chapel at Windsor for monarch's funeral rites have been the norm since King George III's death in 1820 - marking a shift from the grandiose public events of previous years, to a more intimate and private settings for the royals to express their grief.

In total the last eight monarchs were farewelled at the castle's chapel - including the Queen's father, King George VI in 1952 and his father before him, King George V in 1936.

Queen Elizabeth's sister Margaret's funeral was also held here, as was the funeral for her husband Prince Philip last year.

Watch full coverage of Queen Elizabeth II's State Funeral in a 1News Special from 7.30pm on TVNZ 1 and here on 1News.co.nz