Royal beekeeper informs Buckingham Palace bees that the Queen has died

The palace has five beehives, each containing around 20,000 bees

Saman Javed
Saturday 10 September 2022 12:30 BST
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The royal beekeeper has informed the hives at Buckingham Palace of the Queen’s death.

Queen Elizabeth II passed away at her Balmoral residence in Scotland on Thursday 8 September aged 96, after 70 years on the throne.

Buckingham Palace said in a statement: “The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon. The King and The Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow.”

John Chapple, the official Palace beekeeper, has now told Mail Online that he travelled to the palace and Clarence House on Friday (9 September) to carry out the formality.

The ritual is based on an old superstition which claims that not telling the bees about a change of owner can lead to them not producing any honey.

Chapple said he placed black ribbon bowties on the hives, before informing them, in hushed tones, of the Queen’s passing.

He also told the bees that a new master would be in charge – King Charles III.

“You knock on each hive and say, ‘The mistress is dead, but don’t you go. Your master will be a good master to you’,” Chapple said on Friday.

Chapple was given a job at Buckingham Palace despite never submitting an application

“The person who has died is the master or mistress of the hives, someone important in the family who dies, and you don’t get any more important than the Queen, do you?”

Clarence House is home to two beehives, while Buckingham Palace has five. Each hive contains an estimated 20,000 bees each, though this number changes throughout the year.

Chapple has been the official palace beekeeper for 15 years. Recalling his appointment, he told Mail Online he got the job without applying.

“I got an email from the head gardener here at Buckingham Palace to come here and talk about bees,” Chapple explained.

“I thought they had a problem with bees, but it turned out they wanted to keep bees so henceforth I look after the bees here.”

Chapple said it had been a “wonderful privilege” to care for the bees under the Queen’s reign, and he hopes to continue in his role as King Charles ascends to the throne.

“I hope they still want to keep the bees on their premises,” Chapple said.

“They might say, take them away but I don’t think that will [be] happening though really you do never know. It’s up to the new tenant of Buckingham Palace.”

Follow the latest updates as King Charles III is officially declared monarch

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