Prince Philip funeral: Duke’s coffin lowered into royal vault by electric motor

Moment ‘usually only witnessed by the royal family,’ says commentator

Sam Hancock
Saturday 17 April 2021 20:10 BST
Prince Philip's coffin lowered into Royal Vault during final blessing
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Prince Philip’s coffin was interred into the Royal Vault during his televised funeral service, in an historic first for the royal family.

The move, which saw the coffin lowered beneath the floor of the quire at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, normally takes place in private, according to royal commentators.

Joe Little, managing editor of Majesty magazine, earlier this week described the idea of it being filmed 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 cut to trumpets being played to honour the duke’s life one last time. By the time footage resumed in the main chapel, the coffin had fully descended into the vault, and all that could be seen was a hole in the black and white tiled ground.

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

The duke personally selected the regalia, together with his Royal Air Force wings and Field Marshal’s baton, which were pre-positioned on nine cushions on the altar during the service.

Also buried in the Windsor vault, which was created between 1804 and 1810 for George III, who died in 1820 and is one of three kings buried there, are George IV and William IV.

Others laid to rest 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 originally 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 tiny 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 more than 73 years.

At George VI’s funeral in 1952, his coffin was also lowered into the vault but, in stark contrast to Philip’s, the proceedings were not televised so the working operation of the electric motor used had not been broadcast before today.

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