Why is Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin lined with lead?


Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin arrived in London on Tuesday from Edinburgh ahead of the state funeral. The late monarch died at Balmoral Castle in Scotland last week. She was 96.

Like the Duke of Edinburgh, who died in 2021, the Queen will be buried in an English oak coffin with brass handles, designed more than 30 years ago and lined with lead.

The practice of burying royalty in lead coffins dates back hundreds of years.

Because members of the royal family were buried in a chamber rather than directly in the ground, their coffins were lined with lead to slow decomposition. Lead seals the coffin and prevents moisture from entering, preserving the body for up to a year.

The practice dates back to the Victorian era, when it was necessary to hermetically seal the coffin to prevent the powerful effects of putrefaction in above-ground burials.

Members of the royal family and English nobility have used lead-lined coffins for at least four centuries.

According to Westminster Abbey records, Queen Elizabeth I and King Charles II were buried in lead-lined coffins, as were Princess Diana, Sir Winston Churchill and Sir Francis Drake.

The combination of lead and oak makes for a heavy coffin, so heavy in fact that it was reported that it would take eight military pallbearers to lift Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin.

The Queen will lie on Wednesday at Westminster Hall until the funeral. Her coffin will be draped with the Royal Standard and crowned with the Imperial State Crown, the Sovereign’s Orb and the Sovereign’s Scepter with Cross.

After the funeral, the Queen will be buried in the George VI Memorial Chapel at Windsor Castle, next to King George VI, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, and the ashes of her sister, Princess Margaret.

Once there, Prince Philip’s coffin will be exhumed in the coming weeks and transported from the Royal Vault to the George VI Memorial Chapel to lie by her side.

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