Royal funeral tradition—why do they break a stick at monarch's funeral?

Royal funeral traditions are filled with all the pomp and ceremony you'd expect but there's one bizarre element with a fascinating history

Funeral of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother The coffin carrying the Queen Mother departs from St. James Palace, followed by members of the Royal Family.
(Image credit: Colin McPherson/Sygma via Getty/Images)

Royal funeral traditions include a whole host of traditions you're probably familiar with but there's a very important and bizarre tradition that's exclusive to the British Royal Family's sovereign.

Royal funerals go down in the history books and you don't need to be a staunch fan of the monarchy to appreciate the grandeur of these events.

Funerals for the immediate members of the Royal family are already planned ahead. Operation London Bridge, which is the codename for the strict plans laid out for the sad occasion of the Queen's death, has been prepared for decades.

One of the stranger traditions, which featured at King George VI's funeral and the funerals of British monarchs before him too, involves the lesser-known member of the Royal Court, the Lord Chamberlain.

The Lord Chamberlain is the, "senior officer of the Royal Household," according to the Royal Family website. "The role is non-executive and part-time, overseeing the conduct and general business of the Royal Household and acting as the channel of communication between the Sovereign and the House of Lords. The Lord Chamberlain also undertakes ceremonial duties."

One such ceremonial duty, per, is the breaking of the Lord Chamberlain's white stave of office. This happens as the body is placed into the Royal vault, and marks the end of the Lord Chamberlain's service to the late Monarch.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh follow the Lord Great Chamberlain, the Marquess of Cholmondeley (R) as they arrive at the House of Lords for the State Opening of Parliament on November 6, 2007 in London, England.

(Image credit: Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)

When Queen Elizabeth II dies she will be buried at the King George VI memorial chapel alongside her parents. The chapel is situated in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, next to the North Quire aisle. 

An example that smashed many Royal funeral traditions were the plans laid out for Her Majesty's late husband, the Duke of Edinburgh—the codename for which was Forth Bridge. Incredibly, Prince Philip's funeral was planned by the Duke himself. 

This included a specially made custom Land Rover hearse and a particularly moving sentiment said to be Prince Philip’s selfless ‘final wish.' The wish is believed to have been a rallying cry to his family, as they face ever-increasing battles from within.

Prince Philip did not have a public funeral, at his own request. He chose instead to have a private service at St George’s Chapel, in the style of a military funeral. Covid restrictions meant that it was a considerably pared-down affair, which the Duke would have wanted. It also meant that the Queen was forced to sit on her own at Prince Philip's funeral, which was a truly heartbreaking scene.

Aoife Hanna
Aoife Hanna

Aoife is Junior News Editor at woman&home.

She's an Irish journalist and writer with a background in creative writing, comedy, and TV production.

Formerly Aoife was a contributing writer at Bustle and her words can be found in the Metro, Huffpost, Delicious, Imperica, EVOKE and her poetry features in the Queer Life, Queer Love anthology.

Outside of work you might bump into her at a garden center, charity shop, hot yoga studio, lifting heavy weights, or (most likely) supping/eating some sort of delicious drink/meal.