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Here's What Vigil of the Princes, a Poignant Royal Tradition of Standing Guard During Lying in State

Vigil of the Princes a poignant royal tradition

The four children of Queen Elizabeth II, King Charles III, Princess Anne The Princess Royal, Prince Andrew The Duke of York, and Prince Edward The Earl of Wessex, held a vigil for their mother at Westminster Hall on September 16.

Called, Vigil of the Princes, Princess Anne broke royal tradition as the first princess ever to attend this traditional vigil of the British royal family.

Her younger brother, Prince Andrew, who was stripped of his military honors early this year, was allowed to wear his military uniform for the special occasion.

Vigil of the Princes a poignant royal tradition
The Queen's four children carried out Vigil of the Princes on September 16
Vigil of the Princes a poignant royal tradition

King Charles and Prince Andrew wore their ceremonial day dress of the Royal Navy, a branch of the military they both served.

The Princess Royal wore the full dress uniform of the Blues and Royals, where she is the current Colonel of the Regiment. While the Earl of Wessex wore the uniform of the Royal Wessex Yeomanry, the Army Reserve regiment in which he is Royal Honorary Colonel. 

History of the Vigil of the Princes

Vigil of the Princes is a poignant royal tradition referring to an extraordinary occasion when members of the British royal family will "stand guards" around the coffin of the deceased member of the Royal Family for 15 minutes during the lying-in-state. It is part of a British state or ceremonial funeral. 

It began in 1936 during the lying-in-state of King George V, the grandfather of Queen Elizabeth II, when his sons stood as guards - King Edward VIII, Prince Bertie The Duke of York, Prince Henry The Duke of Gloucester, and Prince George The Duke of Kent, who all donned their respective military uniforms.

However, it was only performed twice prior to 2022, the last one was during the lying-in-state of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother in 2002. The latest for Queen Elizabeth II in 2022, only the third time that this somber royal tradition was performed. 

Vigil of the Princes a poignant royal tradition
King Charles III led his siblings during the vigil of the princes
Vigil of the Princes a poignant royal tradition
Prince Andrew, the Duke of York was permitted to wear a military uniform

There were no "vigil of the princes" for King George VI, Queen Mary, Princess Margaret, and Prince Philip. 

However, in the past two royal deaths, only male members of the British royal family participated in the vigil of the princes. In 2022 however, Anne, Princess Royal, broke royal tradition when she took part alongside her three brothers in vigils for her mother.

The Queen's four children first performed the vigil of the princes in St. Giles' Cathedral in Edinburgh, the second time was on September 16.

Vigil of the Princes a poignant royal tradition
The Queen's eight grandchildren led by the Prince of Wales
Vigil of the Princes a poignant royal tradition
The Queen's granddaughters: Zara Tindall, Lady Louise and Princess Beatrice
Vigil of the Princes a poignant royal tradition
Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex donned his Blues and Royals regiment uniform

On September 17, 2022, the Queen's eight grandchildren also participated in the vigil of the princes. And for the first time, it allowed a minor to take part in the tradition. James, Viscount Severn, is only 14.

The Queen's grandchildren stood in line based on their position in the line of succession. Prince William stood in the line first, followed by his brother, Prince Harry, next were Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, who are 9th and 11th respectively in the line of succession.

Vigil of the Princes a poignant royal tradition
The eight grandchildren of the Queen stood guards during a solemn "vigil of the princes"

Vigil of the Princes a poignant royal tradition

They were followed by James, Viscount Severn, and Lady Louise, the children of the Earl and Countess of Wessex. Then Peter Phillips and Zara Phillips-Tindall, the children of Princess Anne, and the first two eldest grandchildren of the Queen.

Prince Harry was permitted, at the request of his father, to wear his military uniform for the occasion. He and his older brother, the new Prince of Wales, both wore a dress uniform of the Blues and Royals regiment, a military regiment they both served after they completed their military training.

"Vigil of the Princes" usually lasted 15 minutes. Members of the British royal family participating in this unique royal tradition of mourning replace the guards standing on the four corners of the coffin and will stand in silence with their heads bowed and hands clasped in front.

Both Peter Phillips, the eldest grandson of the Queen, and James, Viscount Severn, the youngest grandson of the Queen, wore a morning suit. Peter has not served any branch of the British military.

Prince Andrew and Prince Harry are the only male members of the British royal family, apart from Prince Philip, who have served on the front line, on the actual battlefield. Prince Andrew during the Falkland Wars, and Prince Harry during his tour of duty in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, they are stripped of their military honors when they became non-working royals.

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