As Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin made its way from Westminster Abbey to St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle on Monday, a note of white could be seen nestled amid crown jewels and a richly floral bouquet symbolic.
The note showed that Charles had started using “R” for “Rex” – Latin for “king” – the initial usually used by the sovereign when signing correspondence. Queen Elizabeth signed as “Elizabeth R.” for “Regina” or queen.
Personal notes on the coffins of those having public funerals have been an unofficial tradition in the royal family for decades. The Queen had previously left notes on the coffins of her mother, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, who died in 2002, and her husband, Prince Philip, who died last year.
For her mother, the Queen wrote her farewell message on the same Buckingham Palace stationery bearing the Great Seal of the Kingdom as Charles did for his Monday funeral procession. For her husband of 74 years, she would have used his personal stationery. In both notes, the Queen signed her messages not as “Regina” but as the more familiar “Lillibet”, her maiden name.
A memorable sight from Princess Diana’s funeral in 1997 was the envelope hidden inside the white floral spray and addressed by one of her children, Prince William, then 15, and Prince Harry, then 12 years old. It just read “Mom”.
Farewell notes were not exchanged exclusively between members of the royal family: when Queen Elizabeth’s father, King George VI, died in 1952, Prime Minister Winston Churchill left a note in the floral tribute to the King who said: “For Valour”, the same words inscribed on the Victoria Cross, the highest honor awarded to members of the British Armed Forces.
In addition to Charles’ personal note, the flowers on the Queen’s coffin told their own story.
According to Buckingham Palace, the King requested that the crown contain flowers and foliage cut from Buckingham Palace Gardens, Clarence House – where William, Prince of Wales, and his wife, Catherine, Princess of Wales, officially reside in London – and Highgrove House, where Charles and his wife, Camilla, Queen Consort, live in Gloucestershire.
The foliage includes rosemary, which symbolizes remembrance; the English oak, which symbolizes the strength of love; and myrtle, a plant that symbolizes a happy marriage and was grown from a sprig of myrtle in Elizabeth’s wedding bouquet in 1947. At the king’s request, the wreath is made in an environmentally sustainable way, the palace said.
At the King’s request, the wreath contains rosemary, English oak and myrtle foliage (cut from a plant grown from myrtle in the Queen’s wedding bouquet) and flowers, in shades of gold , pink and dark burgundy, with touches of white, cut from the gardens of the Royal Residences. pic.twitter.com/5RteIWahuW
— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) September 19, 2022