The Monarch and The Armed Forces

© Crown Copyright 2014 Photographer: Sgt Rupert Frere RLC

Under British Constitutional Law, The Reigning Monarch is the Commander-in Chief of The  Armed Forces of The United Kingdom. The responsibility for issuing orders to them is delegated by The Monarch to The Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Defence. They in turn delegate that power to the Chief of the Defence Staff and the three Heads of the individual Services.

All members of the Forces on joining swear allegiance to the Reigning Monarch, and all members of the Forces serve The Monarch and the Country. In simple terms that is why The Armed Forces are so involved in any state occasion and in particular in the funeral of the Monarch and the Coronation of their successor. State occasions taking place in London are organised by the Major General Commanding London District and their staff. The Royal Family, the Heads of Government and the Heads of the Armed Forces will all be part of the planning exercise and these will have been drawn up months or years before the event so that they can be put into place rapidly when the event takes place.

© Crown Copyright 2013 Photographer: Sergeant Adrian Harlen

The last state funeral was that of Sir Winston Churchill in 1965 when some 2000 members of the Services took part including a contingent from The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. They were cadets in the middle intake (36) who were considered to be good enough at drill to take part but were not about to take their final exams and conduct their final training exercises. Two trustees of Bodmin Keep were in intake 37, the Junior Intake at the time, Brigadier JG Williams OBE late SCLI and LI and Major C F T Edward-Collins DL late 17th/21st Lancers.

Members of all three services will take part in the funeral of our late Queen. When lying in State her coffin will be guarded by Officers of The Sovereign’s Bodyguards and serving officers of The Household Cavalry and Foot Guards who will stand vigil day and night until the coffin is moved for the procession to the funeral in Westminster Abbey. The Sovereigns Bodyguards, mostly retired members of the Armed Forces, are made up of three elements; His Majesty’s Honourable Corps of Gentlemen-at-Arms which includes two trustees of Bodmin Keep, Col E T Bolitho OBE, late Grenadier Guards, and Lt Col R T Trant late 16th/5th Lancers and Queen’s Royal Lancers, The King’s Body Guard of The Yeomen of The Guard, and The Royal Company of Archers, The King’s Body Guard for Scotland.

Soldiers of the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery © Crown Copyright 2013 Photographer: Sergeant Adrian Harlen

The pall bearers would usually be provided by soldiers of the Brigade of Guards.  The gun carriage which will carry the coffin for the procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall will be provided by The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery and it is their guns which will fire the minute gun in The Park. The Gun Carriage which will carry the coffin to the funeral service in Westminster Abbey will be drawn by sailors of the Royal Navy. The streets will be lined by both police and members of the Services and marching detachments from all three services will precede and follow the funeral procession.

The Reigning Monarch and other members of The Royal Family will be Colonels in Chief, or the equivalent, of units of the Royal Navy, The Army and The Royal Air Force. The Funeral of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Second, provides the final duty to her for the members of The Armed Forces and their first duty to His Majesty King Charles The Third. Those members taking part will do so with immense pride tinged with great sadness.

Written by Chair of Trustees Charles Edward-Collins (Major C F T Edward-Collins DL late 17th/21st Lancers)