The Queen’s Funeral: what music is likely to be played at the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II?

Plans for the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II have been known for decades, but what music will be performed and hymns sung at her Westminster Abbey memorial service?

Queen Elizabeth II (Getty)

Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral has been planned for many years. The plan for what will happen in the immediate aftermath of the Queen’s death is known as ‘Operation London Bridge’, or ‘London Bridge is Down’. The plans were originally devised in the 1960s but have been updated many times since then.

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What are the plans for the Queen’s funeral?

On 9am on the day of the Queen’s funeral, Big Ben will strike. The Queen’s funeral will take place in Westminster Abbey – the first British monarch to have her funeral in the Abbey since 1760. The Queen’s coffin will reach the abbey at 11am for a minute’s silence.

After the funeral, the coffin will begin on a procession onto the Mall. The hearse will then travel from Hyde Park Corner to Windsor Castle, which is where British sovereigns are laid to rest in the royal vault. The next monarch (likely to be King Charles) will drop a handful of red earth on top of the coffin from a silver bowl.

What hymns will be sung at Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral?

It is not yet known exactly which hymns will feature as part of the order of service for the Queen’s funeral, but is likely that the national anthem, ‘Jerusalem‘ and ‘I Vow to Thee, My Country‘ would be considered for inclusion.

What music is likely to be featured in Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral?

On the Queen’s 90th birthday in 2016, a list of her favourite pieces of music was released, featuring a mix of classical music, musical theatre numbers and traditional hymns.

1. ‘Oklahoma!’ from Oklahoma! (Howard Keel)
2. ‘Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better)’ from Annie Get Your Gun  (Dolores Gray and Bill Johnson)
3. ‘Sing’ (Gary Barlow and the Commonwealth Band featuring the Military Wives)
4. ‘Cheek to Cheek’ from Top Hat (Fred Astaire)
5. ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’ (Vera Lynn)
6. ‘Leaning on a Lamp-post’ from Feather Your Nest (George Formby)
7. ‘Praise My Soul, The King of Heaven’ (Trad hymn)
8. ‘The Lord is My Shepherd’ (Trad hymn)
9. A medley of music by Lester Lanin
10. Regimental March Milanollo

What hymns have been sung at previous Royal funerals?

The Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral, which took place with COVID-19 social distancing restrictions, was a pared-back affair without singing, but music still played a key role in the service. Four singers sung ‘‘Eternal Father, Strong to Save‘, a Naval hymn which paid homage to the Duke’s naval career.

Queen Elizabeth II’s father King George VI’s funeral included the hymn ‘The Strife is O’er, the Battle Done’. Queen Elizabeth II herself requested that Parry’s prelude to ‘Ye boundless realms of joy’ was used as the recessional voluntary in the service, in order to end the service on a more hopeful note.

Her mother – Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother – died in 2002 and her funeral featured hymns including ‘Immortal, invisible, God only wise‘ and ‘Guide me, O thou great Redeemer‘.

Her sister Princess Margaret also died in 2002 – a month before her mother, and 50 years to the day since the funeral of her father, King George VI. The service was set around Fauré’s Requiem, which was selected by Princess Margaret herself. Hers was a service filled with music, with three choirs and an orchestra, as well as performances by Felicity Lott – who sung ‘Pie Jesu’ – and Bryn Terfel – who was joined by the choirs in a performance of ‘Libera Me’. The Academy of St Martin in the Fields was joined by the choirs of Westminster Abbey, King’s College, Cambridge and St George’s Chapel, Windsor.

Before the service, the orchestra played the ‘Awakening’ pas de deux from Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty, before the organist played music by JS Bach. After the service – in which ‘Thine be the glory’ and ‘Ye holy angels bright’ were the chosen hymns – music by JS Bach and Vierne was played.

More recently, the Princess of Wales’s funeral featured ‘Guide me, O thou great redeemer’ in 1997. It was accompanied by ‘I vow to thee, my country‘, ‘The king of love my shepherd is’ and ‘Make me a channel of your peace’.

You can find lyrics to many of these hymns, as well as other favourites, here

Will Queen Elizabeth’s funeral be televised?

Yes, it will be broadcast on the BBC.

Will Queen Elizabeth II have a state or ceremonial funeral?

She will have a state funeral, which are usually reserved for monarchs. The last person to have a state funeral in the UK however was former Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who was awarded a state funeral in 1965.

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The royal funerals in the last few years – the Duke of Edinburgh, Princess of Wales, Princess Margaret and the Queen Mother – have all been ceremonial, along with former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 2013.