Royal funeral omens – coffin breaking loose and crown jewel snapping off on road

As the world prepares to watch the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, looking back at past royal send-offs gives a sense of the gravity of the situation.

Casting the eye back over past ceremonies also throws up strange incidents and mishaps that were taken as bad omens, quite literally.

King George V was buried on January 28, 1936, aged 70 and two strange incidents caught the eye that day.

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While his coffin was being pulled past the crowds of assembled royal well-wishers, a single pheasant swooped low over it before the worn tires on the gun carriage caused it to jolt – sending a Maltese cross on the top of the crown to break off and go flying into the street.

It was retrieved by a sergeant-major who popped it in his pocket and handed it back later. But a sombre atmosphere was compounded by the strange incident.

The new King Edward VIII recalled: "It seemed a strange thing to happen, and although not superstitious, I wondered whether it was a bad omen."

But just over 35 years earlier, the royal cock-up of all cock-ups happened in front of stunned dignitaries as one of the horses pulling Queen Victoria’s coffin was spooked by something in the crowd – causing her coffin to break loose.

Reports suggest that it looked like the 81-year-old monarch's coffin would go sliding down the street on the cold day in London.

The coupling attaching the Queen's coffin to the carriage had broke loose when the spooked horse reared, causing near calamity. The coffin didn't go flying, but the quick-thinking of Prince Louis of Battenberg – grandfather of Prince Philip – was still required.

He suggested: "If it is impossible to mend the traces you can always get the naval guard of honour to drag the gun carriage."

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And so a royal tradition was born. The Royal Navy, rather than artillery horses, now draw the gun carriage on which the remains of a sovereign rests.

But that wasn't the only cock-up at Queen Victoria's funeral – despite it costing £5million in today’s money.

Due to a mix-up over times, the Archbishop of Canterbury arrived at St George’s Chapel an hour early, Metro reported. Officials worried that dignitaries and those assembled at the chapel would contract hypothermia from standing waiting in the cold weather.

Viscount Esher later complained: "You would think that the English monarchy had [not] been buried since the time of Alfred."

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The shock death of King Edward VII from bronchitis on May 6, 1910, at the age of 68 meant that his body lay atop his bed in an open oak coffin while his widow, Queen Alexandra, scrambled for ideas.

It took four days before Edward's body was even put into a coffin. Edward, who smoked twenty cigarettes and twelve cigars a day, was laid in state eight days after he died.

His funeral was finally held on May 20 and he was buried at St George's Chapel.

Back when her father King George VI died in 1952, then Princess Elizabeth slipped in to his lying-in-state at Westminster Hall in the shadows with her sister Princess Margaret, and paid her respects.

On the day of the funeral, Elizabeth threw a handful of earth from Frogmore at Windsor on to his coffin lid as he was laid to rest at St George's Chapel.

Now, after her own lying-in-state at Westminster Hall, she too will be buried at St George's Chapel.


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