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Royal burial tradition signals end of service after monarch’s death

Queen's funeral: Kirsty Young's brilliant monologue

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Mourners have raised questions over the final – some say bemusing – burial tradition that is the “breaking of the stick”. Described as “one of the strangest moments” in the long day of grand ceremonies to mark the death of Queen Elizabeth II, its performance in Windsor today baffled many of those bidding farewell to the monarch.

The Queen’s state funeral was this morning held at Westminster Abbey, where more than 2,000 esteemed guests gathered to pay their last respects to the former monarch.

Her Majesty died on September 8 at the age of 96 in what is understood to have been among her favourite residences.

State funerals are known for their grand ceremonies and imagery – not least the covering of the former monarch’s coffin with the Royal Standard and its procession through the capital.

After the ceremony in the Abbey, the Queen was transported to Windsor, where Her Majesty was laid to rest.

Among the final traditions carried out before her coffin was lowered into the Royal Vault was the “breaking of the stick”.

In this, the Lord Great Chamberlain, a senior officer of the Royal Household, broke a white stave over the Queen’s coffin.

This is otherwise known as the breaking of the “Wand of Office”.

The stave is given to the Lord Great Chamberlain as part of his office.

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Its breaking over the coffin is a tradition intended to represent the end of his service to the monarch.

The current Lord Great Chamberlain is David George Philip Cholmondeley, Seventh Marquess of Cholmondeley.

This tradition last took place following the death of King George VI in 1952.

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The Guardian describes this as “one of the stranger moments” in a day “laden with ceremony and symbolism”.

Just one half of the stave will be laid on the monarch’s grave as she is laid to rest.

Her Majesty will remain in St George’s Chapel alongside Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, King George V and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.

Ashes of the Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret, are also interred at the chapel.

The chapel’s building began in 1475 and was completed by Henry VIII in 1528.

Seven days from today, the official period of Royal Mourning for Her Majesty will come to an end.

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