Rush to the Queen’s funeral: Brigadier who helped carry Her Majesty’s coffin was toasting his daughter at a wedding in Corfu when he was sent back for the funeral
An early priority was to track down certain key figures for the funeral, not least the pallbearer.
It was not simply a matter of choosing eight strong soldiers to carry the queen’s coffin.
The monarch’s pallbearer is, by long tradition, drawn from the Queen’s Company, Grenadier Guards, which always has a designated team.
But where were they? It became apparent on patrol with Kurdish trainees in Iraq. Where were the state trumpeters?
“There must be four state trumpeters in the country at any one time,” said Garrison Sergeant Major Andrew Stokes.
“For some reason it turned out that all eight of them were on a plane to Canada for a tour with the Household Cavalry Band. We told everyone, including the band, to turn around and come back immediately.”
Soon other members of the armed forces around the world were making songs. The Band of the Irish Guards was quickly called home from a tour of the Netherlands.
The monarch’s pallbearer party is, by long tradition, drawn from Queen’s Company, Grenadier Guards, which always has a designated team.
Brigadier General James Stopford, member of the sovereign’s ceremonial bodyguard, was in Corfu at the wedding of his daughter Izzie
Queen Elizabeth II talks to Garrison Sergeant Major Andrew during a military parade
Garrison Sergeant Major Andrew Stokes said there should always be four state trumpeters in the country at the same time
One Life Guards officer had to cut short his honeymoon. Brigadier General James Stopford, a member of the sovereign’s ceremonial bodyguard, was in Corfu at the wedding of his daughter Izzie.
He was standing up while delivering his father-of-the-bride speech when the incessant vibrations on his mobile phone alerted him to an urgent message: ‘You are ordered to return to the United Kingdom immediately to resume your duties for Her Majesty. to fulfill. Funeral.’
He concluded his speech with a toast to the bridal couple, the late queen and the king, before taking the next plane home.
As for the porters, as soon as they got home from Iraq, they were given two orders: “cut your hair” and “always wear a comb.”
Based in Aldershot, they immediately began training using a makeshift catafalque and a sheet, which served as a replica of the Royal Standard to drape over their makeshift coffin.
After becoming unexpected stars of the funeral procession, they were not even allowed a period of home leave.
They were on the next available plane back to Iraq. However, the following summer the All England Club and the Garrison Sergeant Major arranged for them all to become guests of honor at Wimbledon.
© Robert Hardman, 2024
- Adapted from Charles III New King. New Court. The Inside Story by Robert Hardman, published by Macmillan on January 18 for £22. To order a copy for £17.60 (offer valid until 29/02/2024; UK postage free on orders over £25) go to the mail shop. co.uk/books or call 020 3176 2937.
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