What You Need To Know About The Vigil Of The Princes That Takes Place When The Queen Dies

It's no secret that Queen Elizabeth's health is deteriorating, thanks in large part to her advanced years. In fact, recently there were even rumors about the queen's death, though it seems Her Majesty is still alive and kicking, at least for the time being. When she does pass away, Buckingham Palace has a strict procedure in place to deal with everything from telling the public to advising the British Prime Minister, who will be the first person of power to learn of the queen's death, per The Guardian.

There's even a not-so-secret code for cluing everybody in that the worst has happened — "London Bridge is down," FYI. However, Politico notes that those in the know will also be warned that "discretion is required." Suffice to say, the protocol is ready for when the long-reigning monarch, who just celebrated 70 years on the throne, shuffles off this mortal coil. In fact, The Guardian points out that discussions are still held regularly, to hone everything further and ensure the pieces are in place.

To that end, this is what you need to know about The Vigil of the Princes. 

The queen's grieving grandkids will hold court over her

Queen Elizabeth will "lie in state" for four days after her death, according to The Guardian, during which time fans and mourners have the opportunity to pay their respects. Notably, this takes place after she's already spent five days in Buckingham Palace, at the end of which the queen's coffin will be transported, via special procession, to Westminster. A service will then be held in Westminster Hall before her coffin is laid in state for the public to visit.

According to Insider, once Her Majesty has been in state for three days, grandsons Prince William and Prince Harry will begin keeping watch over her, relieving the official guards for a short period of time known as The Vigil of the Princes. It won't just be them either, with The Guardian clarifying that any of her children or grandchildren will be welcome to take part, including women for the very first time.

Naturally, the vigil itself is planned out to within an inch of its life, with four soldiers taking 20-minute shifts each, and two others ready to take over at any time. The officers, with the most senior standing at the head and the most junior at the foot of the coffin, come from the RAF, the Army, the Royal Navy, the Beefeaters, and the Gurkhas, emphasizing how much of an honor it is to stand watch over the queen. Her wreaths, meanwhile, are changed every single day. 

Prince Philip didn't want the special vigil at his funeral

Prince Philip's funeral was the complete opposite of what we can expect from his beloved wife, Queen Elizabeth's. When Her Majesty passes, the city of London will be overrun by fans and dignitaries alike, as noted by Politico, while the whole country will come to a standstill in order to pay their respects. As Express reported at the time, when Philip passed in 2021, he opted for a ceremonial rather than a state funeral, meaning everything was scaled way back including The Vigil of the Princes.

The long-running tradition began all the way back in 1935 when King George V's four children stood to watch the day before his funeral. Likewise, Princes Charles, Andrew, and Edward, alongside their cousin David, Viscount Linley, conducted a 20-minute vigil when the Queen Mother died, before the Yeoman of the Guard took over. When Queen Elizabeth passes, Princess Anne is expected to stand guard with her daughter, Zara Phillips, and nieces Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie. 

Since Her Majesty's late husband's funeral took place during the COVID-19 pandemic, far fewer mourners were allowed to attend in person. It's likely the duke wouldn't have minded, though. As royal expert Jennie Bond noted, regardless of when the service took place, "It was always planned as a royal ceremonial funeral. Many less bells and whistles."