2,702 military personnel were majestic yesterday — but eight stood out
Guardsman James Patterson.
Guardsman David Sanderson
Guardsman Luke Simpson.
Guardsman Fletcher Cox
Lance Sergeant Ryan Griffiths
Lance Corporal Tony Flynn.
Company Sergeant Major Dean Jones
Lance Sergeant Alex Turne
Monday was an emotional day for millions of people, not the least of whom being His Majesty King Charles and the members of the Royal Family. However, eight young men serving the Crown carried an additional burden.
Amongst the 2,702 military personnel who took a public role in the greatest state funeral the world has ever seen — and the thousands more in the armed forces who backed them up — eight Guardsmen took on the heaviest responsibility.
These eight young soldiers were talismans for the entire contribution of the armed forces in making a sad day special and I pay tribute to them and to all those who took part.
The bearer party
In this article, I refer to eight Guardsmen but in fact, the bearer party totalled 12. I am singling out the eight because they bore the heaviest burden in every sense.
As the serving monarch, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II held the position of Company Commander of the Grenadier Guards’ Queen’s Company.
I know she was the boss of every member of our armed forces, but the Grenadier Guards’ relationship with Her Majesty The Queen during her remarkable reign was a special one.
Whilst the troops of the Household Division were charged with guarding Her Majesty and her palaces through her reign, it is the Queen’s Company who oversee the transition from one monarch to the next and undertake the exceptional role of guarding Her Majesty’s body in death too. Their 12 very best soldiers were selected to provide the bearer party at Her Majesty’s funeral.
The officers and the pallbearers performed their duties with precision and respect.
These are real soldiers who go into combat
There will no doubt be millions of people around the world who think that the military personnel they witness on occasions like this have only ceremonial duties. This is emphatically not the case.
The Guardsmen who carried the Queen’s coffin yesterday are active soldiers who were called back from duties in the Middle East for this sombre duty. They then rehearsed day and night until they were able to carry out their duties to perfection. And perfection it was.
Traditionally soldiers of the Queen’s Company had to stand over six feet tall, and the Queen’s Company Stick was used as the minimum measurement for aspiring soldiers. The Queen’s Company is still composed of the tallest and smartest members of every new intake to the Regiment.
About the Grenadier Guards and their defeat of the French
The Grenadier Guards, as the most senior regiment of Foot Guards, have a rich history. They were formed as a Royalist Regiment in 1656 while King Charles III’s preceding namesake — King-in-Waiting Charles II — was in exile in Bruges after the English Civil War.
Prior to the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, the Regiment’s title was The First Regiment of Foot Guards. They took on the title of Grenadier when the Regiment’s 2nd Battalion defeated the Grenadier Regiment of the French Imperial Guard. Not only did the Regiment assume the name of Grenadier they also earned the right to adopt the French Imperial Guards’ headdress for the whole regiment.
Previously, it had only been the Grenadier Company of the First Regiment of Foot Guards that wore the bearskin caps. This was a move that was subsequently embraced by all the British Foot Guards Regiments.
On Monday it was as if the world stopped for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
In my — admittedly non-scientific — survey of international TV channels I could not find one that was not covering the event live, with most of the video coming from the BBC’s cameras. From Asia to the US networks and even to France’s TF1 and TF2, it was wall-to-wall.
Was this the most watched event in television history? i suspect so, but we’ll never truly know. What is certain is that the newly independent United Kingdom showed itself off in spectacular fashion.
From a foreign policy perspective, MY only niggle is with the seating of world leaders at the funeral service itself. This is one matter that should not have been left to the Palace. Whilst we understand royal protocols it was not in the United Kingdom’s best interests to dot them around, many rows back, seemingly at random. This will not easily be understood by our international friends.
The pride of a nation
Returning to a positive note, the brave Guardsmen who carried Her Majesty’s coffin so many times yesterday also carried the pride of an entire nation. Can you imagine if there had been a mishap? The Coffin was quite heavy Made of Oak and lead-lined as is the custom and they made it look easy with quiet words of command it was dignified and special.
They are ‘the Best of British’, representing the professionalism of all of the UK’s armed forces from all services.
Gentlemen, I salute you and all members of the military who took part. You all did Her Majesty proud.
God save the King.