History in the making: a story behind Queen Elizabeth's State Funeral

Words by
Lisa Barnard

19th September 2022

On the momentous occasion of Queen Elizabeth’s State Funeral, on September 19 2022, SPHERE shares a flashback to a wintry day in 1936 when Princess Elizabeth watched the State Funeral of her grandfather King George V


King George state funeral visited by Queen Mary Illustrated London News
King George V Lies in State at a service attended by the widowed Queen Mary and the new King Edward VIII, drawn by artist Steven Spurrier for Westminster Hall and published in Illustrated London News

There have only been 12 State Funerals for British monarchs since 1695, including the State Funeral for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth on 19 September 2022. Queen Elizabeth herself attended two State Funerals, for her grandfather George V and her father George VI. This photograph is the exact vantage point where the young Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret witnessed the funeral procession of their grandfather King George V, as it travelled up Piccadilly towards Hyde Park Corner on the occasion of his State Funeral on 28 January 1936. It is the view from 145 Piccadilly, the childhood home of Queen Elizabeth II.


King George state funeral procession
State Funeral procession of King George V: the coffin borne from Westminster Hall to be placed on the Gun Carriage, the same used to carry the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II. King Edward VIII and Queen mary under the canope

Not an inkling did the 9-year-old Elizabeth have that there would be a State Funeral in her honour, even grander in scale, 86 years later and that billions around the world would be viewing her own funeral procession, with the same state gun carriage bearing her own coffin. Her own grandchildren, Prince George, a future King, and Princess Charlotte, would be walking behind her coffin.

King George V State Funeral attended by kings and foreign dignitaries
The State Funeral Procession of King George V with 5 Kings, the French President and Princes representing foreign nations walking behind the coffin
Where was Princess Elizabeth at George V's State Funeral?

Elizabeth watched the spectacle from a window, while Margaret could be seen on the balcony as the procession passed by. It was most probably the first funeral the Princesses participated in. They then travelled by car to Windsor with Queen Mary and their mother, the Duchess of York, where the King was laid to rest. Our photo was published on 5 February 1936, in The Sketch, a sister title to the original SPHERE magazine.

The rest, as they say, is history.

King George State Funeral procession at Hyde Park Corner with same Gun carriage as Queen Elizabeth
The State Funeral procession of King George V passes through Decimus Burton's famous arch and past Apsley House at Hyde Park Corner. Throngs of crowds pressing to see the coffin as it passes