Royal traditions and protocol govern virtually every aspect of royal life - even funeral traditions. Royals are subject to rules that range from barring them from attending certain funerals to shaping how royal funerals can be planned.
But even though strict rules dictate what members of the royal family can and can't do, many have broken royal protocol for funerals. In these instances, personal feelings, national honor, and family duty have trumped tradition. For example, while protocol dictates that Queen Elizabeth II should only attend family or royal funerals, she's broken that rule privately and publicly to pay her respects to employees and politicians alike. Other royals, such as Queen Victoria and the Queen Mother, have thrown tradition out the window to ensure that their service or burial plans happen just as they intended, regardless of what the rules say.
The times that royals have ignored or rejected protocol for funerals show that some rules just need to be broken.
On September 6, 1997, nearly a week after Princess Diana's tragic end in a car crash in Paris, the world came together to mourn the "People's Princess." Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of London to watch Diana's casket make its way to Westminster Abbey, where her funeral was held, while an estimated 2.5 billion people tuned in via television.
During the casket's procession to Westminster Abbey, Queen Elizabeth II actually lowered her head as it passed by. The queen's act was a breach of protocol, since she technically bows to no one. Many people interpret the bow as a sign of respect for the mother of the queen's grandchildren and an acknowledgment of what Diana meant to the British public.Glad they broke tradition?
By the time Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother - who was the consort of King George VI and mother of Queen Elizabeth II - passed in 2002 at the age of 101, she had already spent a lot of time detailing what she wanted in her service. The plans were codenamed "Operation Tay Bridge."
Traditionally, male family members walk behind the royal casket as it proceeds to the site of the service. But the Queen Mother's plans broke protocol in a key way: She didn't let it be a male-only affair. Instead, her granddaughter Princess Anne walked alongside 13 men in the procession to honor the Queen Mother.Glad they broke tradition?
When Winston Churchill, former prime minister, passed in 1965, Queen Elizabeth II broke with tradition to grant him a state funeral in acknowledgment of his lifetime of service to the nation. Typically, only kings and queens get to have state funerals.
Additionally, the queen normally doesn't attend non-family funerals but broke protocol for Churchill. As head of the nation, monarchs usually enjoy privileges of precedence: They are usually the last to arrive and the first to leave events. But Elizabeth wanted the spotlight totally fixed on Churchill. That's why she wasn't the last to arrive at his service - instead, she transferred precedence to the man whose service it was.
Elizabeth's act apparently moved Churchill's family. His grandson Sir Nicholas Soames claimed, "It is absolutely exceptional if not unique for the Queen to grant precedence to anyone. For her to arrive before the coffin and before my grandfather was a beautiful and very touching gesture."Glad they broke tradition?
At the time of her divorce from Prince Charles in 1996, Princess Diana forfeited her position within the royal family. So when Diana tragically passed in a car crash in August 1997, Queen Elizabeth II and Diana's family believed her service should be private.
But neither the queen nor Diana's family had anticipated how the British public would react to Diana's passing. In light of the public's desire to mourn Diana, Prince Charles and Prime Minister Tony Blair successfully petitioned the queen to have a public memorial for Diana, complete with a procession of the casket to Westminster Abbey. They adapted the Queen Mother's service plans for the event, so Diana's funeral was based on a royal one.Glad they broke tradition?