Final royal burial tradition of breaking the Wand of Office explained

Today is a historic day as Queen Elizabeth II will begin her final journey from Westminster Hall for burial at St George's Chapel.

Following a 10-day period of national mourning, members of the Royal Family, the nation and the world will bid farewell to the Queen.

The mourning period has been full of ceremonial events and royal traditions – as will the state funeral – including a lying in state for public to pay their respects and vigils by the Queen's children and grandchildren.

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Once the Queen's coffin heads to Windsor Castle for burial at St George's Chapel, there will be one final tradition. Here's what you need to know about breaking the stick.

Why do they break a stick at royal funerals?

Breaking of the stick – or breaking of the Wand of Office – is a long-held final burial tradition at royal funerals in which the Lord Great Chamberlain, a senior officer of the Royal Household will break a white stave, given to him as part of his office, over the monarch's coffin.

This tradition, which last took place after the death of King George VI's funeral as his coffin was lowered into the Royal Vault, marks the end of the Lord Chamberlain's service to the late monarch.

The stave will be split in two via a joint in the middle, with one section laid on the monarch's grave as she is laid to rest at St George's Chapel.

Who is the Lord Great Chamberlain?

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The Lord Great Chamberlain is a hereditary Officer of State given custody and control of the Robing Room and the Royal Gallery.

They are considered part of the royal household and report to the reigning British monarch, outfitted in a scarlet uniform, their staff and a key kept in a hip pocket.

Their duties while serving the monarch include arranging Parliament during their official visits, overseeing the conduct and general business of the Royal Household as well as acting as the channel of communication between the Sovereign and the House of Lords.

The Lord Chamberlain also undertakes ceremonial duties, including breaking the stick at a monarch's funeral.

The current Lord Great Chamberlain – who will be breaking his 'Wand of Office' at the Queen's funeral – is David George Philip Cholmondeley, 7th Marquess of Cholmondeley.


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