Great Britain

Inside the Royal Vault where Prince Philip will be buried until he’s joined by the Queen

ST George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle was begun by King Edward IV in 1475, in part to serve as his burial place.

Over the following half-millennium, numerous kings, queens and members of the Royal Family have had their funerals there – including every monarch since George III.

🔵 Read our Prince Philip funeral live blog for the latest updates

Prince Philip's service gave TV viewers a rare chance to witness live the ceremonial funeral of a senior member of the Royal Family.

Once the Duke’s coffin vanished from the view of the mourners and viewers, on an electrically-powered lift platform, it was deposited at the start of a 15-metre long rock-cut underground passageway that leads into the Royal Vault.

The vault was constructed during 1810–14 underneath what is now known as the Albert Memorial Chapel.

It’s had a chequered history, being begun in 1494 to hold the tomb of Henry VI, then Henry VII and finally Henry VIII.

It fell derelict for over two centuries, until finally finished in 1863 as a memorial to Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria.

The vault was first used to bury Queen Charlotte, wife of George III, in 1818, and George himself two years later.

It was subsequently used to bury George IV in 1830 and William IV in 1837, but although there was (and still is) plenty of space, Queen Victoria built herself a mausoleum at Frogmore, in Windsor Great Park, and Edward VII and George V were all interred in freestanding tombs on the floor of St George’s Chapel itself.

For George VI, a small extension-chapel was made to St George’s, with a vault underneath, which now holds his coffin, along with that of the Queen Mother and the ashes of Princess Margaret.

Various minor members of the Royal Family have been buried in the vault during the 19th and 20th centuries, although nowadays such individuals are usually interred in the Royal Burial Ground at Frogmore – including the Duke of Windsor, the former King Edward VIII, who abdicated in 1936.

The vault also holds one foreign king – the exiled George V of Hanover, a grandson of George III.

It takes the form of a vaulted stone-lined room, around 25 metres by 7 metres, with a small altar at the far end.

Along each wall are shelves to hold coffins, and close to the entrance, closed by an iron gate, is a plinth on which the latest arrival is placed, pending a move to either a side-shelf or final interment elsewhere.

Originally lit with oil-lamps, it was fitted with electric light at the beginning of 20th century.

Although it has not received a ‘permanent resident’ since 1930, the vault continues to play a role in royal funerals at Windsor.

After the ceremony the coffin is usually lowered via the electrically-driven platform down to the corridor and into the vault. There it rests until transferred to its final burial place.

This wait may be a long one: George VI was there from 1952 until 1969, while his own chapel was being built, while the Duke of Edinburgh’s mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg, lay there from her death in 1969 until her burial in Jerusalem in 1988.

The Duke of Edinburgh will certainly remain there until the Queen dies, when she will join him in the vault.

They will then remain there together until they are moved to wherever the Queen has chosen for their final resting place.

Prince Philip funeral - coffin lowered into Royal Vault in unprecedented moment never seen on TV before

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