As Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin made its way from Westminster Abbey to St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle on Monday, a white note could be seen nestled amid crown jewels and a richly symbolic floral spray.
The note showed that Charles has begun to use “R” for “Rex” — Latin for “king” — the initial typically used by the sovereign when signing off correspondence. Queen Elizabeth signed off as “Elizabeth R.” for “Regina,” or queen.
Personal notes on coffins of those who have public funerals have been an unofficial tradition in the royal family for decades. The queen previously left notes atop the coffins of her mother, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, who died in 2002, and her husband, Prince Philip, who died last year.
For her mother, the queen penned her goodbye message on the same Buckingham Palace stationery bearing the Great Seal of the Realm as Charles did for her Monday funeral procession. For her husband of 74 years, she reportedly used her personal stationery. In both notes, the queen signed off her messages not as “Regina” but the more familiar “Lillibet,” her girlhood name.
A memorable sight from Princess Diana’s 1997 funeral was the envelope tucked inside the white floral spray and addressed by one of her children, Prince William, then 15, and Prince Harry, then 12. It simply read, “Mummy.”
Parting notes have not been exchanged exclusively between members of the royal family: When Queen Elizabeth’s father, King George VI, died in 1952, Prime Minister Winston Churchill left a note in the floral tribute for the king that read, “For Valour,” the same words inscribed on the Victoria Cross, the highest honor awarded to members of the British armed forces.
Queen Elizabeth II
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In addition to Charles’s personal note, the flowers on the queen’s coffin told a story of their own.
According to Buckingham Palace, the king asked that the wreath contain flowers and foliage cut from the gardens of Buckingham Palace, Clarence House — where William, Prince of Wales, and his wife, Catherine, Princess of Wales, officially reside in London — and Highgrove House, where Charles and his wife, Camilla, Queen Consort, live in Gloucestershire.
The foliage includes rosemary, which symbolizes remembrance; English oak, which symbolizes the strength of love; and myrtle, a plant that symbolizes a happy marriage and which was grown from a sprig of myrtle in Elizabeth’s 1947 wedding bouquet. At the king’s request, the wreath is made in an environmentally sustainable way, the palace said.
At The King's request, the wreath contains foliage of Rosemary, English Oak and Myrtle (cut from a plant grown from Myrtle in The Queen's wedding bouquet) and flowers, in shades of gold, pink and deep burgundy, with touches of white, cut from the gardens of Royal Residences. pic.twitter.com/5RteIWahuW— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) September 19, 2022