October 6, 2022

Columbus Post

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The last journey of the Queen. Only an oak coffin preserves the corpse for several days.

“Lying in state”: The heavy oaken coffin containing the remains of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Hall, London.

Christopher Furlong/Pool Photo via AP/KEYSTONE

Eleven days elapsed between the death and burial of the British monarch. How to ensure that the body remains the same for so long?

Queen Elizabeth II’s remains have come a long way since her death at Balmoral Castle in Scotland on September 8, first in Edinburgh, Scotland, before her body was flown to London on a Royal Air Force plane.

epa10182320 A handout image issued by the British Ministry of Defense shows pallbearers from the Royal Air Force carrying the coffin of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II past the Royal Scots.  , 13 September 2022. The coffin of Queen Elizabeth II traveled from Edinburgh city center at St Giles' Cathedral to Edinburgh International Airport, where it was carried on a waiting C17 aircraft and flown to RAF Northolt.  Palace of Westminster.  EPA/A/CPL Ciaran McFalls RAF/British Ministry of Defence/Handout Mandatory Credit: MOD/Crown Copyright Manual Editorial Use Only/No Sale
Queen’s last flight. The coffin containing the King’s body is flown from Edinburgh, Scotland to London by Royal Air Force.

EPA/A/CPL Ciaran McFalls RAF/British Ministry of Defence/Keystone

Last Wednesday, the Queen began her final journey from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall. There, mourners have a 23-hour weekend opportunity to pay their last respects to their queen. In the eleven days between her death and her state funeral next Monday, Elizabeth II has traveled another 300 kilometers across the United Kingdom.

How did Elizabeth II prepare for her final journey?

People around the world wonder if the body of the deceased can last so long without showing signs of decay. What precautions should be taken for this?

epa10180748 13 September 2022 The moving of the coffin of Britain's Queen Elizabeth from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey in London.  Britain's Queen Elizabeth II died in 2022 at her Scottish estate, Balmoral Castle.  The one-year-old Queen is the longest-reigning monarch in British history.  EPA/OLIVIER HAZLET
Queen Elizabeth II’s body to be moved from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey, London.

EPA/Olivier Hazlett/Keystone

There are no official announcements regarding this. It is not known whether Queen Elizabeth II ordered the details of her burial while she was alive. No uniform rules have been established for this in the British royal family.

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When Queen Elizabeth I was embalmed after her death in 1603, Queen Victoria specifically banned the practice. Elizabeth II’s sister, Princess Margaret, wanted to be cremated.

Basic hygienic care for a dignified burial

As was customary in most Western countries, the British monarch undertook the hygienic care of the dead: the whole body was cleaned, disinfected and creamed. The body openings are sealed so that no fluid can escape.

Use invisible medical bandages to prevent your mouth from opening while you close your eyes and relax your muscles. One washes and combs the hair, takes care of fingernails and toenails, and the deceased is dressed decently so that they appear to be asleep while lying in an open coffin.

Coffin with protective effect

Under normal circumstances, embalming would not be necessary for Queen Elizabeth II beyond basic hygiene. Because the Queen was placed in a closed oak coffin in Scotland and London.

It is loud times Ready for the Queen for over 30 years, the lead lined is now hermetically sealed. This alone significantly slows down the body’s degradation process. However, the special construction makes the coffin particularly heavy. Instead of the usual six paldars, the weight required eight strong men.

Embalming is more common in England than in Switzerland

Techniques of thanatoproxy are especially applied to open spaces. The aim is to give the deceased as aesthetic an appearance as possible, conceal wounds or injuries, or delay decomposition through embalming.

The George VI Memorial Chapel at St. George's Chapel in Windsor, England, where Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother was laid to rest Tuesday, April 9, after her funeral at Westminster Abbey, seen Wednesday, April 10, 2002.  The Queen Mother was buried with her husband.  , King George VI, died in 1952.  (KEYSTONE/AP Photo/PA/Tim Ockenden)
Queen Elizabeth II will be buried alongside her husband Prince Philip, who died last year, at St George’s Chapel in Windsor, along with her parents and sister.

KEYSTONE/AP Photo/PA/Tim Ockenden

Hygiene and killing germs and bacteria is very important. In Switzerland, corpses are mainly embalmed if they have to be transported abroad.

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However, some experts believe that the British monarch’s body was already embalmed at the site of death long before it was buried at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor.

How does modern embalming work?

The modern embalming method is more complicated: first, all body fluids are drained from the corpse as much as possible, and then replaced with a disinfecting solution, usually containing formaldehyde. It has an anti-bacterial effect and thus prevents decay. In this way, the decomposition process can be delayed for several weeks even without the cooling process.