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Why sailors will pull the Queen's royal gun carriage - not horses

Why sailors will pull the Queen's royal gun carriage - not horses

When the Queen’s coffin is taken to her funeral service at Westminster Abbey it will be carried on a royal navy state gun carriage pulled along by sailors.

This royal tradition has been a feature at every funeral for a monarch since Queen Victoria was laid to rest over 100 years ago.

But why is the gun carriage pulled by people, not horses?

The origins of the tradition date all the way back to a royal funeral that came close to ending in disaster, according to the BBC.

When Queen Victoria died in 1901 her coffin travelled from the Isle of Wight to Windsor. Upon arrival in London she was loaded onto the royal navy gun carriage.

The carriage was pulled along by horses as it slowly travelled through the streets of London.

Things came close to disaster for the procession while the carriage was going up a hill.

An eyelet hole on one of the horse's harnesses snapped, breaking the hitch to the hearse.

In a flurry of panic, horses started bucking wildly and Queen Victoria’s coffin very nearly shot out from the back of the carriage which would have sent it flying down the hill.

As the Queen had not asked for a lying-in-state ceremony, thousands of people had packed the streets of London to get their only glimpse at the coffin and hundreds of people were there to witness the hiccup.

Crew members from the HMS Excellent were ordered to haul the gun carriage with ropes carrying it the rest of the way.

Queen Victoria’s granddaughter Princess Alice of Athlone overheard the Royal Artillery, who was responsible for the carriage saying they were “furious and humiliated beyond words.”

To prevent another mistake that could lead to a disaster in front of the public it has become a tradition for navy seamen to carry the gun carriage by hand.

Other hiccups at royal funerals have also added to the extreme planning that goes into royal funerals. In 1817 the undertakers handling the funeral of Princess Charlotte were drunk and the service was delayed due to fights over seating.

The funeral for King George IV was rushed due to conclusion due to pickpockets and extremely rowdy crowds.

Victoria’s funeral set standards for its decadence and extravagance. The Queen knew the public had a thirst for pomp and circumstance so she gave it to them. The ceremony for her funeral has largely been copied by every monarch since her 64-year-long reign.

The tradition of the gun carriage will be observed for the 5th time at a sovereign’s funeral during the procession for Queen Elizabeth II when her coffin is carried to her funeral service.