What the flowers at the Queen’s funeral mean and how they show the emotions of a nation

·3-min read
The Queen’s coffin has been topped with flowers (Andrew Milligan/PA) (PA Wire)
The Queen’s coffin has been topped with flowers (Andrew Milligan/PA) (PA Wire)

Royal family members, world leaders, heads of state, prime ministers, presidents  and key figures from public life were among the 2,000 mourners who gathered at Westminster Abbey for the Queen’s funeral – while London’s streets were packed with people paying tribute.

And beautiful funeral flowers, filled with symbolism, also played their part. Touchingly, the blooms included myrtle – which was used in the Queen’s wedding bouquet, as is royal tradition.

Displays of green and white are taking pride of place in Westminster Abbey (Dominic Lipinski/PA) (PA Wire)
Displays of green and white are taking pride of place in Westminster Abbey (Dominic Lipinski/PA) (PA Wire)

The huge white and green displays of blooms in the Abbey also featured asiatic lilies, gladioli, alstroemeria, eustoma and foliage of English oak and weeping birch.

According to founder of sustainable British florist Flowers by Imogen,  Imogen Stuckes, “Myrtle is traditionally used in royal arrangements as it is a symbol of royalty itself, as well as prosperity and love. Lilies are traditionally used at funerals throughout Britain as a symbol of rebirth, purity and sympathy. They also represent devotion, which could represent the Queen’s devotion to her country.

“Gladioli symbolise remembrance, and so are a traditional funeral flower too. They also represent faithfulness, strength and pride, all things that the Queen brought to our country. Alstroemeria symbolise friendship, and many would feel that the Queen was a friend to all. Eustoma represent appreciation and gratitude – something I’m sure many people would like to show for the Queen today – as well as charisma, charm and confidence, which are a lovely nod to the Queen’s personality.”

And she continued: “English Oak is one of our national emblems, and represents strength, wisdom and endurance, all representative of the Queen’s time serving her country. Birch symbolises rebirth and new beginnings, as we begin a new era today without our Queen.”

The coffin, draped in the Royal Standard and carrying the Imperial State Crown, was also adorned with a wreath. Cut from the gardens of Buckingham Palace, Clarence House and Highgrove House, the flowers and foliage have been chosen for their symbolism by King Charles.

They included rosemary, for remembrance, and myrtle cut from a plant which was grown from a sprig of myrtle in the Queen’s wedding bouquet. Also included were English oak to symbolise the strength of love, pelargoniums, garden roses, autumnal hydrangea, sedum, dahlias and scabious. These are in shades of gold, pink and deep burgundy, with touches of white, to reflect the Royal Standard.

King Charles requested specific flowers for Queen’s coffin (Peter Byrne/PA) (PA Wire)
King Charles requested specific flowers for Queen’s coffin (Peter Byrne/PA) (PA Wire)

According to Nicola Paul, floral stylist at Paradise Blooms: “Pelargoniums or geraniums are symbolic of good health, happiness and symbolise positivity. Scabious is a popular wedding flower as it symbolises pure love and peace.”

Meanwhile, Stuckes says the display includes “pink roses which represent gratitude, love and appreciation – all things the country feels towards the Queen”.

She continues: “The colourfulness of the arrangement – rather than just traditional white – is representative of the Queen’s love of wearing colour and is joyful rather than sad. There’s also sedum which represents peace and tranquillity, a lovely choice for a funeral.”

Previously, while at St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh, the coffin was topped with a wreath of white flowers cut from the gardens at Balmoral, the Queen’s favourite residence and the place where she died. The flowers included dahlias, sweet peas — one of the Queen’s favourite blooms, which featured heavily at the funeral of Prince Philip — phlox, white heather and pine fir.

The coffin was topped with white flowers as the Queen lay at St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh (Russell Cheyne/PA) (PA Wire)
The coffin was topped with white flowers as the Queen lay at St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh (Russell Cheyne/PA) (PA Wire)

Stuckes explains that dahlias symbolise “beauty, kindness and lasting commitment. They bloom long after the traditional British flower season so this could symbolise the Queen’s enduring legacy.”

Sweet peas are a beautiful tribute to her late husband as they symbolise departures and farewells. Stuckes says that she is “pleased to see that they are using a lot of traditional British, in season flowers rather than importing everything. I know British flower growing is important to the Royal Family, in particular Camilla.”