The mourning period for The Queen - what you need to know

·3-min read
Photo credit: Pool - Getty Images
Photo credit: Pool - Getty Images

The Royal family will continue to mourn for the late Queen Elizabeth for another week after the State Funeral, on the wishes of her son, King Charles.

Although national mourning officially finishes at the end of the day of her funeral [September 19th], The King has asked that a period of grief be observed by members of The Royal Family for another seven days, taking us up to September 26th.

This means the wearing of black ties (for men) and outfits (for women), the cancellation of social if not official engagements for The Royal Family and their household, and the wearing of black armbands for troops taking part in ceremonial duties. The flags will continue to fly at half-mast (excepting the Royal Standard, which is only ever flown at full mast); not until 8am on Tuesday September 27th will the flags be hoisted to the top of their poles again.

Photo credit: WPA Pool - Getty Images
Photo credit: WPA Pool - Getty Images

By then it will be 20 days since the death of Queen Elizabeth II: and by the standards of history, that’s hardly a blink where Royal mourning is concerned. On January 23 1901, the day after the death of Queen Victoria, the London Gazette noted that ‘the Ladies’ should now ‘wear black Dresses, trimmed with Crape, and black Shoes and Gloves, black Fans, Feathers and Ornaments’. A full six months later, it noted that the rules could now be relaxed: women should continue to wear black dresses, but it was admissible to adorn them with coloured ribbons or flowers. And it was fine to wear white or grey dresses, provided they were embellished with black ribbons.

Queen Victoria herself had set a high bar for mourning: after the death of her beloved consort Albert she never fully emerged from the shadow, wearing black for the next 40 years and only ever writing letters on paper with black borders.

And even by the time of the last monarch’s death - The Queen’s father King George VI in 1952 - official mourning lasted four months, and there was a universal expectation of compliance. The Earl Marshal’s office asked the public to dress as soberly as possible, and said ‘anyone who does possess black clothes should wear them’.

Photo credit: WPA Pool - Getty Images
Photo credit: WPA Pool - Getty Images

The extra week of mourning for The Royal Family may provide them with some respite from the relentless pressure they have been under in recent days. What’s been hard to watch, agrees Royal commentator and former editor of the International Who’s Who Richard Fitzwilliams, has been that spotlight on a family’s private grief. ‘It’s important to remember that despite being The Royal Family they’re also a normal family who are grieving and coming to terms with all that’s happened, and they need space for that,’ he says. If another week of mourning gives the family a chance to focus on their loss, most of the public will be fully in favour of that: although as Fitzwilliams points out, for King Charles there is no rest whatsoever from the famous red boxes containing state papers, which will continue to arrive on every day of his reign excepting Christmas Day - the monarch’s only ‘day off’.

Photo credit: WPA Pool - Getty Images
Photo credit: WPA Pool - Getty Images

As to how long businesses and the public continue to mourn The Queen’s death that, says Fitzwilliams, is very much a matter for them. The King’s decision to continue official mourning for a week beyond the funeral is, though, perhaps a sign that the country cannot immediately click back into its former life. ‘Though The Queen was elderly, her death was sudden and unexpected, and I think we’re all going to need some time to process everything,’ he says. ‘This is the end of an era, and it requires a pause so we get used to it before moving forward.’

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