The Queen's grandchildren hold vigil at her coffin - the tradition explained

Princes William and Harry led the historic vigil on Saturday the 17th September, but what is the Vigil of the Princes?

The Queen's grandchildren vigil tradition
(Image credit: Yui Mok-WPA Pool/Getty Images/Future)

The Queen’s grandchildren stood vigil beside her coffin in Westminster Hall for 15 minutes on Saturday night (17th September) in anticipation of her state funeral (opens in new tab) on Monday the 19th September.

  • All eight of the Queen's grandchildren stood in silent vigil beside her coffin on Saturday 17th September, following a tradition dubbed the 'Vigil of the Princes' before the state funeral (opens in new tab)on Monday
  • The event goes down in the history books as the first time that the grandchildren of a monarch have taken part in the ceremony.
  • In other royal news (opens in new tab), The Queen's funeral will take place on the 19th of September, here you can find a timeline of what will happen on the day (opens in new tab)

On Saturday 17th September, at the Vigil of the Princes, Prince William (opens in new tab) and Prince Harry (opens in new tab), both in uniform at the King's request, were accompanied by the Queen's six other grandchildren, all of whom were in morning suits and formal dresses. 

Prince William, the Prince of Wales, stood at the head of the coffin, with Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, at the foot. Either side of Prince William stood his cousins, Zara Tindall and Peter Phillips, the children of the Princess Royal, while Prince Harry stood with the Duke of York’s two daughters, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie.

The Earl of Wessex’s children, Lady Louise (opens in new tab) and Viscount Severn (opens in new tab), stood either side of the middle of their grandmother’s coffin. The two young siblings, aged 18 and 14 respectively, garnered great praise for their poise and composure during the vigil across social media, with many drawing comparisons between Viscount Severn and a young Prince William.

Before the vigil, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie (opens in new tab) issued a statement praising the late Queen. The sisters wrote, "We, like many, thought you'd be here forever. And we all miss you terribly. You were our matriarch, our guide, our loving hand on our backs leading us through this world. You taught us so much and we will cherish those lessons and memories forever."