Why Royal Family Members Are Buried in Lead-Lined Coffins

The Crypt Under The Chancel Of St Georges Chapel Windsor Castle 1910 (1911)
The Crypt Under The Chancel Of St Georges Chapel Windsor Castle 1910 (1911) / Print Collector/GettyImages

Queen Elizabeth II’s reign—which spanned the Great Smog of London, the Suez Crisis, the Vietnam War, the Apollo 11 moon landing, the dissolution of the USSR, and the invention of the internet — came to a close on September 8, 2022, when the 96-year-old monarch passed away at Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Preparations for her funeral are underway, but due to longstanding royal traditions, we already know many of the burial details

The procession will unfold over the next 10 days, with planned gun salutes and bell tolls from Big Ben leading up to the actual interment. Like Prince Philip, the queen will be laid to rest in an oak coffin designed for her more than 30 years ago, and it’s bound to weigh a ton, because it’s lined with lead.

Members of the English royal family are typically buried in lead-lined coffins for preservation purposes. According to Metro, this is because lead seals the coffin from moisture, slowing decomposition for up to a year. When Princess Diana died in 1997, her coffin also contained this special lining, which is why it weighed nearly 540 pounds.

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English nobility have followed this tradition for at least four centuries. Westminster Abbey records indicate that Elizabeth I and Charles II were buried in lead-lined coffins, as well as nobles like Sir Francis Drake and revered artists such as George Frederic Handel.

Still, not everyone loves a heavy casket. As The Irish Times notes, the ever-rebellious Princess Margaret insisted on being cremated, so her ashes could be placed beside her father’s coffin. This was apparently the only way to reunite her remains with his, as there was scant room next to his coffin at King George VI’s Chapel in Windsor Castle. The Queen Mother was also buried in this chapel when she died in 2002, and now Elizabeth will join her family there. Prince Philip, whose body currently lies in the Royal Vault at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle, is expected to be transferred to the same resting place as his wife in the coming weeks.