What Is The Difference Between State And Ceremonial Funeral?

In the UK the most prestigious ceremony for a monarch (and very rarely a distinguished head of state) is the state funeral, and the preparations and funeral stationery are planned for years before the monarch dies.

The most recent state funeral was that of Queen Elizabeth II on 19th September 2022, which was the first of a monarch to have ever been broadcast to the public in full, with only small snippets of footage of the procession of the coffin of George VI televised before this.

Over 26m people watched the ceremony, which followed a particularly regimented format and setting. However, it is not the only type of widely-shown funeral ceremony.

A ceremonial funeral is a very similar type of ceremony and in some cases, the two types of ceremony can be confused with each other.

For example, the funeral for Diana, Princess of Wales, one of the most-watched media events in UK history was not a state funeral, despite borrowing a lot of its iconographic elements from previous ceremonies of that scale and was part of a period of national mourning that was unprecedented up to that point.

By contrast, the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill, the wartime prime minister, was an official state funeral, which leads to the question of what the official differences between the two ceremonies are, especially since most of the procedural elements are not exclusive to state funerals.

Part of it is administrative, with the Earl Marshal and the Heralds managing a state funeral, whilst royal ceremonial funerals were organised by the Lord Chamberlain.

There is also the format of official invitations, which requires the new monarch to write to each of the houses of parliament to inform them of the date of the funeral and invite them to attend, as well as approve a motion to express their condolences and pay tribute to the previous monarch.