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London experience during the State funeral of the Queen

Updated: Nov 1, 2022

This story starts back in 2016 in Bern, Switzerland and again in 2018 with the second iteration of the Society of international rudimental drummers symposium in Paris, France.

This society is a combination of traditional and military drummers from around the world oftentimes performing at the state and royal levels. Represented in this cohort are members of His Majesty the King of Norway’s Kings Guard, the Royal Swedish Lifeguard, the Royal Danish Lifeguard, The Singapore Central Forces Band, Her Majesty‘s Royal Marines, the U.S Army‘s Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, and many others.

In 2020 Her Majesty’s Royal Marines were due to host the symposium in Portsmouth, United Kingdom but due to Covid restrictions this event had been postponed not only in 2020 but in 2021 as well. This set up the occasion to be all the more special, with a group of people who hadn't seen each other in so long to finally come together once again in the UK in 2022. As we received the tragic news of the passing of her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II prior to the symposium this put doubts in everyone’s mind, and made attendees worry that the 2022 rendition of the symposium might also be canceled.

Although Her Majesty‘s Royal Marines were pulled from the symposium to complete and execute state funeral ceremonial duties, the society did meet for the 2022 symposium. This presented a historic and once in a generation opportunity for drummers from around the world to also pay their last respects to Her Majesty.

While en route to Portsmouth I had the privilege and opportunity to connect with longtime military musician and now Yeoman Warder (Beefeater) Darren Hardy who is posted at the Tower Of London. During this brief stop at the Tower Of London I was able to get a unique perspective on the remarkable preparation, discipline, and historic presence of the famed beefeaters as they performed guard of honor duties at Westminster for Her Majesty‘s lying in state.

This exceptional group of individuals showcases the degree of respect, dignity, and honor that the United Kingdom Armed Forces puts forth to honor their highest dignitaries. As a member of the US Army, Old Guard I had the privilege of preparing for and being a small part of presidential state funeral planning and execution for the Gerald Ford and George Bush funerals in Washington DC.

The historic nature of the passing of Queen Elizabeth provided a glimpse into where many of the traditions that we use in the United States to honor our fallen come from and just how profoundly these values are respected, upheld and practiced to this day. The support, camaraderie, and teamwork demonstrated by the UK ceremonial forces was absolutely inspiring to experience first hand and is something I will remember for the rest of my life.

This ancient and traditional ceremony highlighted the unifying factor of ritual type ceremonies for a community but it also showcased the 21st century need for coping during times of massive change in a modern world. Overall I feel very grateful for this experience, for the people I've met, things they exposed me to and the places they took me. I was tremendously impressed by the British Armed Forces and the manner they executed their duties during Her Majesty’s State Funeral and by all that they were able to teach me of the tradition and history behind their duties.

With the most deepest respect

J. Mark Reilly

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