The Riderless Horse At Queen Elizabeth’s Funeral Held Special Symbolism For The Monarch

Sep 27, 2022 by apost team

It has been a while since the world witnessed the death of a British monarch prior to Queen Elizabeth II’s death. Her father, King George VI, brought together the people of the United Kingdom to mourn his passing more than 70 years ago, in 1952. But back then, there was still no internet to magnify the tiniest details about royal funerals. So when the queen died, a mix of sadness and fascination was felt across the world. 

Times have changed as far as royal funerals go. Over the past several centuries, customs and rituals have been honored. But there were a few changes, too. Women, for one, weren’t allowed to attend funerals. But that changed during Queen Victoria’s reign when she started going to funerals. So when she died in 1901, women mourned her death at her state burial.

From the preparations for Her Majesty’s funeral to the procession on the day her body was carried to her final resting place, several symbolic moments caught the attention of the public. One of them was a riderless horse that watched from afar while the hearse carrying the queen’s coffin made its way to Windsor Castle. The horse was the queen’s black fell pony named Emma. 

It was a touching moment especially since the queen was known for her love of horses. We all know the queen loved her corgis. But horses have a special place in her heart, too. In fact, the queen was seen riding her horses even during the latter part of her life. In her older years, however, the monarch had become a bit more selective about her rides.

Princess Elizabeth (1939), (Central Press/Getty Images)

Queen Elizabeth's father, King George VI gifted her with her first horse — a Shetland pony she named Peggy — but she had since bred horses and rode them until her final days. President Emmanuel Macron even gave her a horse from the French Republican Guard as a jubilee gift. She always loved riding horses, and there is a long, documented history to accompany this affinity. The British royal experienced her first equestrian lesson when she was just 3 years old.

Furthermore, the queen loved staying at Windsor Castle — which she considered her “home” — so she could ride her horses. She was regularly caught riding and was even seen riding a classy stallion at Windsor Castle with her head groom Terry Pendry. 

On one of her exciting rides, the queen was wearing a cream scarf with a stylish, print pattern. She was also seen wearing a navy blue jacket. Many fans were surprised to see the royal without a helmet. According to a report released by the Telegraph, the queen refuses to wear a helmet in order to keep her hair intact.

In 2019, the queen started looking for someone who could love her horses just as much as she did. The royal palace posted a job vacancy for a person to help in the daily care of the horses at Buckingham Palace. 

The role was known as "Liveried Helper" and the main responsibility of the job was to prepare a horse to perform on the world stage. The gig paid £21,400 ($26,380) a year plus meals and accommodation were provided at Buckingham Palace. 

On the royal household's website, the job explained that "from maintaining the stables to cleaning saddlery and harnesses, you'll help to ensure the Royal Mews is kept in the very best condition."

Terry Pendry, Queen Elizabeth II (2008), (Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)

It also went on to say that the lucky person would "have the opportunity to play a part in the ceremonial events themselves, assisting the Coachmen with riding and driving the horses on the day."

The royal household said they were searching for someone who had previous experience working and taking care of horses. "A highly capable and confident rider, with a willingness to acquire knowledge of driving carriages and of state harnesses is important, as is a flexible and proactive approach to work," it said in the job description.

Truth be told, the photo of Emma from the funeral procession was a beautiful moment to witness especially since the queen had a special connection with her horses. It was as if the horse was waiting for her to go on a ride. But riderless horses could also mean another thing. 

In Australia, a riderless horse is called a “lone charger” and leads its national day of remembrance called Anzac Day, which is dedicated to those “who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations.” But the idea of horses leading funeral processions goes a long way back, as the world has only been kinder in modern times.

Ancient peoples, for one, used to bury horses along with their warriors. But in the 18th century, some European countries decided to continue the tradition more humanely, with horses tasked to lead the funeral procession instead. When Queen Elizabeth I was laid to rest in 1603, some 200,000 spectators filled the streets of London while thousands attended the funeral procession. The queen’s horse was also riderless during the procession.

Whether the queen’s horse watching her was customary or not, it’s still worth a moment to look back on as it symbolizes the great bond between the queen and her beloved horses. 

King Charles III, Prince William Prince of Wales, Princess Anne The Princess Royal, Prince Andrew Duke of York, Prince Edward Earl of Wessex (2022), (Patrick van Katwijk/Getty Images)

Did you know Queen Elizabeth II loved horses? How did you feel seeing Emma watch on at the late queen's funeral procession? Let us know your thoughts and pass this on to anyone you might know who loves animals!

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