Monday’s funeral for Queen Elizabeth II will be fraught with symbolism — right down to the horses.
The four steeds chosen to lead the Queen’s coffin procession as it leaves Westminster Abbey were all gifted to her by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, embodying a decades-long bond between the horse-mad monarch and the commonwealth member’s famous Mounties.
The Mountie-trained animals — George, Elizabeth, Darby and Sir John — are the latest in a long line of Canadian horses ridden by senior royals, including King Charles and Princess Anne, during Trooping the Color, the annual parade marking their mother’s official birthday.
“The relationship with Her Majesty is quite personal,” the RCMP’s Sergeant Major Scott Williamson told the Sunday Times of London. “We are on a no-fail mission.”
The Queen, who served as honorary commissioner of the Mounties, received her first horse from the service in 1969. Burmese, a seven-year-old black mare, soon become her favorite mount.
She rode Burmese at Trooping the Color for 18 years — and was in her saddle in 1981 when a disturbed spectator caused chaos by shooting six blank rounds in the Queen’s direction. The mare remained calm, thanks to her previous exposure to gunfire.
The four Canadian horses will lead a total of 199 military equines in Monday’s funeral: 102 in the central London procession from Westminster Hall to Wellington Arch, and another 97 in a caravan to St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, where the queen will be laid to rest.
“The horses are an unequivocally important part of that,” said Capt. Catherine Russell, the fleet’s ceremonial coordinator. “We want to make her proud.”