The queen lay in state at Westminster Hall for four days before her funeral and many wondered how her body could stay preserved for so long.
Following royal tradition, which dates back as far as the 1600s, the queen’s coffin was lined with lead, which ensures that her remains stay intact for up to a year.
This is because the lead makes the coffin airtight, stopping moisture from getting in and therefore slowing down the decomposition of the body. It also makes the coffin very heavy. The late queen's coffin is said to have weighed 250kg.
An undertaker who goes by the name AskTheUndertakr on TikTok and answers questions about what happens to the human body after we die, says it is likely that the best processes were used to make sure the queen's body did not decompose while lying in state.
“Because of the wealth and the stature and influence that the royal family has, they would secure the best embalmers, the best facilities, the best of everything,” he said. “No expense would be spared when it comes to the care and preparation of the queen's body,” AskTheUndertakr went on to say.
While there is no confirmation on whether or not Queen Elizabeth was embalmed, he says he has “every reason” to believe that the embalming, a process long used by the royals, would have occurred very shortly after Her Majesty’s death.
Embalming is when preservative fluids are injected into bodies to delay decomposition. During the surgical part of the process the blood is removed from the body through the veins and replaced with a chemical solution that may contain methanol, ethanol, phenol, water and dyes.
AskTheUndertkr says when the body is embalmed it allows for a lying-in-state of 10 days without any effects.
But according to Myriame Marti, an undertaker from Laussanne, Switzerland, who specialises in thanatology (study of death), if the body is injected with the chemical solution called formaldehyde it could delay the decomposition by two weeks. “Depending on the amount of liquid, there are also longer periods of time,” Marti says.
Jenn Park-Mustacchio, an embalmer in the US, says the process is not the same for everyone. “Every case is different and requires a special combination of fluids (which are mixed according to the height, weight and physical conditions of the deceased),” she says.
Park-Mustacchio says as the embalming fluid is pushed through the arterial system, the blood is forced out through the jugular vein. “The body is vigorously massaged with a soapy sponge to help facilitate drainage and distribution of embalming fluid,” she explains.
Disembowelment, where some of the organs of the gastrointestinal tract, like the bowels, are removed through an incision across the abdomen, is also part of the preservation process as it helps in delaying the body from decomposing.
OTHER MONARCHS WHO HAVE BEEN EMBALMED
King George VI –The late queen’s father was embalmed. He died on 6 February 1952 and his state funeral took place on 15 February.
Queen Elizabeth I – She refused the process but was embalmed under the orders of Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury. She had her lying-in-state at Whitehall Palace for three weeks after her passing in 1603. According to her maid of honour, Lady Elizabeth, the six woman who watched over her coffin every night heard a “crack” coming from her casket. It is recorded that the queen’s “body and head” exploded because she was not disemboweled.
Queen Victoria – The long-reigning queen refused to be embalmed and also chose not to have her two-day lying-in-state open to the public when she died in 1901.
SOURCES: VANITYFAIR.COM, SWITZERLANDTIMES.CH, DAILYMAIL.CO.UK, DAILYSTAR.CO.UK, WALESONLINE.CO.UK, THEGUARDIAN.COM, EXPRESS.CO.UK, HITC.COM