Heartbreaking symbolism of riderless horse at front of Queen's procession

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As the Queen’s coffin is transported on her final journey to lying in state, the riderless horse at the front of the procession has a poignant and heartbreaking meaning. The Queen’s coffin has made its way to Westminster Hall from Buckingham Palace today on its final journey before lying in state. King Charles is leading the procession, and has also been joined by Prince Harry and Prince William on foot. 

Other members of the Royal Family, such as the Queen Consort Camilla, Princess Kate and the Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle are being driven.

A riderless horse – sometimes referred to as a lone charger can be seen towards the front of the procession. They are often seen during funerals, and have been used in the past to symbolise a fallen soldier.

Even in modern times, the tradition has been used to mark the deaths of fallen police officers or deceased athletes.

Many will see the use of a lone charger as fitting, especially given the Queen’s lifelong love for horses. On her fourth birthday, the young Princess Elizabeth was gifted her first pony – a Shetland mare – by her grandfather King George V.

Later, in her teen years, the young Elizabeth was often seen riding alongside her father George VI and younger sister Margaret. The girls even had lessons when they were at Windsor Castle.

This also helped inspire the Queen’s love for horse racing. She was presented with her first race horse – Astrakhan – after her wedding, and it made its debut at Ascot in 1949.

Vanity Fair also reported that Royal Ascot was among the most important engagements for the Queen every year. In fact, when planning her year, it was said to be the first event to go into her calendar.

Racing commentator Brough Scott told Vanity Fair that the Queen even enjoyed heading out onto the course before the day’s racing started.

READ MORE: Devastated Princess Eugenie wipes tears at Queen’s lying in state

The Queen also passed her love for horses onto the younger generations of royals. When the grandchildren used to visit her at Balmoral, they would take part in a range of outdorr activities, including pony trekking.

This can be seen in archive footage from 1992, where the Queen is seen doting on her grandchildren – William, Harry, Zara Phillips (Tindall) and Princess Beatrice. 

Her influence was clearly strong, as Zara Tindall went on to become an accomplished equestrian. She won the Eventing World Championship in Aachen in 2006, was nominated for BBC Sports Personality the same year, and won a silver medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics. Meanwhile, William and Harry also went on to become keen polo players.

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