London (CNN) — During Queen Elizabeth II’s seven-decade reign, the British public got to know many of her quirks: her corgis, her hats, her salute. But when the nation gathered for her funeral on Monday, it witnessed a lesser-known element of the queen’s life: her official piper.
For most of her reign, the queen was awakened by the sound of bagpipes played under her window, in all her residences across the country. The Sovereign’s piper has for decades been the personal wake-up call, playing for 15 minutes each morning as well as on state occasions.
But this Monday, the piper has a different role. The music that marked the start of the Queen’s mornings will now signal the end of her funeral, playing a final lament as her coffin is lowered into the Royal Vault under St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.
The piper will play from the doorway between the chapel and the Dean’s Cloister. As he does so, he will begin to walk slowly towards the Deanery so that the music inside the chapel fades away. It’s a moment steeped in symbolism, as it reflects a similar ending to Prince Philip’s funeral last year.
Before the burial service at Windsor, the piper ended the state funeral service at Westminster Abbey with the lament “Sleep, Dearie, Sleep.”
The role of official piper dates back to the reign of Queen Victoria. During a visit to the Scottish Highlands, she and her husband, Prince Albert, fell in love with the sound. Since the role was created in 1843, there have been 17 leading pipers.
This Monday, the music will be performed by Piper Major Paul Burns, of the Royal Regiment of Scotland, who took over the role last year. He will play a wail as the queen’s coffin is deposited in the vault.
Among the thousands of tributes paid to the queen this week, one of the most moving has been to Scott Methven, who was the queen’s piper from 2015 to 2019. In an interview with the BBC, Methven said he was “devastated upon learning of the queen’s death, and recalled the many moments of kindness she had shown during her four years of service.
Methven lost his parents and his wife within eight months while serving as the queen’s piper. Speaking to the BBC, Methven recalled “standing with the queen”, who told him: “If you’re not here in the morning and you’re not playing the bagpipes, then I know you’re out. Don’t wait to ask anyone, go home if your family needs you, because family comes first.”
“You know, Bagpipes,” the queen continued, “if anyone has a problem with that, tell them I said it was okay for you to go.”