Injections, embalming… the methods used until the burial of Elizabeth II

Injections, embalming... the methods used until the burial of Elizabeth II

Elizabeth II will be buried next Monday in Windsor Castle, eleven days after her death at Balmoral in Scotland. An unusually long delay, which is not without raising some questions.

Elizabeth II died Thursday, September 8, at Balmoral in Scotland, and will be buried next Monday, September 19, in the vault of St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, on the outskirts of London. In the meantime, his remains will therefore have been transported over more than 800 kilometers and, above all, eleven days will have passed.

An atypical situation which raises questions, although the question is one of the most delicate: how to ensure the good state of conservation of a body during such a long period? René Deguisne, president of the French Institute of Embalming, responds to

An exceptional delay

To begin with, such a latency period between the death of the deceased and his burial – or here in the tomb – is out of the ordinary, as confirmed by the specialist who relies on the French example: “There are legal deadlines: six working days between death and burial. Ten days is exceptional. In this case, we will have to request an exemption from the prefecture or the department”.

Let’s start from the fact that in the case of the funeral of their monarch, the British authorities did not face such difficulties. As for the procedures employed to protect the body of the queen after her death, they did not say very much. Hardly do we know, thanks to the British press, that the royal coffin is lined with lead. The first protection is not to expose the body too much to the air.

René Deguisne, skeptical on this point, specifies: “We are talking about lead but we should above all be talking about an airtight coffin. In any case, it is a metal coffin which will protect the body from air and humidity. “.

Preservative liquids and drainage

Beyond this material precaution, it is the work of the funeral directors that will be decisive here. “We will proceed to embalming care, first by arterial injection of preservative liquids, based on formalin. These liquids will fix the tissues”, poses the president of the French Institute of embalming, who adds that the operation is more or less the same as waiting five or ten days except that in this last option, the professional will have to use “more concentrated” products.

The operation therefore consists of injecting this liquid into the blood vessels, and in particular the arteries, in order to slow down the effects of decomposition.

The expert can then launch the second phase, that of drainage. “We are going to remove part of the physiological fluids present in the body”, continues René Deguisne. This justifies this final intervention by recalling that “our body is made up of almost 70% water”. A fact that unites the queen and ordinary mortals.

With these operations, according to our expert, the situation is quite similar for conservation over five or six days, than over eleven. After that, the Queen will rest in the little-known George VI memorial to the general public, located in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.

She will be alongside her parents, her sister and her late husband Philip, whose remains must be moved to join them, since he currently rests in the royal vault, under the chapel.

Robin Verner

Robin Verner BFMTV journalist

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