The Significant Details In The Gun Ceremony Marking The Death Of The Queen

The British Monarchy has a tradition of pomp and circumstance like none other, and this tradition has remained steadfast following the news of the death of Queen Elizabeth II. One major way in which the country marks the late queen's passing is the firing of a gun salute, which occurred the afternoon after her death. Though firing ammunition might seem like an odd way to honor a life, the gun salute has a long history and can be traced back to the 16th century, according to Captain Josh Bate of the 105th Regiment of the Royal Artillery.

"The ships of the Royal Navy used to, on entering a friendly port, would [sic] fire off all their canons to show that they had no loaded guns and therefore weren't a threat. In response, the friendly port would then fire their guns to show that they acknowledge the salute and also were not a threat to the ship coming in," he explained in a video posted on the British Army's official Twitter account.

The gun salute's more modern interpretation

Over the past few centuries, the once practical tradition has evolved to become a sign of respect and goodwill, and accordingly, there are different salutes that depend on the circumstances. For example, royal salutes are used on occasions such as the opening of Parliament, the births of members of the royal family, and even some birthdays and anniversaries, per The Royal Family website.

The salutes are fired from specific locations throughout the United Kingdom. For example, in London, the gun salutes take place at the Tower of London, with the potential addition of a salute at Hyde or Green Parks (depending on the formality of the occasion). The salutes fired in the royal parks offer an additional spectacle: At the start of the salute, teams of horses pull the six 13-pound guns across the park grounds in a brisk gallop. When in location, the guns are quickly detached from the horses and almost immediately fired in a show of speed and skill.

The most common royal salute is the 21 gun salute, which is when 21 rounds are fired at 10-second intervals. However, the salute for Queen Elizabeth is unsurprisingly the most prestigious, as it marks the death of a monarch. This salute has some specific guidelines that honor her life and reign, and they will likely never be seen again.

The specifics of Queen Elizabeth's gun salute

In addition to gun salutes being performed at the Tower of London and Hyde Park, they also took place at Hillsborough Castle in Northern Ireland, Edinburgh Castle in Scotland, and Cardiff Castle in Wales, so each country in the United Kingdom took part. Some commonwealth countries, such as Australia and New Zealand, also participated.

As a special mark of respect for the late monarch, 96 rounds in total were fired to mark the 96 years of Queen Elizabeth's life. The event took place at Parliament House in Canberra. (via ABC Australia). According to the BBC, the extraordinary number of rounds meant that each salute lasted around 20 minutes. The BBC also noted that in the lead up to the salute, churches were encouraged to ring their bells as both a symbol of mourning and a precursor to the event.

Last but not least, though the guns fire blanks, the weapons themselves are far from decorative props. In fact, Captain Josh Bate explained that the three guns used in the Scottish salute were 105mm L-118 light-guns, which had recently been deployed in the nation's operations in Afghanistan (via Twitter).