Princess Anne Made History In The Queen's Funeral Procession In An Unexpected Way

Update: A prior version named Prince George as the future George VI, but his name was Prince Albert before he ascended the throne.

As Princess Anne — the late Queen Elizabeth II's only daughter — honored her mother's memory on September 12, she also made history. Anne, the Princess Royal, was the first woman to participate in a tradition known as the Vigil of the Princes, NBC royal expert and commentator Daisy McAndrew said (via Today). The Vigil of the Princes is a "symbolic move" in which four people stand at each side of a royal coffin, BBC News explained. In this case, the vigil was performed in St. Giles' Cathedral in Edinburgh, Scotland. The princess joined her siblings King Charles III, Prince Andrew, and Prince Edward in standing around their mother's coffin for approximately 10 minutes, according to Town & Country. The Royal Company of Archers joined the grieving princess and princes in their vigil.

Queen Elizabeth died on September 8 at the age of 96. Her funeral celebration marks the third time that this royal vigil has been held. The tradition originated when the queen's grandfather, King George V, died in 1936, and four of his children stood vigil around his coffin, according to Town & Country. At that time, those standing vigil were all men: King Edward VIII, Prince Albert (Queen Elizabeth's father, who would later become King George VI), Prince Henry, and Prince George. The vigil was held a second time for Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, in 2002 with then-Prince Charles, Prince Andrew, Prince Edward, and royal cousin Viscount Linley, David Armstrong-Jones, keeping watch.

Anne and Elizabeth

Perhaps it is not surprising that Princess Anne would be the first woman to participate in a royal tradition. The princess has never been afraid to make her own mark. She had an illustrious career as an equestrienne beginning at the early age of 11, according to Biography. The athletic princess, who was born in 1950, went on to become the first British royal to win the gold medal in the European Eventing Championships in 1971. (Eventing is a combination of dressage, cross-country, and show jumping). In 1976, she made even more history by competing in the Olympics in Montreal, the first member of the British royal family to do so, according to The Royal Family.

During the games, Princess Anne rode her mother's horse, Goodwill. And mother and daughter shared a lifelong love of horses, according to Biography. in general, royal experts say that the queen and princess had a good relationship. "They were very close," royal biographer Robert Lacey told The Washington Post. In addition to her historic vigil, Princess Anne also played an important role in her mother's funeral by being the only one of her children to travel with her coffin from Balmoral Castle to Edinburgh to London, something people familiar with the family say the queen probably requested.

The princess profoundly respected her mother as well. "I was fortunate to share the last 24 hours of my dearest Mother's life," she said in a statement posted on the Royal Family website. "It has been an honor and a privilege to accompany her on her final journeys."

Standing guard in military uniform

According to National World, the Vigil of the Princes takes its name from the Latin word 'vigilia' which denotes, not only a period of mourning, but more specifically, a period of mourning of a well-known political figure. As you might have guessed, the latter part of this phrase signifies senior male family members of the well-known figure. Traditionally, this has meant that the senior male family members stand guard by the side of the recently deceased royal in a moment of silence and remembrance. Now, much like the heads of the monarchy's coins, things are changing direction, and the princess, Queen Elizabeth II's only female child, is stepping out from the shadows and into the spotlight, and she's doing so in equally groundbreaking attire.

Good Housekeeping reports that while making history as the first female to partake in the long-held tradition Vigil of the Princes, Princess Anne has also turned some heads for standing beside the coffin donning her navy ceremonial military uniform, embellished in an array of medals including the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal among others. She is currently the only female member of the royal family to wear this ensemble, and she dons it while standing as the only female member of the royal family to take part in this vigil.