King presents medals to Royal Navy over key role at Queen’s funeral

A sailor’s baby bump caught the King’s eye when he presented medals to the Royal Navy as a personal thank-you for their role in the late Queen’s funeral procession.

Charles awarded honours from the Royal Victorian Order (RVO) – in the King’s gift and bestowed independently of Downing Street – to around 150 sailors and officers who played a prominent role on the day Queen Elizabeth II was laid to rest.

Almost 100 Royal Naval Ratings, known as a Sovereign’s Guard, pulled the gun carriage carrying the Queen’s coffin as it was borne from Westminster Abbey to Wellington Arch in the capital, and 40 marched behind, acting as a break.

King presents Royal Victorian Order honours
The King talks to relatives after presenting the Royal Victorian Order to members of the Royal Navy for their part in the late Queen’s funeral procession (Maja Smiejkowska/PA)

At the Windsor Castle ceremony, heavily pregnant Medical Assistant Paisley Chambers-Smith was awarded a silver Royal Victorian Medal for pulling the gun carriage with her colleagues.

Ms Chambers-Smith, 25, from Chesterfield, Derbyshire, is seven months pregnant and wore a blue summer dress for the event, as there is no Royal Navy ceremonial maternity wear.

The medic, who works alongside civilian medical staff at the NHS Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth when not on deployment, said after the open-air ceremony at Windsor Castle: “It’s not something I imagined doing so soon in my career.

King presents Royal Victorian Order honours
Royal Navy personnel enter the Quadrangle at Windsor Castle (Yui Mok/PA)

“The training was so hard but worth it, and on the day it was a massive honour to be there.”

She was joined her partner Sergeant Stephen Leonard, 34, a Royal Marine, who was a member of the street lining party stationed along the route the coffin passed, and was standing guard in Parliament Square.

He did not see Ms Chambers-Smith marching past as his head was bowed as a mark of respect, but the Medical Assistant saw him in her peripheral vision.

The 25-year-old said about the funeral day: “Massive to be there. Pride took over when you walk through the streets of London and just knowing that you’re there and a part of history forever.”

King presents Royal Victorian Order honours
A member of Royal Navy who collapsed is attended to during the ceremony (Maja Smiejkowska/PA)

Commenting on her brief chat with the King, who presented mostly medals alongside some higher RVO honours, she added: “He was asking how the training was for the funeral, which was hard – it was tough and the new boots hurt your feet.

“He asked when the baby was due and how it was, standing in the heat.”

With her baby expected in July, Ms Chambers-Smith stepped out of the three rows of Royal Navy personnel receiving honours and was given a seat after her presentation.

In the bright summer sunshine six naval ratings were helped off the parade ground after apparently fainting – but at least two returned to receive their meals.

Warrant Officer Class One Eddie Wearing is the state ceremonial training officer for the Royal Navy, and had been masterminding the service’s planning for the Queen’s funeral since 2015.

King presents Royal Victorian Order honours
The King presents the medals on the Quadrangle at Windsor Castle (Jonathan Brady/PA)

He was made a member of the RVO for his efforts, and described the tight turnaround to get the Navy ready for the huge public event.

WO1 Wearing said: “Everybody was recalled and the training commenced. We had 10 days from start to finish to get everybody in uniform and trained at the right level for the funeral on the 10th day.”

He added: “It’s something from a command perspective we had rehearsed… it’s just getting the people ready and that’s what takes the time, but I personally think we’re absolutely on point.”

Commander Nicola Cripps was one of the officers of the gun carriage and was also made a member of the RVO.

She said: “As the funeral cortege passed through the crowds fell silent, and the connection between people became very apparent.

“Individuals would reach out and touch each other as they saw the gun carriage pass, so it meant as a group, as a body of men and women, we were really united in that unique experience of taking the Queen to her final resting place.”