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Why were the bees at Buckingham Palace informed of Queen Elizabeth II’s demise?

John Chapple, the official palace beekeeper, had had to purportedly tell the bees "in hushed tones" that their new master is now King Charles III

Buckingham Palace, Clarence House, royal beekeeper, official palace bee keeper, Queen Elizabeth II death, bees informed of queen's death, King Charles III, indian express newsBritain's Queen Elizabeth II talks to students during an official visit to the University of Birmingham, central England, May 5, 2000. (AP Photo/Adam Butler/Pool)

Queen Elizabeth II’s death has highlighted many royal protocols that are initiated after the death of a monarch, in this case, the longest reigning one in the history of the British royal family.

The passing away of the queen at the age of 96 — after ruling and serving for 70 years — brought her mourning family together, too, including Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, who had flown in just some days prior, along with the swift ascension of her son Charles to the throne, making him King Charles III.

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An interesting tradition, however, is that of the royal beekeeper informing the bees that the queen is no more. According to reports, the beekeeper has apprised the bee hives at Buckingham Palace of the queen’s death. John Chapple, the official palace beekeeper, had had to tell the bees “in hushed tones” that their new master is now King Charles III, a Daily Mail report stated.

After the queen passed away at her Balmoral residence in Scotland on Thursday, September 8, Chapple travelled to Buckingham Palace and Clarence House the following day with the news to carry out the ritual that dates back centuries and is considered to be ‘superstitious’.

The 79-year-old told MailOnline that he placed “black ribbons tied into bows on the hives” and informed the thousands of bees that their “mistress had died and that a new master would be in charge from now on”.

The reason this is done is to urge the bees “to be good to their new master”. The ritual is based on an old superstition that suggests that not telling the bees about a change in monarchy would lead to them not producing any honey, leaving the hive or even dying.

Chapple was quoted as telling the publication, “The person who has died is the master or mistress of the hives, someone important in the family who dies and you don’t get any more important than the queen, do you?

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Chapple, who has been the official palace beekeeper for 15 years, said that in Clarence House, there are two hives and in Buckingham Palace, there are five. (Representational image/Getty)

“You knock on each hive and say, ‘The mistress is dead, but don’t you go. Your master will be a good master to you’. I’ve done the hives at Clarence House and I’m now in Buckingham Palace doing their hives.”

Chapple, who has been the official palace beekeeper for 15 years, said that in Clarence House, there are two hives and in Buckingham Palace, there are five. “At this time of year each hive contains 20,000 [bees] each, maybe a bit more but I’m not very good at counting them. It’s over a million in the summer.”

He added that it has been “a wonderful privilege” to work for the queen, and now he hopes to continue to take care of the bees under the king’s reign. “I hope they still want to keep the bees on their premises,” Chapple said.

“They might say, take them away but I don’t think that will [be] happening though really you never know. It’s up to the new tenant of Buckingham Palace.”

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First published on: 11-09-2022 at 12:30 IST
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