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The most bizarre royal tradition that involves bees, prayer … and a knock

bee hives

Rshe Honey | Twitter | Fair Use

Cerith Gardiner - published on 09/15/22

After the Queen's death, this unusual ritual ensures the future of some very important royal residents.

When Queen Elizabeth II recently died, a number of well-prepared rituals took place, from the proclamation of Charles III as king, to the moving Vigil of the Princes that saw all of the late Queen’s children standing watch over her coffin in Scotland.

However, there’s also been some buzz about the royal bees, and the bizarre ritual that takes place upon the death of a monarch.

In this charming ritual, the Royal Beekeeper, presently John Chapple, had a very important centuries-old task to carry out. After hearing of the Queen’s death, Chapple had to go to the royal hives and inform the bees of Elizabeth II’s death.

The 79-year-old explained to Mail Online that he had to head to Buckingham Palace and Clarence House the day after the Queen’s death to notify the bees: “It is traditional when someone dies that you go to the hives and say a little prayer and put a black ribbon on the hive. I drape the hives with black ribbon with a bow.”

Between the two London royal residences there are seven hives. And as Chapple shared: “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.’”

Now the reason for this rather eccentric ritual is actually due to a superstitious belief that if the bees are not informed of the passing of their mistress, or master, they’ll either fail to make any honey, leave the hive, or maybe even die.

Thankfully, Chapple has taken his royal duties to heart, and hopefully saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of bees.

While the Royal Beekeeper has been in the job for 15 years, in the calm haven of the royal gardens he expressed his hope to keep his position under the reign of King Charles III. As the new sovereign is such a keen environmentalist, no doubt Chapple will continue to care for the royal bees, now that their Queen bee has passed on.

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