When the King gave medals to the Royal Navy as a personal thank-you for their participation in the late Queen’s funeral procession, he noticed a sailor’s growing baby bump.
Nearly 150 sailors and officers who played significant roles on the day Queen Elizabeth II was laid to rest received honors from Charles in the form of the Royal Victorian Order (RVO), which was given independently of Downing Street and in the King’s gift.
As the Queen’s coffin was carried from Westminster Abbey to Wellington Arch in the city, 40 Royal Naval Ratings, also known as a Sovereign’s Guard, marched behind to serve as a break.
Paisley Chambers-Smith, a medical assistant who was eight months pregnant, received a silver Royal Victorian Medal at the event at Windsor Castle for dragging the gun carriage with her co-workers.
Since there is no Royal Navy ceremonial maternity clothing, Ms. Chambers-Smith, 25, of Chesterfield, Derbyshire, who is seven months pregnant, wore a blue summer dress to the ceremony.
After the outdoor ceremony at Windsor Castle, the medic, who when not on deployment works with civilian medical personnel at the NHS Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth, said: “It’s not something I envisioned doing so quickly in my career.
“The training was so hard but worth it, and on the day it was a massive honour to be there.”
She was accompanied by her Royal Marine companion Sergeant Stephen Leonard, 34, who was on duty in Parliament Square as part of the street lining party stationed along the path the casket took.
His head was bowed in respect, so he did not notice Ms. Chambers-Smith marching by; but, the medical assistant caught a glimpse of him in her side 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.”
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.”
Ms. Chambers-Smith left the three rows of Royal Navy sailors receiving honours and was provided a seat after her presentation because her baby was due in July.
Six naval ratings who appeared to have fainted were taken off the parade ground in the strong July sun, but at least two of them later came back to get their meals.
Class I Warrant Officer Eddie Wearing, the Royal Navy’s state ceremonial training officer, had been in charge of organizing the service’s preparations for the Queen’s funeral since 2015.
He spoke on the short turnaround required to get the Navy ready for the significant public event after being made a member of the RVO for his efforts.
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.”
One of the gun carriage’s officers and a member of the RVO was Commander Nicola Cripps.
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.”