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The royal beekeeper has told Queen Elizabeth II’s bees that she has died

'Telling the bees' is a tradition in many European countries where hives of bees are told of important events in their keeper's lives.

Emily Sergeant Emily Sergeant - 13th September 2022

The royal beekeeper has informed the bees that live at Buckingham Palace that HM Queen Elizabeth II has passed away.

Although that may sound fictitious, it’s actually a ritual based on a historic tradition.

Telling the bees, as it’s often known, is a tradition in many European countries where hives of bees are told of important events in their keeper’s lives – such as births, marriages, departures and returns in the household, and of course, deaths.

If the custom is not practiced or forgotten, and the bees were not “put into mourning”, then back in the mid-19th century when the tradition is believed to have originated, it was believed that a penalty would be paid.

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This could mean the bees leave their hive, which would stop the production of honey or dying.

So, following HM Queen Elizabeth II’s death at aged 96, and with several royal households home to tens of thousands off bees, John Chapple – who is the official royal beekeeper, and has been so for the past 15 years – told the Daily Mail that he travelled to the Buckingham Palace and Clarence House on Friday (9 September) to carry out the formality.

Read more: 10-day period of national mourning begins following the death of HM Queen Elizabeth II

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Buckingham Palace is home to five beehives, and Clarence House is home to two – with each hive containing an estimated 20,000 bees each.

Chapple also told the bees that a new master would be in charge – King Charles III.

The royal beekeeper has told Queen Elizabeth II’s bees that she has died / Credit: Bianca Ackerman (via Unsplash)

Giving a little more insight into the decades-old tradition, Chapple explained: “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.

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“I drape the hives with black ribbon with a bow.

“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? You knock on each hive and say, ‘the mistress is dead’.”

Read more: Manchester has been named the best city in the UK for bees

Chapple explained that he visited the hives at Clarence House first to inform them, before heading to tell the bees living at Buckingham Palace.

Chapple said it had been a “wonderful privilege” to care for the bees under the Queen’s reign, and he hopes to continue in his role as King Charles III ascends to the throne.

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“I hope they still want to keep the bees on their premises,” Chapple concluded.

HM Queen Elizabeth II died aged 96 on 8 September 2022.

During her reign, Elizabeth II served as Queen of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth – undertaking an important symbolic and unifying role as a head of state, spanning numerous geographical regions, cultures, and religions. 

She was not just the longest-reigning British monarch in history, but she was also the first-ever monarch to reign in the UK for 70 years.

She was beloved by many for her sense of duty and devotion to her role.

Featured Image – Damien Tupinier (via Unsplash)