Queen’s state funeral: the lone piper is always moving - no matter what you think about bagpipes

A lone piper playing the traditional lament ‘Sleep, Dearie, Sleep’ was a poignant way to end the Queen’s funeral

<p>Pipe Major Paul Burns plays during the State Funeral of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey (Photo: POOL/AFP via Getty Images)</p>

Pipe Major Paul Burns plays during the State Funeral of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey (Photo: POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The Queen’s state funeral was an impressive example of the kind of statecraft that - yes, as we hear repeatedly - no-one does better than Britain.

The massed ranks and bearskin hats of the King’s Guards, the Royal Navy sailors pulling the gun carriage, and the buglers playing their rousing fanfares inside Westminster Abbey were all the grandest insignia of the day’s importance and formality.

But for sheer emotion, nothing can match the lone piper.

As Pipe Major Paul Burns, the Queen’s personal player at the time of her death, began his solo rendition of ‘Sleep, Dearie, Sleep’, the camera closed in slowly on the monarch’s coffin, followed by that incredible, vertigo-inducing shot looking down on the cathedral from high above.

As the pipe lament faded, the TV cameras caught a moment of profound grief on the face of King Charles III and other royals in front of the coffin.

Indeed it was this symbolic fading-away of the pipe music that seems to have resonated the most with viewers around the world - and for those of us in Scotland who are familiar with the poignancy and power of the lone piper at funerals and events like the Royal Military Tattoo in Edinburgh.

The bagpipes are a divisive instrument, even in Scotland, where busking pipers treat tourists (and, inadvertently, us locals) to endless renditions of ‘Scotland the Brave’ and ‘Highland Cathedral’.

It’s perhaps the relentless drone that puts most detractors off, as well as their sheer ear-splitting volume at close range.

But there are arguably two situations where bagpipes come into their own. One is the massed pipes and drums common on big occasions involving marches or processions, and other is the lone piper at more solemn events like funerals or Remembrance Sundays.

The quality of the lone piper is almost impossible to put into words, but it carries a haunting timbre, a raw emotion that feels like it’s been passed down through the centuries from one generation to the next.

That romanticisim came to the fore once again during the Queen’s state funeral. It was a moment of genuine emotion on the kind of day that often gets overwhelmed by the momentousness of the spectacle.