The funeral of Queen Elizabeth II is likely to attract one of the largest UK television audiences of recent decades, possibly ever.
More than half the world’s population are expected to tune in next week to watch the final chapter of the Second Elizabethan Age draw to a poignant close.
In Britain, tens of millions will watch live coverage of the Queen being laid to rest at Westminster Abbey will air on BBC One and ITV.
The most watched event on TV domestically is still the funeral service for Diana, Princess of Wales, on September 6, 1997, which was watched by an average of 32.1 million people.
An estimated 19.3 million watched on BBC One and 11.7 million on ITV – globally around 2.5 billion people tuned in.
No royal or sporting event since then has been able to match such huge ratings.
The wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton on April 29, 2011 attracted an average audience of 13.6 million on BBC One and 4.0 million on ITV.
More recently, an average of 6.8 million watched BBC One’s coverage of the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh on April 17, 2021 – more than twice the number for ITV.
The BBC said the state funeral in January 1965 of former prime minister Sir Winston Churchill was watched by 20 million people and five million on ITV.
Princess Diana’s wedding to the then Prince Charles was also extremely popular with a reported 28 million people in the UK turning the TV on to watch.
Around 32 million people in the UK watched Princess Diana’s funeral in 1997 – it is still the most watched televised event domestically
Sir Winston Churchill’s state funeral in 1952 was watched by a reported 25 million, although the figures were not independently verified
The marriage between Prince William and Kate Middleton drew an audience of 17 million
The viewership for Prince Philip’s funeral reached around 11 million in 2021
1981: The wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana was another royal event that attracted enormous attention – with around 1 billion watching the momentous occasion globally
A combined UK TV audience of over 20 million is likely for the Queen’s funeral on September 19, based on ratings for similarly high-profile recent occasions.
The opening and closing ceremonies of the London 2012 Olympic Games both topped the 20 million mark (24.2 million and 24.5 million respectively on BBC One).
The final of the Euro 2020 football championship on July 11 2021 had a combined total of 22.5 million for BBC One and ITV.
The announcement by former prime minister Boris Johnson on March 23, 2020 of the first Covid-19 lockdown reached 28.2 million.
Ratings data is published by the audience research organization Barb although comparable figures begin in August 1981, meaning there is no accurate or reliable data for earlier events.
For example, the viewership figures for Winston Churchill’s funeral were not independently verified.
Boris Johnson’s national lockdown announcement received a smaller audience than Princess Diana’s funeral
The Queen’s funeral is likely to be watched by more people in the UK than the Euros 2020 final, in which England lost
The Queen’s televised address during the Covid lockdown on April 5, 2020, was watched by 24.3 million across seven channels
The Queen’s televised address during the Covid lockdown on April 5, 2020, in which she echoed Dame Vera Lynn’s wartime song and told the nation ‘we will meet again’, was watched by 24.3 million across seven channels.
King George VI’s funeral was not televised as a live event
All figures are consolidated ratings, meaning they include people who recorded and watched a broadcast up to seven days later – the industry standard for measuring TV audiences.
Coverage of the Queen’s funeral will be on a vastly larger scale than that organized for her father, King George VI.
The King’s funeral on February 15, 1952 took place at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle and was not televised, although the BBC had cameras outside to record pictures for a newsreel transmitted that evening.
The full funeral service, along with the King’s journey from Westminster Hall where he had been lying in state, was described to listeners of BBC radio.
The Queen’s funeral is taking place at Westminster Abbey and is due to begin at 11am on Monday.
BBC One will broadcast uninterrupted coverage of the funeral from 8am to 5pm, with ITV’s coverage starting at 9.30am.