LONDON: The funeral of Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, Prince Philip, will take place next week, Buckingham Palace said on Saturday, announcing a stripped-back ceremony due to coronavirus restrictions, and a return for exiled royal Prince Harry but not his wife, Meghan. The announcement came as the couple’s eldest son, heir to the throne Prince Charles, 72, paid a heartfelt tribute to his “dear Papa”, and said he and the royal family missed him “enormously”. “My dear Papa was a very special person who I think above all else would have been amazed by the reaction and the touching things that have been said about him, and from that point of view we are, my family, deeply grateful for all that,” he added.
“It will sustain us in this particular loss and at this particularly sad time.” The Duke of Edinburgh – the 94-year-old queen’s husband of 73 years-died peacefully on Friday just two months short of his 100th birthday, triggering eight days of national mourning. Royal officials said his funeral, which will be televised, will take place at 1400 GMT on Saturday, April 17 in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, west of London. It will be preceded by a national minute’s silence.
Government guidelines restrict mourners to just 30 people and close attention has been paid to the pared-down guest list for the funeral, particularly whether the duke’s grandson Harry would attend. Palace officials confirmed he would but his American wife, Meghan, who is pregnant with their second child, had been advised against travelling from the United States on medical grounds. The couple, who quit frontline royal duties last year, have launched a series of broadsides against the royals, including accusing them of racism, and of failing to treat Meghan’s mental health.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will also not be attending the funeral because of COVID restrictions, Downing Street said. “The Prime Minister has throughout wanted to act in accordance with what is best for the Royal household, and so to allow for as many family members as possible will not be attending the funeral on Saturday,” a spokesperson said.
Gun salutes earlier echoed around the United Kingdom on Saturday as the armed forces paid solemn tribute to the duke. The coordinated 41-round volleys to the former Royal Navy commander were fired at a rate of one per minute from 12:00 (1100 GMT) in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, as well as at naval bases, from warships at sea, and in the British territory Gibraltar.
Similar salutes-the most according to military protocol-were also held in Canberra and Wellington, as the Queen is head of state in Australia and New Zealand. At the Tower of London, a crowd of more than 100 onlookers kept a respectful silence as they watched the Honorable Artillery Company fire shots on the banks of the River Thames. One onlooker, Heather Utteridge, said she had come to show her respects “for a superhuman”.
“It’s a great loss to not just the Queen, but actually to the country. He represented stability for all of our lives,” the 65-year-old said. Alexander Beaten, 30, said the royal couple had been an integral part of British identity and culture. “We can disagree with the government… but the Queen and Prince Philip are just such a constant,” he said.
Sporting events, including Premier League football matches, English county championship cricket and the Grand National horserace, held silences as part of worldwide tributes. The death of the duke, the longest serving royal consort in British history, is a profound loss for the Queen, who once described him as her “strength and stay” throughout her long reign.
Flags at half-mast
Flags were flying at half-mast on government buildings and will do so until the morning after his funeral. The well-rehearsed protocol for the duke’s death-codenamed “Forth Bridge”-has been hastily revised because of the coronavirus pandemic, eliminating public events where crowds could gather. Parliament will be recalled on Monday for lawmakers to pay tribute, but the duke will not lie in state, nor will there will be military processions.
British television stations cleared their schedules for special broadcasts looking back on his life on Friday, although the BBC said it had received complaints about the blanket coverage. Westminster Abbey, where the couple married in 1947, tolled its tenor bell 99 times on Friday, once for each year of the prince’s life.
Philip had been ill for some time, and spent more than a month in hospital from February 16 being treated for a pre-existing heart condition and an infection. Despite looking frail on his release from hospital on March 16, hopes were raised for his recovery. But the Queen announced Philip’s death at Windsor Castle “with deep sorrow” on Friday.
‘Farewell, my beloved’
His death dominated the front pages of Britain’s newspapers for the second day in a row yesterday. “Charles: my dear papa was so very special”, the Mail on Sunday said, carrying, like most of the papers, the first public remarks by the Prince of Wales following the death of his father. The Sunday Telegraph splashed a picture of Charles and Philip giving each other a knowing smile in a 2016 photo on its front page alongside a picture of bouquets of flowers left at Windsor Castle.
The Sunday Mirror focused on the upcoming reunion of princes William and Harry at their grandfather’s funeral following the pair’s disagreements, with the headline “united in grief”. On Saturday, tributes poured in from home and abroad, with Johnson giving “thanks, as a nation and a kingdom, for the extraordinary life and work of Prince Philip”. Political and faith leaders from across the world also paid their respects, as did global royalty and Pope Francis.
Flowers discouraged due to COVID
Philip retired from public duties in 2017 at the age of 96, declaring “I’ve done my bit”. The couple had been living largely in isolation at Windsor because their age put them at heightened risk from COVID-19. He was last seen at a staged appearance at a military ceremony at Windsor in July, days after attending the wedding ceremony of his granddaughter Princess Beatrice. On Saturday members of the public continued to pay their respects outside Buckingham Palace and Windsor, despite royal family requests not to gather at royal residences because of the restrictions.
Hundreds of flowers that had been laid outside the Queen’s official residence in central London on Friday have been moved to Windsor, apparently to discourage further gathering. An online book of condolences on the royal family’s official website has been put in place rather than conventional public tributes. – AFP