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UK lawmakers gather to laud Prince Philip

EDINBURGH: Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon joins Scottish political party leaders as they take part in a motion of condolence following the death of Britain’s Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, at the Scottish Parliament Building in Edinburgh yesterday. – AFP

LONDON: Lawmakers across the UK convened yesterday to pay tribute to Prince Philip, whose death aged 99 has left a “huge void” in the life of Queen Elizabeth II. The UK parliament in London was returning a day early from its Easter break to pay respects to Philip, who spent 73 years at the side of Britain’s longest-reigning monarch.

Devolved legislatures in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast were also holding special sessions, but political campaigning for UK-wide local elections next month was resuming after a pause to mark Philip’s passing. Prince Andrew said Sunday his 94-year-old mother was “incredibly stoic” but had been hit hard by the death of the Duke of Edinburgh, whom he described as “the grandfather of the nation”.

“She described it as having left a huge void in her life,” the couple’s second son said after a church service at Windsor Castle, west of London, where Philip died on Friday. Andrew has been rarely seen in public since stepping back from royal duties in 2019 over his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. The queen’s eldest son and heir, Prince Charles, on Saturday paid his own heartfelt tribute to his “dear Papa”, saying he and the royal family missed him “enormously”.

Vanuatu worshippers
Philip’s death has been marked across the 54-nation Commonwealth, and nowhere more emotionally than the Pacific nation of Vanuatu. For decades, inhabitants of two villages in the hinterland of the lush volcanic island of Tanna have venerated Philip as a deity. Yakel village chief Albi said it was unclear whether the religious movement would now turn to worship Prince Charles or his sons, William and Harry.

“The spirit of Prince Philip has left his body, but it lives on-it is too soon to say where it will reside,” he said. Harry, the Duke of Sussex, was reportedly back in the UK and undergoing coronavirus quarantine ahead of Saturday’s funeral. His wife Meghan is heavily pregnant with their second child and has remained in California, where the couple now reside after quitting royal duties and speaking out bitterly against their life in the family.

Brothers reunited
Prince Philip’s death triggered eight days of official mourning, which ends with his funeral at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle. Public elements of the ceremony have been eliminated to avoid crowds gathering during the coronavirus pandemic, while the congregation at the chapel is limited to just 30. Prime Minister Boris Johnson opted against attending, to free up a place for a member of family.

And because of the official mourning, he also missed out on a trip to the pub Monday as many others in England celebrated the return of outdoor drinking under a phased relaxation of the pandemic curbs. The funeral service, which will be televised, will be keenly watched for signs of strain-or reconciliation-between Harry, 36, and William, 38. The brothers had been expected to meet in July for the first time since Harry moved to the US, at the unveiling of a statue of their late mother, Princess Diana, on what would have been her 60th birthday.

The Sun on Sunday newspaper said the pair would walk behind their grandfather’s coffin in a funeral procession in the castle grounds, as they did as young boys at their mother’s 1997 funeral. Britain’s former prime minister John Major said: “I hope very much that it is possible to mend any rifts that may exist.”

Nautical past
Despite requests for the public not to pay their respects at royal palaces, a steady stream of well-wishers have turned up at Windsor, and at the queen’s Buckingham Palace home in central London. Philip was notorious for a long series of gaffes, some racially insensitive. But for his friend Robin Knox-Johnston, the first person to sail solo non-stop around the world, the former Royal Navy officer had a “wicked sense of humor” and was “straight to the point”. Knox-Johnston told BBC television on Monday that Philip’s Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme had done “a huge amount of good” around the world, after benefiting millions of young people with an array of skills. – AFP


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