Prince Philip’s funeral nods to life of service and “unwavering loyalty” to Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth II, wearing a black face mask and seated alone, said goodbye to her husband of more than 73 years, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, at his funeral Saturday at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle.
The ceremony for Philip, who died last week at age 99, was highly unusual — in part because coronavirus restrictions meant that it had to be scaled back but also because it followed a very public airing of a family rift.
Members of the royal family — Philip’s four children, Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward; and some of his grandchildren, including William and Harry — walked in a somber procession behind his coffin as it was driven to the chapel.
As is custom, no family members delivered a eulogy, but the Rev. David Conner, Dean of Windsor, who conducted the funeral service, spoke of “the many ways in which his long life has been a blessing to us.”
“We have been inspired by his unwavering loyalty to our queen, by his service to the nation and the Commonwealth, by his courage, fortitude and faith,” he said. “Our lives have been enriched through the challenges that he has set us, the encouragement that he has given us, his kindness, humor and humanity.”
Pandemic rules in Britain meant that the funeral was pared down, with adjustments including a limit of 30 guests at the church service. The queen and select family members in attendance all wore masks and were seated 6 feet apart in the chapel.
But the subdued service reflected not only the reality of life in a pandemic but also Philip’s own wishes for the ceremony, Buckingham Palace said. The prince was deeply involved in the organization of the event, which was years in the planning.
Before the ceremony, his coffin was moved Saturday afternoon from a private chapel in Windsor Castle to the castle’s Inner Hall, where prayers were said.
The ceremony was rich with symbolism and nods to Philip’s life of service to the royal family and to Britain. The Grenadier Guards, a centuries-old regiment of the British army, which the Duke of Edinburgh served in as a colonel for more than four decades, placed his coffin on a hearse that the prince helped design. The vehicle, a modified Land Rover Defender, then led a small procession toward St. George’s Chapel, also on the grounds of Windsor Castle.
The process of designing the hearse began 18 years ago, and tweaks were still being made up until 2019. The open-top rear section was custom-made to Philip’s specifications, and the original vehicle was repainted “dark bronze green,” typical of military use, at his request.
Philip served in the Royal Navy, seeing combat during World War II, and his naval cap and sword were placed on his coffin before the funeral service. The coffin was draped in his personal flag, which pays tribute to his Greek heritage and his British titles. A variety of other military groups were represented during the procession, and a team of Royal Marines carried his coffin into St. George’s Chapel.
Philip’s four children, Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward; and some of his grandchildren, including William and Harry, walked behind the coffin as it was driven to the chapel. Those with honorary military titles are expected to wear suits displaying their medals rather than uniforms, apparently in deference to Harry, who was forced to give up his military titles when he stepped away from royal duties.
The queen arrived at the chapel by car. Before the service began, there was a national minute of silence.
There was much speculation about how the family dynamic would play out, as the funeral will be the first time that Harry has returned to Britain since stepping down as a senior royal. The service also came just weeks after he and his wife, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, gave a bombshell interview to Oprah Winfrey in which they laid bare their problems with the royal family.
The funeral service lasted less than an hour. A choir of four sang music chosen by Philip but were some distance from the seated guests, in line with public health guidelines.
Near the end of the service, the “Last Post” was played by musicians from Britain’s Royal Marines, before military buglers had one final task. As planned by Philip, the buglers sounded so-called Action Stations — a call used on naval warships to summon crew to battle readiness.
His body will be interred in the royal vault in St. George’s Chapel. Flags in Britain that have flown at half-staff at royal residences since his death will remain that way until Sunday.