Britain bids Prince Philip farewell
Queen Elizabeth leads country in minute of silence at ceremony adapted for pandemic conditions
published : 17 Apr 2021 at 21:17
updated: 17 Apr 2021 at 21:22
writer: News Agencies
WINDSOR, England: Queen Elizabeth II on Saturday led Britain in one minute’s silence in memory of her late husband, Prince Philip, as she bade him a final farewell at a funeral restricted by coronavirus rules but reflecting his long life of military and public service.
The 94-year-old monarch, dressed in mourning black and a black face mask, sat inside St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, as the coffin bearing the Duke of Edinburgh arrived on a bespoke Land Rover that he had designed himself.
A military gun was fired to signal the start of the solemn tribute, which was observed in shops, railway stations and at sporting events across the country.
The ceremony with just 30 mourners took place entirely behind the castle’s stately walls, with the public urged to stay away because of the pandemic.
But small crowds still gathered in Windsor town centre, and on the sweeping Long Walk to the castle gates, behind barriers patrolled by uniformed police.
Ieuan Jones, 37, travelled to the town from his home in the Welsh capital, Cardiff, and called Philip “a strong man, a true hero (who) did so much for this country and the royal family”.
“It’s really a shame that because of the pandemic we can’t pay a wider tribute to the exceptional man he was,” he told AFP.
Queen Elizabeth followed the procession in the State Bentley as the coffin, borne on the bespoke Defender TD 130 in military green, made its way the funeral service.
Prince Charles and Princess Anne followed on foot, followed by their brothers Edward and Andrew, and Charles’s two sons William and Harry - evoking memories of the 1997 funeral of Diana when they walked as grieving boys behind their mother’s coffin.
Philip’s naval cap and sword lay on top of the coffin that was covered with the Duke of Edinburgh’s personal standard featuring the Danish coat of arms, the Greek cross, Edinburgh Castle and the stripes of the Mountbatten family.
The Band of the Genadier Guards led the procession, followed by military chiefs. The coffin paused for a national minute of silence at 2pm local time (9pm Thailand time).
During the procession, Prince William and his brother Prince Harry — who returned from the United States to attend — walked separated by their cousin Peter Phillips.
The queen, who has said her husband’s death has left a huge void, was to stand alone due to Covid restrictions as his coffin was lowered into the Royal Vault of the ancient chapel.
“She’s the queen, she will behave with the extraordinary dignity and extraordinary courage that she always does. And at the same time, she is saying farewell to someone to who she was married for 73 years,” said Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, prior to the service.
Philip, who married Elizabeth in 1947, helped the young queen adapt the monarchy to the changing world of the post-World War II era as the loss of empire and the decline of deference challenged the world’s most prominent royal family.
She has now been widowed just as she grapples with one of the biggest crises to hit the royal family in decades — allegations of racism and neglect by it from her grandson Harry and his American-born wife Meghan.
Much media attention on Saturday was focussed on the royals’ behaviour toward Harry as he makes his first public appearance with the family since the couple gave an explosive interview to Oprah Winfrey last month.
In the interview they accused one unnamed royal of making a racist comment, and said Meghan’s pleas for help when she felt suicidal were ignored.
The couple, who moved to Los Angeles and quit royal duties last year, laid bare their perceptions of the family’s attitudes in what amounted to a critique of the old-fashioned customs of an ancient institution.
Meghan said she had been silenced by “the Firm” while Harry said his father, Charles, had refused to take his calls. Harry said both Charles and his brother William were trapped in the royal family.
Meghan, who is pregnant, did not attend Saturday’s funeral as her doctor had advised against it, Buckingham Palace said.
Mourners eschewed the tradition of wearing military uniforms, a step newspapers said was to prevent embarrassment to Harry, who despite serving two tours in Afghanistan during his army career, is not entitled to wear a uniform because he was stripped of his honorary military titles.
“We’re not going to be drawn into those perceptions of drama, or anything like that,” a Buckingham Palace spokesman said. “This is a funeral. The arrangements have been agreed, and they represent her majesty’s wishes.”
Prince Andrew, who stepped down from public duties in 2019 over controversy surrounding his what he termed his “ill-judged” association with late US financier Jeffrey Epstein, had wanted to wear an admiral’s uniform at the funeral, British media reported.
The palace has emphasised that while the occasion will have the due pageantry that marks the passing of a senior royal, it remains an occasion for a mourning family to mark the passing of a husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather.
Just 30 mourners were allowed inside the chapel for the service because of Covid-19 restrictions.
Archbishop Welby said he expected the funeral to resonate with the millions of people around the world who have lost loved ones during the pandemic.
Philip’s dedication to his duty earned him widespread popularity in Britain, but he was also criticised by some for a number of off-the-cuff racist or abrupt comments which shocked princes, priests and presidents.
“He was authentically himself, with a seriously sharp wit, and could hold the attention of any room due to his charm and also because you never knew what he might say next,” Harry said of his grandfather.