British royal family saying goodbye to Prince Philip in funeral limited by Covid restrictions
Queen Elizabeth II bids a final farewell to her late husband, Prince Philip, on Saturday at a funeral limited by coronavirus rules but reflecting his long life as a military and public servant.
The ceremony behind the stately walls of Windsor Castle, west of London, will be watched by an expected TV audience of millions, with the public urged to stay away due to the global pandemic.
The Duke of Edinburgh – described by royalty as the “grandfather of the nation” – died on April 9, at the age of 99, just a few weeks after spending more than a month in hospital treating heart disease and infection.
Britain’s longest-serving royal consort was an almost constant presence on the Queen’s side during her record-breaking reign, which began in 1952, when Britain was rebuilt from World War II and when its global empire began to collapse.
His death, after 73 years of marriage, has left a “big void” in her life, the couple’s second son, Prince Andrew, said last weekend.
At the service, the Dean of Windsor, David Conner, pays tribute to Philip’s unwavering loyalty “to the Queen, who turns 95 next week, the country and the Commonwealth, as well as his” courage, strength and faith “.
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The government’s coronavirus regulations have forced hasty revisions of “Operation Forth Bridge”, the long-awaited burial plans for former Royal Navy commander Philip.
But the stripped-down ceremonial burial will still include members of the armed services he was associated with leading a short procession through the castle’s immaculate trimmed grounds, whose history dates back 1,000 years.
His coffin will be carried to Windsor’s historic St George’s Chapel on a bespoke Land Rover hearse he designed himself, repainted in military green.
One minute of silence will be observed across the country at 15:00 (1400 GMT) before the funeral service begins.
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The Queen will lead only 30 mourners, as they respect the man she once called her “strength and stay”, and whose death concludes a remarkable chapter in Britain’s most famous family and the country’s recent history.
The parish will mostly be close relatives, including the couple’s four children: heir to the throne Prince Charles, 72, Princess Anne, 70, Prince Andrew, 61 and Prince Edward, 57.
Attendance will also be Charles’ eldest son William, 38, who will be joined by his younger brother, Harry, 36, after returning from the United States last weekend, where he now lives.
All eyes will be on the brothers – whose mother was Charles’ first wife, Princess Diana – after being reported to have fallen over Harry’s move to California with his American wife, Meghan, and their harsh criticism of the royals.
Meghan, who was heavily pregnant with her second child, was told not to travel for medical reasons.
The brothers, who as young boys walked behind their mother’s coffin at her funeral in 1997, will follow the procession on foot, but not side by side.
Between them comes their cousin, Princess Anne’s son Peter Phillips, 43, who is likely to drive further rumors of the shortage, even though it reflects royal records.
Masks and social distancing
Funerals of older royalty are usually major public affairs, honed during years of planning, combining pomp, celebration and a guest list that is who is who of the world’s dignitaries.
The last major royal funeral – by the Queen’s mother, also known as Queen Elizabeth – in 2002 cost more than £ 5.4 million ($ 7.4 million, € 6.2 million).
More than a million people crowded outside Westminster Abbey in central London to watch the gloomy party.
More than 200,000 people had previously filed past her coffin, as it lay in the state for four days.
Saturday’s ceremony will be a more modest affair but a royal broadcast like no other, with two meters of social distancing in place inside the Gothic chapel from the 15th century.
All guests – in mourning black – must wear black face masks before, during and after the ceremony. Harry has been quarantined since coming from Los Angeles.
Royal officials and the government have urged the public not to gather in palaces to praise, even though a steady stream of well-being has ignored the talks.
The narrowed formalities may, however, have appealed to the straight-talking prince, who according to his family had an aversion to “hassle”.
At the end of the funeral, led by the Dean of Windsor with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, the Duke will be buried privately in the Royal Vault of St George’s Chapel.
When the Queen dies, he will be transferred to lie next to her in the King George VI Memorial Chapel, which houses the remains of her father, George VI, her mother, and the ashes of her younger sister, Princess Margaret.