Queen Elizabeth II bid farewell yesterday to her late husband, Prince Philip, at a royal funeral like no other, restricted by coronavirus (Covid-19) rules but reflecting his long life of military and public service.
The Duke of Edinburgh, who died on April 9 at age 99, was interred in the Royal Vault at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle after a 50-minute service attended by just 30 guests.
The Queen, 94, seen for the first time since his death, sat alone dressed in mourning black, with a white-trimmed, black face mask.
Close family, also masked, sat socially distanced in the historic 15th-century Gothic chapel.
Philip – described by royals as “the grandfather of the nation” – was Britain’s longest-serving royal consort and was married to the Queen for 73 years.
He was an almost constant presence at her side during her record-breaking reign that began in 1952 as Britain rebuilt from World War II, and as its global empire began to unravel.
His death, which the family said had left a “huge void” in the Queen’s life, has robbed of her of the man she called her “strength and stay” and closes a remarkable chapter for Britain’s most famous family, and in the country’s history.
The last high-profile funeral of a senior royal was for the Queen’s mother, who died in 2002, aged 101.
However, unlike then, when more than 1mn people thronged outside Westminster Abbey in central London to watch the sombre pageant, the public was noticeably absent from yesterday’s ceremony.
The coronavirus pandemic forced hasty revisions to the well-rehearsed plans for the duke’s death, code-named “Operation Forth Bridge”, stripping back public elements to prevent large crowds from gathering.
Government guidelines limited the number of mourners and a quartet performed hymns the duke chose himself in a barren nave stripped of seating.
Bottles of hand sanitiser was seen among the floral tributes inside.
The intimate, ceremonial funeral from behind the stately castle walls was broadcast live on television to millions across Britain and the world.
Philip’s coffin was borne to the chapel on a bespoke Land Rover Defender TD 130 in military green that Philip himself helped to design, as a minute gun fired eight times.
Philip’s children and grandchildren followed behind on foot, evoking memories of the 1997 funeral of Diana when William and Harry – then just 15 and 12 – walked behind their mother’s coffin.
His naval cap and sword lay on top of the coffin, which 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.
A wreath of white roses, lilies and jasmine from the Queen also adorned the coffin.
Across Britain – on the streets, in shops, railway stations and at sporting events – people bowed their heads with respect.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, dressed in black, observed the silence at his country retreat, Chequers.
Flights in an out of nearby Heathrow Airport were stopped for the duration of the ceremony.
Ieuan Jones, 37, travelled to Windsor 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.
Despite the restrictions, the stripped-down send-off for the former Royal Navy commander still combined centuries of royal protocol with pomp, pageantry – and military precision.
Members of the British armed forces, in formal dress, lined the procession route, heads bowed, as the cortege passed, as a minute gun rang out across the grounds and a bell tolled.
Before the procession, military bands spaced out across the quadrangle of Windsor Castle in brilliant sunshine to play the prince’s chosen music, including I Vow To Thee My Country, Jerusalem, and Nimrod.
The four-person choir sang a sailors’ hymn, Eternal Father, Strong to Save.
Philip’s grandsons William, 38, and Harry, 36, joined the procession, in their first public meeting since a reported falling out about Harry’s shock move to California, and his stinging criticism of royal life, including racism in the family.
Harry and William were separated by their cousin, Anne’s son Peter Phillips, 43.
Later, Harry walked and talked with William and wife Kate at the end of the service. Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, swiftly stepped away to allow the brothers to talk further.
It was not possible to hear what they were saying.
This was the first time they have spoken in public since Harry and his wife Meghan gave an explosive interview to Oprah Winfrey last month.
That crisis came as Philip lay in hospital.
Harry had to quarantine when he arrived back in Britain for the first time since his move to the United States with Meghan last year.
Meghan, who is pregnant and was advised by her doctor not to travel, watched the funeral at home in California, a source familiar with the situation said.
The religious service was a simple affair, reflecting the wishes of the straight-talking duke, who was known for his aversion to “fuss”.
In keeping with his wishes, there was no sermon, but the service reflected his love of the sea, and long association with the Royal Navy, including hymns and Bible readings.
The Dean of Windsor, David Conner, paid tribute to his “kindness, humour and humanity”, and devotion to the Queen, who turns 95 next week and is in the twilight of her reign.
“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.
Shortly before the coffin was lowered into the Royal Vault, the Russian Kontakion of the Departed, a hymn of the Orthodox and Eastern churches, echoed around the ancient church.
The Queen, who had been escorted to the chapel by a lady-in-waiting in the royal Bentley, watched from the chapel choir as her husband’s was lowered steadily into the Royal Vault by electric motor.
The Pipe Major of the Royal Regiment of Scotland played a lament, and buglers of the Royal Marines sounded The Last Post.
When the Queen dies, Philip will be transferred to lie alongside her in the King George VI memorial chapel, which houses the remains of her father, George VI, her mother, also called Elizabeth, and the ashes of her younger sister, Margaret.
The funeral comes after eight days of public mourning for the duke, which has seen the Union Jack flown at half-mast, and a virtual halt in official government business.
Members of the Royal Family follow the hearse, a specially modified Land Rover, during the funeral of Prince Philip on the grounds of Windsor Castle.
Images of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip are displayed on large screens at Piccadilly Circus in central London, as the funeral for the Duke of Edinburgh is held in Windsor yesterday.
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