Queen Elizabeth II on Saturday bid farewell to her late husband, Prince Philip, at a royal funeral like no other, restricted by coronavirus 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.
Prince Philip – described by royals as “the grandfather of the nation” – was Britain’s longest-serving royal consort and married 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 its global empire began to unravel. His death, which the family said had left a “huge void” in the Queen’s life, has robbed 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.
But unlike then, when more than one million people thronged outside Westminster Abbey in central London to watch the somber pageant, the public was noticeably absent from Saturday’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 in a barren nave stripped of seating.
Bottles of hand sanitizer were seen among the floral tributes inside.
A mark of respect
The intimate, ceremonial funeral from behind the stately castle walls was broadcast live on television to millions across Britain and the world.
A military gun was fired to signal a minute’s silence when his coffin arrived at the chapel on a bespoke Land Rover he designed himself.
The coffin was draped in his standard and topped by a wreath of white roses and lilies from the Queen, as well as his naval cap and ceremonial sword.
People bowed their heads with respect across Britain – on the streets, in shops, railway stations, and at sporting events. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, dressed in black, observed the silence at his country retreat, Chequers.
Flights in and out of nearby Heathrow Airport were stopped for the duration of the ceremony.
Despite the restrictions, the stripped-down sendoff for the former Royal Navy commander still combined centuries of the 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.
Prince 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. Prince Harry had to quarantine when he arrived back in Britain for the first time since his move to the United States with his wife, Meghan, last year.