London: Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II led a small group of senior royals at the ceremonial funeral of her husband and consort Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, at Windsor Castle Saturday.
The funeral incorporated hymns and readings chosen by the late royal himself and focussed on the “unwavering loyalty” of the longest-serving consort in British history to his wife, the monarch, and service to Britain and the Commonwealth.
The ceremony, which began at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle with a national minute’s silence at 1500 local time Saturday, was a religious one though without any sermons, as planned by the Duke – who passed away aged 99 last week Friday.
“The Order of Service for the funeral was agreed with the Duke of Edinburgh during his lifetime, and reflects the Duke’s military affiliations, and personal elements of His Royal Highness’ life,” Buckingham Palace said in a statement.
At the end of the ceremony, the Duke’s coffin was carried to his resting place in the royal vault beneath St George’s Chapel.
The Queen, dressed in black and wearing a face mask, travelled in the State Bentley in a procession, behind senior royal family members on foot, before entering by a side door to the chapel. Inside, she was seated by herself under the social distancing guidelines.
In his reading, the Dean of Windsor said: “With grateful hearts, we remember 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.
“Our lives have been enriched through the challenges that he has set us, the encouragement that he has given us, his kindness, humour and humanity.”
As per details of the ceremonial funeral released by Buckingham Palace earlier in the week, the Duke’s coffin travelled in a bespoke Land Rover designed by him, with his children and grandchildren walking alongside.
Those in the procession included Prince Charles – the Prince of Wales, Princess Anne – the Princess Royal, Prince Andrew – the Duke of York, and Prince Edward – the Earl of Wessex and Forfar.
Grandchildren Princes William and Harry, said to be somewhat estranged, walked behind the vehicle separated by their cousin Peter Phillips, the son of Princess Anne. Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, the husband of Princess Anne, and the Earl of Snowdon, the son of the Queen sister, were also among those who followed the funeral procession.
They all wore their face masks the moment they arrived at the entrance of the chapel.
Others on the limited guest list included Prince Charles’ wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Prince William’s wife Kate Middleton, all of Prince Philip’s grandchildren and their spouses, and the children of the Queen’s sister Princess Margaret.
From the Duke’s German heritage, the guests included Bernhard, the Hereditary Prince of Baden; Donatus, Prince and Landgrave of Hesse; and Prince Philipp of Hohenlohe-Langenburg. The Countess Mountbatten of Burma, previously known as Lady Romsey and Lady Brabourne, who was one of Prince Philip’s closest friends, was also be in attendance.
Earlier, the Queen marked the day with the release of one of her favourite photographs of her sitting on the grass alongside her late husband enjoying a day out in Scotland. The 94-year-old monarch was married to Prince Philip for 73 years and has previously referred to him as her “strength and stay”.
The service at the chapel Saturday was led by the Dean of Windsor, with prayers said by the Dean and the Archbishop of Canterbury. A small choir of four sang pieces of music chosen by the Duke and, in line with the coronavirus lockdown guidelines, the gathering had been asked not to sing along as is usual congregational ceremonies.
No members of the royal family gave a reading, and the entire congregation was limited to just 30 people, who were wearing face masks and remained socially distanced.
Downing Street said UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, like thousands others, watched the service on a television from his countryside retreat Chequers after he had given up his place as a guest to the royal family.
Among the songs picked out was the hymn ‘Eternal Father, Strong To Save’, traditionally associated with members of the Royal Navy such as the Duke.
There was a significant military theme to the funeral as the procession route was lined by representatives from the Royal Navy, the Royal Marines, the Highlanders, and 4th Battalion Royal Regiment of Scotland and the Royal Air Force.
Minute Guns were fired by the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery from the East Lawn of Windsor Castle for the duration of the procession. A selection of military medals, picked by the Duke himself, were placed on the altar inside the chapel.