UK royal funeral: Prince Philip laid to rest in Windsor

Queen Elizabeth II sits alone as her husband of 73 years is laid to rest in a socially distanced funeral ceremony.

Pall bearers carry the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip [Danny Lawson/Pool via AP]

Prince Philip has been laid to rest in a funeral ceremony that honoured his lifetime of service to the United Kingdom, the crown and his wife of 73 years, Queen Elizabeth II.

The widowed British monarch, setting an example amid the coronavirus pandemic, sat alone at the ceremony on Saturday, dressed in black and with her head bowed in prayer.

Her family said Prince Philip’s death on April 9 at the age of 99 left a “huge void” in the queen’s life, robbing her of the man she called her “strength and stay”.

The Duke of Edinburgh was honoured at Windsor Castle in a service that was steeped in military and royal tradition but also pared down and infused with his own personality.

The entire royal procession and funeral took place out of public view within the grounds of the castle, a 950-year-old royal residence 30km (20 miles) west of London, but was shown live on television.

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Andrew, Duke of York attend the funeral [Yui Mok/Pool via Reuters]

Coronavirus restrictions meant that instead of the 800 mourners expected in the longstanding plans for Philip’s funeral, only 30 people were allowed inside the castle’s St George’s Chapel, including the queen, her four children and her eight grandchildren.

Prince Charles, the heir to the throne, sat opposite the monarch alongside his wife, Camilla.

Prince Andrew was two seats to the queen’s left. Prince William and his wife, Kate, sat directly opposite from his brother Prince Harry, who had travelled back from California without his pregnant wife Meghan.

Divisive legacy

Al Jazeera’s Neave Barker, reporting from Windsor, said: “We knew that because of the pandemic this would be a pared-back pageantry, but it was nevertheless very, very powerful from start to finish.”

He also said the prince was a divisive character.

“For some his throw-away comments were seen as racist, sexist and somewhat out of touch with the sentiment of modern Britain,” he said.

“He was very much a man of his time, a man of the 1940s and 50s, but at the same time, he was steadfastly at the side of the British monarch for a very, very long time. For that, he will be remembered as almost embodying the very fabric of what it means to be British,” he said.

Prince Philip’s coffin on the Land Rover Defender he helped to design [Gareth Fuller/Pool via Reuters]

Minute of silence

People across the UK observed one minute of silence in honour of Philip just before the funeral got under way.

Some locals earlier stopped outside the castle to leave flowers, but people largely heeded requests by police and the palace not to gather because of the pandemic.

Philip’s coffin travelled to the chapel on a specially adapted Land Rover designed by the prince himself.

The coffin was draped in his personal standard and topped with his Royal Navy cap, sword and a wreath of flowers.

For the procession, senior military commanders lined up in front of the vehicle.

The children of Philip and the queen – Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward – walked behind the hearse, while the 94-year-old queen travelled to the chapel in a Bentley car.

Members of the Royal Family follow the hearse [Adrian Dennis/Pool via Reuters]

Grandsons Prince William and Prince Harry also walked behind the coffin, although not side by side.

The brothers, whose relationship has been strained amid Harry’s decision to quit royal duties and move to California, flanked their cousin Peter Phillips, the son of Princess Anne.

Later, the two brothers were seen walking together and chatting as the mourners left the chapel after the service.

Military ties

The funeral reflected Philip’s military ties as a ceremonial commander of many units and as a veteran of war.

More than 700 military personnel took part, including army bands, Royal Marine buglers and an honour guard drawn from across the armed forces.

Inside the Gothic chapel, the setting for centuries of royal weddings and funerals, the service was simple and sombre.

The service began with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby entering the chapel ahead of the coffin, followed by Philip’s children and three of his eight grandchildren, as a four-member, socially distanced choir sang “I am the resurrection and the life”.

There was no sermon, at Philip’s request, and no family eulogies or readings, in keeping with royal tradition.

Philip was placed in the vault alongside the remains of 24 other royals, including three kings of England. But it will likely not be his permanent resting place.

After the queen’s death, she and Philip are expected to be buried in the Royal Burial Ground on the Frogmore Estate close to Windsor Castle.

Members of the royal family attend the funeral of Britain’s Prince Philip in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle [Yui Mok/Pool via Reuters]

Philip was born a prince of Greece and Denmark and, like the queen, is related to a thicket of European royal families.

“He was a character, an absolute character,” Jenny Jeeves told The Associated Press as she looked at the floral tributes in Windsor.

“He was fun, he was funny. Yes, he made quite a few gaffes, but it depends which way you took it, really. Just a wonderful husband, father and grandfather, and a good example to all of us.”

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 the AFP news agency.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies