Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II led a small group of senior royals at the funeral of her husband and consort of 73 years – Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh – at a significantly scaled-back and socially-distanced ceremony, due to the coronavirus pandemic restrictions, at Windsor Castle on 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 3 pm local time on Saturday, was a religious one though without any sermons, as planned by the Duke – who passed away aged 99 last week on 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 coffin was draped in his personal standard, and wreathed with flowers chosen by the Queen. His Admiral of the Fleet cap and sword lay across it.
His coffin was placed on a catafalque on a marble slab in the Quire and lowered into the vault by electric motor.
The Queen, 94, 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 and had her head bowed in prayer for much of the nearly hour-long ceremony.
“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,” the Dean of Windsor said in his reading.
“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,” the Dean said.
The Archbishop of Canterbury gave thanks for the Duke’s “resolute faith and loyalty, for his high sense of duty and integrity, for his life of service to the nation and Commonwealth, and for the courage and inspiration of his leadership”.
According to 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.
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 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 on 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 that 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.
He observed the minute’s silence earlier today. His official account posted a photograph of the moment he paid his tribute.
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.