WINDSOR, England – Legend has it that he was born on a kitchen table on the Greek island of Corfu almost a century ago. On Saturday he will be moved to a royal vault in the grounds of Windsor Castle.
The British royal family will bid farewell to Prince Philip, the 73-year-old family patriarch and husband of Queen Elizabeth II, who died a few months before his 100th birthday last week.
The Duke of Edinburgh – the longest-serving wife of a British monarch – lived a peripatetic youth after his father, Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, was exiled and his family fled Greece. Philip joined the British Royal Navy, where he excelled in World War II and married the then Princess Elizabeth.
After she became queen in 1952, he played a socially unusual role for the time and supported his wife, but always one step behind her – at least in public.
“There was no precedent. When I asked someone,” What do you expect from me? “They all looked blank. They had no idea,” Philip told the BBC of his early days as the sovereign’s husband.
Many will remember that he was an early advocate of British science and industry and an advocate for nature conservation and the environment.
His will will not be a state funeral as Philip was not a monarch, but a ceremonial funeral similar to the funeral of the Queen Mother in 2002.
“Strength and Stay”
The ceremony on Saturday will have personal details planned in advance by Philip. It begins with an eight-minute procession, followed by a memorial service at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle – the location of the spring wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan under three years ago.
In contrast to this jubilant event, the funeral of the charismatic and at times edgy prince will be dimly and dramatically reduced, partly due to restrictions of the coronavirus.
The 94-year-old queen, who described her husband as “strength and abode”, is said to sit alone in the old chapel and wear a mask. Other participants have been instructed to maintain social distancing as per the country’s Covid-19 rules.
A national minute of silence will be observed before the chapel duty at 3 p.m. (10 a.m. CET).
At an eagerly anticipated moment, Prince William and his brother Harry will walk together behind their grandfather’s coffin during the ceremonial procession, along with their father, Prince Charles, and a handful of royals – none of them wearing military uniforms.
Protocol suggests that Harry, who made two tours of Afghanistan, can only wear a suit with medals at royal events. He lost his military honorary degrees after deciding last year to step down as a senior working king.
The picture is likely to bring back memories of the couple when boys, accompanied by their grandfather, sadly walked behind the coffin of their mother, Princess Diana, in 1997.
Although William and Harry won’t walk side by side – their cousin Peter Phillips between them – it will be the first time the brothers have appeared in public together since Harry and Meghan gave a full interview to media mogul Oprah Winfrey in the States last month.
Meghan, pregnant with the couple’s second child, remains in California.
“Although funeral plans have been changed to reflect public health guidelines, the ceremonial aspects of the day and the memorial service itself are what the Duke wants,” Buckingham Palace said in a statement earlier this week.
On the short way from the castle to the chapel, Philip’s coffin is transported in a specially built Land Rover, which the Duke designed 18 years ago, according to palace officials. The specially adapted hearse was converted into a dark bronze green at his request. The final changes were made in 2019.
The vehicle is flanked by military pallbearers and parade bands that match Philip’s military allegiances.
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His coffin is wrapped in his personal flag and surmounted with his sword, naval cap and a wreath of flowers. The official Order of Service includes hand-picked hymns sung by a reduced choir of four, as well as readings and prayers from both the Dean of Windsor and the Archbishop of Canterbury.
As the coffin is lowered into the royal vault, the “last post” is sounded by the Royal Marines’ horns, followed by “action stations”, a traditional call for a warship also requested by the prince.
Philip was seen as a straightforward, no-nonsense speaker and has also been in the news over the years for making racist and insensitive remarks. For others, his legacy will be linked to his loyalty and service to the crown.
In a 2011 interview, Philip reflected on his own unique role.
“I think I’ve done my part,” he said in an interview with the BBC on the occasion of his 90th birthday.
“Better to get out before your expiration date.”