LONDON – The funeral of Britain’s Prince Philip, who died on Friday at the age of 99, is perhaps like no other major royal event in modern history.
The death of Queen Elizabeth II’s husband is expected to mark the beginning of eight days of national mourning.
Due to coronavirus lockdown restrictions currently in place in the UK, officials are deterring the crowds from paying their respects.
Given his age, detailed plans for what to do after Philip’s death have existed for years – code-named Operation Forth Bridge.
Philip won’t have a state funeral and he won’t be in the state, according to the College of Arms, a body that plays a role in royal funerals. State funerals are usually only granted to ruling sovereigns, but the decision was also made at Philip’s request, it said.
Instead, his body will rest at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle before the burial.
The Queen is considering “modified” burial plans in light of pandemic and government policies, Buckingham Palace said in a statement on Friday.
It reiterated the plea to people “not to gather en masse” and said that “those who wish to express their condolences are asked to do so in the safest possible manner”.
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The virus is still spreading in the UK, which has recently had vaccine success but has suffered one of the world’s worst death tolls per capita.
“Funeral arrangements have been revised in light of the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic,” the College of Arms said in a statement on Friday.
“It is regrettably requested that the public not attempt to attend or attend any of the events that make up the funeral.”
It is unclear when the funeral will take place; The College of Arms said more details would be announced.
The UK law allows funerals to have no more than 30 attendees – a world apart from the grandeur of the Queen Mother’s funeral in 2002, when 200,000 mourners lined the streets.
Together with his wife, Queen Elizabeth II, Philip was vaccinated against Covid-19 in January.
Earlier this year, he was hospitalized for about a month. During this time he suffered from what is known as an “infection” and underwent surgery for an existing heart condition.
He died a little over two months before his 100th birthday.
After Philip’s death on Friday, a framed notice was posted on the railings outside Buckingham Palace and all official flags will be hoisted halfway through the workforce until the funeral itself.
The royal website was replaced with a single black page containing Philip’s photo and details of his death.
The BBC and other broadcasters stopped their television and radio broadcasts to play the UK national anthem “God Save the Queen” following the official announcement of Philip’s death.
The public broadcaster said that all planned programming had been suspended.
Most networks broke into their scheduled broadcast, which was replaced by breaking news coverage, obituaries, historical analysis, and international reactions.
Westminster Abbey in London rang 99 times, once a minute, at 6 p.m. Local time (1:00 p.m. ET) Friday.
In the abbey, Philip married Elizabeth in November 1947.
Gun salutes were expected at 7am on Saturday morning from locations across the UK, including the Tower of London, as well as all deployed British Navy ships.
The British cabinet met at 5 p.m. Local time (noon ET) to pay his respects. And the House of Commons will return to a special session marking his life on Monday, the day before his Easter break.
British political parties have also temporarily suspended campaigning for next month’s local and national elections.
As the world reacted to the news, members of the public began laying flowers in front of Buckingham Palace and the entrance to Windsor Castle, where Philip died on Friday morning.
This prompted the government to ask to stop because of Covid-19.
“While this is an extremely difficult time for many, we urge the public not to gather in royal residences and continue to follow public health advice, particularly to avoid large group meetings and minimize travel,” said one Cabinet spokesman.
“We support the royal household in ensuring that no floral honors are currently displayed in the Royal Residences.”
The royal family is asking people to donate to charity rather than placing flowers in royal residences, Buckingham Palace said.
The family too opened an online condolence book.
It was said that a selection of the messages would be passed on to the Royal Family and could be kept “for posterity” in the Royal Archives, a selection of unique documents kept in the Round Tower of Windsor Castle relating to 250 years of royal history .