On the afternoon of Saturday 17th April, 2021, the life of HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, was celebrated in a funeral service at St George’s Chapel.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, only 30 attendees were present at the service, which was a scaled back yet poignant moment of reflection.
The Duke of Edinburgh’s life and personal interests were heavily reflected throughout the day. Various elements of the service had been chosen by the late Prince Philip himself, including the music played at Windsor Castle prior to the service, as well as the hymns and readings.
The Duke’s lead-lined coffin – thought to weigh 700lb – was transported to the Chapel on a special Land Rover which he designed. The coffin was draped in Prince Philip’s standard, featuring his coat of arms, an arrangement of white lilies and roses selected by The Queen, a note from his wife, his naval cap, and the sword gifted by his father-in-law, King George VI, to mark Philip’s marriage to the-then Princess Elizabeth.
Despite not being a state funeral, the military played an important role, with the band of the Grenadier Guards performing hymns as Philip’s coffin left Windsor Castle. The pallbearers were chosen from various military regiments with connections to the late Duke, including the Grenadier Guards and the Royal Marines.
In a particularly touching gesture marking his love of carriage driving, the Duke’s carriage and fell ponies were brought to Windsor Castle to watch their master leave for the last time; Philip’s gloves, whip and hat were placed on the seat of the carriage where he once sat.
Male members of the Royal Family, as well as The Princess Royal, walked behind the coffin as part of the funeral procession. The Queen followed in the State Bentley; this marks a departure from tradition as the Sovereign generally leads a funeral procession. The remaining attendees waited outside the Chapel for Her Majesty, and then took their seats inside, all according to social distancing guidelines.
Upon arrival at St George’s Chapel, the coffin was brought onto the steps and the nation paused to observe a minute of silence.
Her Majesty was accompanied to the church by a lady-in-waiting, who did not attend the service itself (numbers were limited to just 30 people; Prime Minister Boris Johnson did not attend to allow more space for family).
Inside St George’s Chapel, Queen Elizabeth II was seated by herself, as her family members sat in a socially-distanced fashion in their own household bubbles.
All of The Queen and the Duke’s children and grandchildren attended, including Lady Louise Windsor and Viscount Severn, who accompanied their parents, The Earl and Countess of Wessex. The Duke of Sussex was also present, having returned from Los Angeles to be with his family; the pregnant Duchess of Sussex was unable to travel due to medical advice. None of the great-grandchildren were present due to their young ages.
The Queen’s cousins, The Dukes of Gloucester and Kent and Princess Alexandra were there, as well as Princess Margaret’s children, The Earl of Snowdon and Lady Sarah Chatto.
Several members of the family, including The Prince of Wales and Princess Anne, were notably emotional during the service.
As a result of the COVID-19 restrictions, no hymns were sung by the congregation. A small choir composed of 4 people instead performed the hymns and psalms. There was no eulogy or readings given by members of the family; the service was conducted by The Dean of Windsor, the Right Reverend David Connor, and Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury. The service itself was simple, making little reference to the Duke’s astonishing achievements during his lifetime.
Behind the presiding ministers, Philip’s numerous insignias were on display.
Towards the end of the service, a Scottish piper played a lament, before the Last Post was performed; this is traditionally heard at the funerals of military veterans. The coffin was then lowered into the royal vault, where it will remain until The Queen passes; the couple will join The Queen’s father, mother and sister in the George VI chapel where their remains will rest.
Following the service, Her Majesty returned to Windsor Castle by car, while the rest of the family walked, a short journey they have made on many, happier occasions, like Easter Mattins.
We offer our deepest condolences to The Queen and her family on this sad day.