The British royal family will bid farewell to Prince Philip, husband of Elizabeth II, next Saturday at a private funeral at Windsor Castle, in the presence of Prince Harry, but without his wife Meghan, Buckingham Palace announced on Saturday.
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The funeral will take place at 3:00 p.m. local (2:00 p.m. GMT) in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, some 40 miles west of London, where the Duke of Edinburgh, staunch supporter of the Sovereign for seven decades, passed away “peacefully” Friday morning, at age 99.
Only 30 people, presumably his four children (Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward), his grandchildren and other relatives – will be present, under the rules related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Prince Harry, who lives in California after his shattering withdrawal from the monarchy a year ago will be in attendance. However his wife Meghan, who is pregnant and to whom the doctor has advised not to travel to the UK for the funeral, will remain in the United States, a palace spokesperson said.
The population is invited to observe a minute of silence at 2:00 p.m. GMT (3:00 p.m. London), at the start of the ceremony.
It is held just four days before the birthday of the Queen, who will turn 95 on April 21, and the one she married in 1947, 73 years ago.
The country began a national mourning, which will last until the day after the funeral.
The tributes have started. From the Tower of London on the banks of the Thames, the castles of Edinburgh or Belfast, in the British enclave of Gibraltar, on the ships of the Royal Navy, where he served during World War II, the sound of cannons has sounded Saturday noon.
This salvo, the first in a series of 41 (one per minute), paid tribute to the one who had become the patriarch of the British royal family, after being born Prince of Greece in Corfu.
Silent, the Queen received a visit from her sons, Princes Andrew and Edward, at Windsor Castle on Saturday. “The Queen has been fantastic,” Prince Edward’s wife Sophie, visibly moved, told reporters as she drove out of the castle.
Prince Charles went there on Friday.
Known for not having his tongue in his pocket, Prince Philip was noted for his provocative remarks sometimes tinged with racism or sexism.
But the British also remember his tireless dedication to a monarchy that he helped to modernize and humanize, and his presence, withdrawn, but flawless, alongside the sovereign.
“He represented stability, but also fun, a sense of humor, which we sometimes give the impression of having lost,” Heather Bridge, 65, told AFP near the Tower of London.
Harry and Meghan’s accusation
Prince Philip has participated in more than 22,000 official public engagements since his wife’s accession to the throne in 1952. Since 2009, he has held the record for longevity for a prince consort.
Elizabeth II must now face alone the crises which shake the British royal family, such as the recent criticisms of her grandson Harry and Meghan towards “The Firm”, nickname of the monarchy, accused of racism and lack of support for its wife.
The latter confided in a shock interview with the American star Oprah Winfrey in early March to have had suicidal thoughts.
The couple spoke of the racism of a member of the royal family who allegedly questioned the skin color of their unborn child, specifying off camera that it was neither the queen nor her husband.
Harry, 36, was also said to be “really disappointed” by the lack of support from his father, Prince Charles, who had stopped answering the phone for a while, and had revealed to have moved away from his brother William. He assured that the royal family was “not at all racist”.
On Saturday, the royal family’s Twitter account shared several photos of the Queen with her husband on the occasion of significant moments in their lives. As in 1997, for their 50th wedding anniversary, when the one he nicknamed “Lilibet” had confided: “He was quite simply my strength and my support all these years”.
Their children shared their memories in a pre-recorded program broadcast by the BBC.
His daughter Anne described a father who was “always there”: “If you had any problems you could always go to him knowing that he would listen and try to help you”.
To avoid gatherings that would violate current health rules, the public has been urged not to go to the royal residences, but to sign a book of condolences online.