His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral ceremony was on Saturday 17th April 2021 at 3pm, and took place in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor.
The Prince himself had carefully planned his own funeral. This included readings, hymns and vehicles. He was instrumental in designing the Land Rover hearse that carried his coffin; because he loved the vehicles, and also as a nod to his wife, Her Majesty The Queen’s time as a mechanic during World War II (the then Princess Elizabeth served in the ATS).
The Prince also had his own carriage in the procession, led by his two beloved horses, Balmoral Nevis and Notlaw Storm. He had taken up the sport of carriage driving in his fifties; something he shared with some of his grandchildren, and he later went on to take his little great-grandchildren out for carriage rides, too. On Saturday, his own hat and whip were poignantly on the empty carriage seat.
His Royal Highness had not wanted a lavish ceremony. Although current covid restrictions meant that only thirty could attend, this would not have troubled him too greatly, I believe. What was most striking for me was seeing our Queen sitting all alone, her head bowed, during the service. She looked vulnerable; something we are not used to glimpsing in our ruler. However, so many people have had to make drastic and painful concessions for their loved-ones’ funerals over this last year, that the Royal Family’s plight would resonate with much of the population.
The funeral itself was modest, considering the Duke’s many titles, honours, stations and involvements. There was no personal eulogy, and in fact no mention of family at all except for the word ‘husband’. Not even father, grandfather or great-grandfather. Although being the consort of our Sovereign for over seventy-three years is a significant and most notable public role of his ninety-nine years.
The ceremony was personal in not being personal. I’m sure the Royal Family did and will continue to go on sharing their memories and stories of Philip together behind closed doors. I bet as soon as they got back to The Palace after the ceremony, they poured big drinks and began their own “Do you remember that time when?”
The Queen once said that Philip did not take easily to compliments. He would not have wanted the world listening in to his life history and all that, ready to be scrutinised and picked apart, as these things inevitably are when one is a public figure. So the simple naming of some of the titles he held, with no mention of some of his impressive achievements; such as his work with the World Wide Fund for Nature, and of course the Duke of Edinburgh Award, was apt. Such lack of fanfare and waffle was very much ‘the Duke’.
For the occasion, The Queen chose to wear her Richmond brooch. This had belonged to her grandmother, Queen Mary, who was gifted it as a wedding present in 1893. Queen Mary also wore it to her honeymoon at Osborne House. Our Queen must have chosen it for the romantic echoes it holds. The other personal touches came from the flowers on the coffin; white roses, lilies and freesias, as well as white wax flowers, sweet peas and jasmine. Her Majesty The Queen individually selected these blooms; a last message of love to her ‘strength and stay’. Also on the coffin was his personal standard, his naval cap, and his sword, which had been presented to him by his Father-in-Law, King George VI.
Prince Philip’s insignia from Denmark and Greece was placed on the altar in the chapel, as a nod to his heritage. It included some of his medals and decorations, his RAF wings and his Field Marshal’s baton. There were in fact nine cushions with insignia placed around the alter, that Philip had selected. As he held a total of 61 decorations, there simply wasn’t space to have them all displayed, so he chose the ones that meant the most to him. But alongside those was a laurel wreath from family, an ancient symbol of a successful commander, reflecting past victories.
Whatever your thoughts and feelings on The Royal Family as an institution, and on Prince Philip himself as a person, I’m sure we can agree that the man accomplished a lot and devoted much of his life to serving this country and commonwealth, and supporting his wife in her role as Queen. He lived to be ninety-nine years of age, and he chose to leave hospital in order to die peacefully at home, wishing to be with his family, feel the sun on his face, and eat an ice-cream cone. Let’s think about our own end of life care and wishes, discuss them with our loved-ones, and consider what sort of send-off we would want for ourselves. Because, prince or pauper, we can all have some say in our final farewell.
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