British royal family to gather for funeral of Prince Philip
By William Booth, Karla Adam, Jennifer Hassan, Miriam Berger
Members of Britain's royal family are gathering in Windsor, England, for the funeral of Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II and the longest-serving consort in the history of the monarchy. He died at age 99 on April 9.
Beginning around 3.45pm SA time, Philip's coffin will be transported the short drive from Windsor Castle to St. George's Chapel in a Land Rover he helped design.
Family members will follow on foot, with the queen in the State Bentley at the rear. Princes Harry and William will walk with their cousin Peter Phillips between them, feeding speculation of continuing tensions.
All aspects of the funeral plan - code named "Operation Forth Bridge" - have been modified to comply with coronavirus restrictions. The guest list is limited to 30. Mourners will wear face masks and refrain from singing. The queen may sit alone.
A national moment of silence at 4pm SA time will precede a 50-minute funeral.
Prince Andrew will walk behind his father's coffin, one step behind his brother Prince Charles, the future king.
Scandal-plagued Andrew withdrew from pubic life 18 months ago, after a disastrous interview with the BBC about his relationship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who hung himself in a Manhattan jail while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.
Britain's eight-day mourning period will conclude Saturday, the day of the funeral. Flags, however, will continue to fly at half-mast until Sunday.
The royal family is set to enter another two weeks of mourning. During this time, they will continue to attend functions, often while wearing black mourning bands, the BBC reported.
Britain mourns Prince Philip with traditions upended by pandemic
The palace has requested mourners not gather in public to pay their respects because of the pandemic.
Crowds laying flowers and taking photos outside Buckingham Palace and Windsor Palace are nonetheless expected to continue to gather.
Philip joined the Royal Navy in 1939 at age 18 after attending cadet school. He served with distinction during World War II and saw action in the Pacific and Mediterranean theatres. As a young officer, second in command, he saved his ship, the fast escort HMS Wallace, from a night bomber attack during the Allied invasion of Sicily.
Atop his coffin will be placed the Duke of Edinburgh's naval cap and sword. As his coffin is carried up the steps of St. George's Chapel, a Royal Navy "piping party" will play a nautical call known as the "Still."
Piping is a maritime tradition for passing orders and information via a boatswain's whistle, gripped in the palm of the hand, and tooted. The whistle was deployed because shouted orders might not be heard at sea or during battle.
Buckingham Palace informs that when the prince's coffin reaches the second landing of the chapel, the piping party will pipe the "Side." There will be a nationwide moment of silence.
Then, as the doors to the chapel close, the piping party will pipe the "Carry On" call.
The funeral will take place at St. George's Chapel, a 15th century gothic church that resides within the walls of Windsor Castle. Construction of the chapel began in 1475, under King Edward IV, and was completed half a century later by King Henry VIII. The latter's body rests in a vault in the chapel near his third wife, Jane Seymour.
The chapel has a long history of royal weddings and funerals. In 2018, it was the setting of the marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
Prince Charles's marriage to Camilla Parker Bowles was blessed there in 2005. The most recent royal wedding at the chapel was Princess Eugenie's marriage to Jack Brooksbank.
It has also been the site of many royal funerals. The 1952, funeral of Queen Elizabeth II's father, King George VI, was held at the chapel, as was the 2002 funeral for Princess Margaret, the queen's younger sister.
Philip's funeral is not a state funeral. State funerals in Britain are generally reserved for monarchs, with a few rare exceptions. Prime Minister Winston Churchill was the last to receive a state funeral. That was in 1965.
Saturday's funeral is something called a "ceremonial royal funeral," which has many of the same characteristics as a state funeral but can be more private and doesn't require parliamentary approval.
Princess Diana, the Queen Mother and Margaret Thatcher all had ceremonial rather than state funerals.
But because of the pandemic, this will be a royal funeral like no other. The number of guests inside the St. George's Chapel will be limited to 30, in keeping with strict guidelines.
Queen Elizabeth II and other mourners in the chapel will have to wear masks. The congregation won't be able to sing.
Guests will also have to follow social distancing guidelines, meaning they must stay at least two meters (about 6½ feet) apart from anyone not in their own household or support bubble.
The palace has asked people not to come to Windsor - or indeed any of the royal residences. But some still do.
Since Prince Philip's death April 9, palace officials have regularly been moving flowers and condolence messages left outside of Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace to nearby private gardens.