WINDSOR, England (AP) — With military bands and a royal procession, Prince Philip was being laid to rest Saturday in a funeral ceremony that honored his lifetime of service to the country, the crown and his wife, Queen Elizabeth II. The widowed British monarch, setting an example amid the coronavirus pandemic, sat alone at the ceremony.
Philip, who died April 9 two months shy of his 100th birthday, was being honored at Windsor Castle in a service that was steeped in military and royal tradition — but also was pared down and infused with his own personality.
The entire procession and funeral took place out of public view within the grounds of the castle, a 950-year-old royal residence 20 miles (30 kilometers) west of London, but was shown live on television.
Coronavirus restrictions meant that instead of the 800 mourners expected in the longstanding plans for Philip’s funeral, only 30 people were allowed inside the castle’s St. George’s Chapel, including the queen, her four children and her eight grandchildren.
Following strict social distancing rules during the pandemic, the queen set an example even in grief, sitting apart from family members arrayed around the church. Other royals who are in family bubbles sat together.
People across Britain observed one minute of silence in honor of Philip just before his royal ceremonial funeral got under way.
The service began with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby entering the chapel ahead of the coffin, followed by Philip’s children and three of his eight grandchildren, as a four-member choir sang “I am the resurrection and the life.”
The service followed a funeral procession, in which Philip’s coffin traveled to the chapel on a specially adapted Land Rover designed by Philip himself for the eight-minute journey to St. George’s Chapel. Philip’s coffin was draped in his personal standard, and topped with his Royal Navy cap and sword and a wreath of flowers.
Senior military commanders lined up in front of the vehicle. The children of Philip and the queen — heir to the throne Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward — walked behind the hearse, while the 94-year-old queen traveled to the chapel in a Bentley car.
Grandsons Prince William and Prince Harry also walked behind the coffin, although not side by side. The brothers, whose relationship has been strained amid Harry’s decision to quit royal duties and move to California, flanked their cousin Peter Phillips, the son of Princess Anne.
For many viewers, the moment stirred memories of the image of William and Harry at 15 and 12, walking behind their mother Princess Diana’s coffin in 1997, accompanied by their grandfather Philip, in a London ceremony televised around the world.
Earlier, under soft spring sunshine, some locals stopped outside the castle to leave flowers on Saturday, but people largely heeded requests by police and the palace not to gather because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The funeral reflected Philip’s military ties, both as a ceremonial commander of many units and as a veteran of war. More than 700 military personnel took part, including army bands, Royal Marine buglers and an honor guard drawn from across the armed forces.
Inside the Gothic chapel, the setting for centuries of royal weddings and funerals, the service was simple and somber. There was no sermon, at Philip’s request, and no family eulogies or readings, in keeping with royal tradition. But Dean of Windsor David Conner said the country has been enriched by Philip’s “unwavering loyalty to our queen, by his service to the nation and the Commonwealth, by his courage, fortitude and faith.”
Philip spent almost 14 years in the Royal Navy and saw action in the Mediterranean Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific during World War II. Several elements of his funeral had a maritime theme, including the hymn “Eternal Father, Strong to Save,” which is associated with seafarers and asks God: “O hear us when we cry to thee/For those in peril on the sea.”
As Philip’s coffin is lowered into the Royal Vault, Royal Marine buglers will sound “Action Stations,” an alarm that alerts sailors to prepare for battle — a personal request from Philip.
Former Bishop of London Richard Chartres, who knew Philip well, said the prince was a man of faith, but liked things kept succinct.
“He was at home with broad church, high church and low church, but what he really liked was short church,” Chartres told the BBC. “I always remember preaching on occasions which he was principal actor that the instruction would always come down: ‘No more than four minutes.’”
Along with Philip’s children and grandchildren, the 30 funeral guests include other senior royals and several of his German relatives. Philip was born a prince of Greece and Denmark and, like the queen, is related to a thicket of European royal families.
Mourners wore masks and observed social distancing inside the chapel and did not join in when a four-person choir sang hymns.
Ahead of the funeral, Buckingham Palace released a photo of the queen and Philip, smiling and relaxing on blankets in the grass in the Scottish Highlands in 2003. The palace said the casual photo was a favorite of the queen.
For decades, Philip was a fixture of British life, renowned for his founding of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards youth program and for a blunt-spoken manner that at times included downright offensive remarks. He lived in his wife’s shadow, but his death has sparked a reflection about his role, and new appreciation from many in Britain.
“He was a character, an absolute character,” said Jenny Jeeves as she looked at the floral tributes in Windsor. “He was fun, he was funny. Yes, he made quite a few gaffes, but it depends which way you took it really. Just a wonderful husband, father, and grandfather, and a good example to all of us.”
Jill Lawless reported from London.
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