Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh and husband of Queen Elizabeth II who died last week at age 99, will be laid to rest on Saturday after a funeral service at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle. His send-off will be highly unusual — in part because coronavirus restrictions meant the ceremony had to be scaled back, but also because it comes just after a very public airing of a family rift.
Pandemic rules in Britain have meant that the funeral will be pared down, with adjustments that include a limit of 30 guests at the church service. The queen and select family members will all be wearing masks and seated six feet apart.
The subdued service will reflect not only the reality of life in a pandemic, but also Philip’s own wishes for the ceremony, Buckingham Palace said in a statement this week. The prince was deeply involved in the organization of the event, which was years in the planning.
Before the ceremony — which will be live-streamed from nytimes.com and in this briefing from about 2:30-4 p.m. London time — Philip’s coffin will be moved on Saturday afternoon from a private chapel in Windsor Castle to the castle’s Inner Hall, where prayers will be said.
The ceremony will be rich with symbolism and nods to Philip’s life of service to the royal family and to the nation. The Grenadier Guards, a centuries-old regiment of the British Army, which the Duke of Edinburgh served as a colonel for more than four decades, will place his coffin on a hearse that the prince helped design. The vehicle, a modified Land Rover Defender, will then lead a small procession toward St. George’s Chapel, also on the grounds of Windsor Castle.
The process of designing the hearse began 18 years ago, and tweaks were still being made up until 2019. The open-top rear section was custom-made to Philip’s specifications, and the original vehicle was repainted “dark bronze green,” typical of military use, at his request.
Philip served in the Royal Navy, seeing combat during World War II, and his naval cap and sword will be placed on his coffin before the funeral service. The coffin will be draped in his personal flag, which pays tribute to his Greek heritage and his British titles. A variety of other military groups will be represented during the procession, and a team of Royal Marines will carry the coffin into St. George’s Chapel.
Members of the royal family — including Philip’s four children, Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward, and some of his grandchildren, including William and Harry — will walk behind the coffin as it is driven to the chapel. Those with honorary military titles are expected to wear suits displaying their medals rather than uniforms, reportedly in deference to Prince Harry, who was forced to give up his military titles when he stepped away from royal duties.
The queen will arrive at the chapel by car. Before the service begins, there will be a national minute of silence at 3 p.m. local time.
There was much speculation about how the family dynamic would play out, as the funeral will be the first time that Prince Harry has returned to Britain since stepping down as a senior royal. The service also comes just weeks after he and his wife, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, gave a bombshell interview to Oprah Winfrey in which they laid bare their problems with the royal family.
The funeral service will last less than an hour, and Prince Charles is expected to deliver the eulogy. A choir of four will sing music chosen by Prince Philip. They will be located some distance from the seated guests, in line with public health guidelines, Buckingham Palace said.
His body will then be interred in the royal vault in St George’s Chapel. Flags in Britain that have flown at half-staff at royal residences since his death will remain that way until Sunday.
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