Carefully laid out plans for the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral, reviewed over many years, have been abandoned due to the coronavirus pandemic, and public elements could not be carried out.
The queen and her senior aides now have to bid a proper goodbye to the longest-serving consort in British history given current restrictions. The plans will be put into motion once they have been personally approved by the Queen.
It will be an important company. Organizers are said to be “desperately anxious” not to organize anything that will attract mass gatherings. The police are faced with the difficult and delicate task of ensuring that crowds do not gather to pay their last respects to the duke.
All older members of the royal family are regularly asked to update their funeral plans. The Duke revised his codename Forth Bridge, many times during his long life. “One thing he didn’t want was for it to be like the funeral of his uncle, Lord Mountbatten. [in 1979]. I didn’t want that ostentation, ”said a source. Of that, given all the current circumstances, he is sure.
According to pre-Covid plans for the next few days, thousands of people were expected to line the processional route in London, as his coffin was carried in a carriage drawn by sailors through the capital on the day of his funeral.
From London, the coffin must have traveled to Windsor by Range Rover, with the procession making their way along a processional route in Windsor to the castle, and St George’s Chapel for the funeral. The routes were to be lined by hundreds of members of the armed forces, representatives of the many organizations of which the duke had sponsored and sympathizers.
Traditionally, a royal ceremonial funeral involved a horse-drawn procession. But, in keeping with the duke’s military career and his strong ties to the armed forces, the horses had to be replaced by service personnel. For the Duke, who served in the Royal Navy and was mentioned in dispatches during World War II, his coffin must have been pulled by a naval arms carriage, as was that of Queen Victoria, with 80 classifications up front and 40 rankings behind.
Now there is probably no procession in London or Windsor.
Up to 800 mourners, including world leaders, Commonwealth representatives and high-level politicians, would have been among those expected to attend the St. George’s Chapel funeral. This will now not be possible.
Current funeral rules in England mean a maximum of 30 people can attend, who must socially distance themselves unless they live together or share a bubble of support. It means that the Queen may have to limit the number of members of her extended family who can attend. She and others may also need to cover their faces and keep 2 meters away.
Tradition suggested that before the funeral his coffin would have initially rested in the Royal Chapel of St James’s Palace in London, where family and domestic staff could hold a private vigil and private prayers could be said. The night before her funeral, the coffin was expected to have been moved to the nearby Queen’s Chapel. It is not yet known whether this is still the case.
Philip’s no-nonsense and uncomplicated approach to life was reflected in his refusal to have a lie in the state at Westminster Hall, as it took place for the Queen Mother’s funeral. Under royal protocol, he would have been entitled, as befits his position as a high-ranking member of the royal family and prince consort, although he never used that official title. But he has long since rejected the honor of lying in the state, where members of the public pay their respects and visit the coffin, when asked about their own funeral plans. His decision relieves the government of a potential problem, at least.
Now preparations are expected to focus on Windsor Castle, without the military procession in London or the processions through Windsor. The funeral service itself is likely to take place in the Chapel of St. George, and is expected to be televised.
There will likely be, as long planned, a private burial in the royal vault below the chapel, attended by the queen and older members of the family. Some military involvement is still possible to honor the Duke, although it is limited to the grounds of Windsor Castle and complies with Covid-19 restrictions.
Details of the exact final funeral arrangements, with the UK making progress on easing restrictions, will be announced in the near future.
A memorial service, not something the duke wanted, could be held at a later date after the nation has grappled with the worst public health crisis in a generation.
In general charge of the arrangements is Lord Chamberlain, Baron Parker de Minsmere, a former head of MI5, who took office in early April. He is the highest ranking official in the royal house and has overall responsibility for the duke’s funeral. Sir Edward Young, the Queen’s Private Secretary and Senior Advisor, will be available to the Queen during the challenging days ahead.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism