LONDON — The world is accustomed to seeing St. George’s Chapel, on the grounds of Windsor Castle, garlanded with flowers and filled with guests celebrating the nuptials of a royal bride and groom.
Three years ago, it was Meghan Markle and Prince Harry kissing on the steps of the chapel, her in a custom-made Givenchy dress by Claire Waight Keller, and her new husband in his military uniform. A few months later, it was Princess Eugenie’s turn. Dressed in a gown by Peter Pilotto, she married Jack Brooksbank in yet another glittering, celebrity-packed ceremony.
On Saturday, the mood at St. George’s Chapel could not have been more different, with 30 family members attending the socially distanced funeral of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, who died April 9, just two months shy of his 100th birthday.
As Queen Elizabeth’s husband of 73 years, he was entitled to a state funeral but opted instead for a ceremonial one, which he planned with the sort of military precision befitting of a top-ranking naval officer.
Pre-COVID-19, there had been plans for a funeral with 800 guests, but the late duke and his team amended those and downsized the event in line with social distancing measures.
The duke had the forest green Land Rover — which he’d customized himself — carry his coffin to the chapel, picked the readings and the hymns, and planned the military salutes and processions, which took place before and after the service.
During the one-hour funeral, which was conducted by Rev. David Comer, Dean of Windsor, and Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, the duke was remembered for his “unwavering loyalty to the Queen, service to the Nation and Commonwealth, his courage, fortitude and faith.”
During his 99 years, the prince was a patron, president or a member of more than 780 organizations, and was the first president of the U.K. branch of the World Wildlife Fund. He later served as president of WWF International. One of the readings he chose for the service, Ecclesiasticus 43. 11-26, talked about the omnipotence of nature.
The service was filled with traditional Church of England hymns sung by a small choir, as well as musical tributes on bagpipes, bugles and trumpets by members of the armed forces.
The highest-ranking male family members followed the coffin into the church, with female members and minor royals waiting inside. The Queen arrived last in the back seat of her Bentley, accompanied by her lady-in-waiting Lady Susan Hussey. The Queen, who turns 95 on April 21, sat alone during the service, her face covered in a black mask similar to other members of the congregation.
Although the British press has been making much of the tension between Princes William and Harry, following his move to California, his step back from royal duties and accusations of racism in the top ranks of the royal family, the two walked together behind the coffin with their first cousin Peter Phillips.
They also left the chapel in a cluster and were spotted chatting together with the Duchess of Cambridge. Harry’s wife, the Duchess of Sussex, is pregnant with the couple’s second child and had been told by her doctors that it was unsafe to travel.
Prince Philip was buried in the Royal Vault at St. George’s Chapel, and the family returned to the State Apartments at Windsor Castle, where the Queen has been living since last year when the U.K. first locked down. The royal family will be in mourning for two weeks, although the Queen and other royals will continue to carry out their duties.