Windsor, England (CNN) – Grief and loss have a way of bringing families together, and that seemed to be the case yesterday.
For the first time in 73 years, the Queen is without her soulmate, her most trusted advisor, who was there from the start. The Queen often turned to her husband for professional advice and almost always followed his advice. Behind the scenes, he took the lead in many aspects of family life. Now the clan is embarking on a new path after retiring their beloved patriarch.
What we are experiencing is a monarchy that adapts and evolves in real time. It is a difficult time for the UK, which frankly is not so united at the moment. In Scotland, calls for independence have not gone away, episodes of violent unrest have broken out in parts of Northern Ireland in recent weeks, and England is facing an identity crisis following Brexit.
Ceremonial departures can help stabilize the ship.
The Queen will no doubt carry on as she always has because of her eternal commitment to duty and service. She will continue to define the monarchy as a symbol of unity and continuity. But we also see high-ranking members of the royal family gathering around them in Philip’s absence.
That was certainly the case last week. Despite some friction in various family relationships, her children, and later grandchildren, came forward to convey how she was getting on and to share good memories of the Duke and his work. Due to the Queen’s extraordinary reign, 72-year-old Charles is the longest-serving heir in the world. He was born at the age of three when the then Princess Elizabeth ascended the throne. His position as successor has never been so important. He now takes on the role of the queen’s closest confidante, a truly waiting king.
He will help cope with situations as he did along with his eldest William when Harry and his wife Meghan revealed that they wanted to step down from their royal duties.
The deep gap between the brothers has been the subject of fierce speculation since the Sussexes sat down with Oprah Winfrey last month. The couple are deeply hurt. For Harry’s part, he feels he has no choice but to part with Britain, its tabloids, and the “unsupportive” monarchy in order to protect his wife. William, meanwhile, feels abandoned by his brother, who should be by his side in the future monarchy. Before the funeral, much was done about the brothers following Philip’s coffin on foot but being separated from their cousin, Peter Phillips. In the end, Phillips was between them, but of course they were one step behind them with their cousin. And then there was the moment when Harry joined William and his wife Catherine and talked as they walked back to Windsor Castle after the service.
It was extremely important to see the brothers reunite despite the current differences. Harry doesn’t need to return to his royal role, but they need to fix their relationship and William needs someone to confide in. That person has to be Harry – the only person William really understands. Catherine may be William’s wife, but Harry went through tough times with his brother. He understands the royal house and the duties associated with it.
CNN royal historian Kate Williams, who joined us in Windsor, recalled that Harry’s life was a service and likely would have been moved by the numerous military references peppered throughout the funeral service.
The service would have touched the Duke of Sussex because of his two business trips to Afghanistan and “everything he did for veterans at the Invictus Games. He always wanted to be on duty,” Williams said. She added that Harry had hoped to create some sort of flexi-royal function – a system that European kings use – that might be explored in the future. Regardless, Williams said, “Harry’s support is so important to the monarchy and so needed.”
The challenge is how the clan is preparing for the next generation of monarchy. The queen remains incredibly popular and the system is safe as long as she is on the throne. You have to find a way that Charles’s reign can be valued equally, and that requires the support of his two sons.
A queen in mourning
The royal family strictly adhered to UK Covid-19 regulations during the funeral. As such, the queen sat alone during the service. All guests who do not belong to the same household had to sit about 2 meters apart. The Queen and the late Prince Philip had been in a bubble with some members of their household for a year, and so the monarch was not eligible to associate with any other member of their family.
As Meghan honored Philip from afar
Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, who is pregnant with the couple’s second child, wanted to attend the Saturday service but her doctor advised against traveling to England. However, to show their respect, she sent a wreath of local flowers and a handwritten note from the couple. A spokeswoman for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex said Saturday that she was watching from home.
The British Prime Minister was unable to attend the funeral. He did this instead.
Boris Johnson watched the funeral from his Checkers country home, a Downing Street spokesman confirmed on Saturday. Due to the pandemic, he was unable to attend the service – as would have been expected under normal circumstances. The number of mourners in attendance was limited to just 30 people in order to comply with current state coronavirus restrictions. Instead of his presence, he was silent for a minute as the service began on the door of his property in memory of the Duke and posted a photo of the tribute of the moment on Twitter.
IN PICTURES: PHILIP’S FAREWELL
Prince Philip was buried in an intimate service in St. George’s Chapel, in the grounds of Windsor Castle. Service was a relatively subdued affair by royal standards. The ceremony was limited to 30 people in accordance with current English coronavirus restrictions.
It was preceded by a solemn procession, attended by members of his family and some of his closest aides walking behind the coffin, while the service was littered with references to the Duke’s strong relationship with the military.
More pictures from the poignant funeral can be found here.
“We remember that day before you, when Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, thanked you – for his determined faith and loyalty, for his high sense of duty and integrity, for his life in the service of the nation and the Commonwealth and for his courage and inspiration of his leadership. “
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby
The Archbishop of Canterbury personalized a prayer for the Duke of Edinburgh, recognizing his continuing duty and service to the monarchy and beyond.