Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh and husband of Queen Elizabeth II, who died last week at the age of 99, will be buried at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle on Saturday after a memorial service. His departure will be highly unusual – partly because coronavirus restrictions meant the ceremony had to be scaled back, but also because it comes in the wake of a very public broadcast of a family rift.
Pandemic rules in the UK have resulted in the funeral being reduced, with adjustments to include a limit of 30 guests at the service. The queen and selected family members all wear masks and sit six feet apart.
The muted service will reflect not only the reality of living in a pandemic, but Philip’s own wishes for the ceremony, Buckingham Palace said in a statement this week. The prince was deeply involved in organizing the event, which had been in the planning for years.
Prior to the ceremony, which will be broadcast live from nytimes.com and in this briefing from approximately 2:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. London time, Philip’s coffin will be moved from a private chapel in Windsor Castle to the castle’s Inner Hall on Saturday afternoon. where prayers are said.
The ceremony will be rich in symbols and will commemorate Philip’s life of service to the royal family and the nation. The Grenadier Guards, a centuries-old regiment of the British Army that the Duke of Edinburgh served as 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 towards St. George’s Chapel, also on the grounds of Windsor Castle.
Hearse design began 18 years ago and improvements were still being made through 2019. The open rear part was custom-made according to Philip’s specifications, and the original vehicle was repainted, typical for the military, using “dark bronze green” at his request.
Philip served in the Royal Navy and saw fighting during World War II. His naval cap and sword are placed on his coffin before the funeral service. The coffin is wrapped in his personal flag, honoring his Greek heritage and British titles. Various other military groups will be represented during the procession and a team of Royal Marines will carry the coffin to 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 that show their medals and not uniforms, reportedly out of consideration for Prince Harry, who was forced to give up his military titles when he stepped down from his 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 has been much speculation about how the family dynamic would develop, as the funeral will mark the first time Prince Harry has returned to the UK after retiring as a high-ranking king. The service also comes just weeks after he and his wife Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, gave Oprah Winfrey a bombshell interview exposing their problems with the royal family.
The memorial service will last less than an hour and Prince Charles is expected to deliver the eulogy. A four-member choir will sing music selected by Prince Philip. They will be some distance from the seated guests, as per public health guidelines, Buckingham Palace said.
His body is then interred in the royal vault in St. George’s Chapel. Flags in Great Britain that have flown in half-cast royal residences since his death will remain that way until Sunday.