UK churches celebrate the 'great life' of Prince Philip
The life of Prince Philip was celebrated at church services across Britain yesterday, with the Archbishop of Canterbury praying for those who found that the death of Queen Elizabeth’s husband had left a “very great gap” in their lives.
As part of eight days of national mourning, people gathered at royal palaces to leave flowers, while religious and political leaders expressed support for the 94-year-old queen, the world’s oldest and longest-reigning monarch.
At Canterbury Cathedral, Edward Elgar’s stirring Nimrod was played, the piece of music that accompanies many British funerals and memorial services and is played annually at the Cenotaph in London to mark the National Service of Remembrance.
Justin Welby, leader of the global Anglican Communion, said the fact the prince had lived to within two months of his 100th birthday did not soften the blow for those who had loved him.
“Loss is loss,” he said. “We may pray and offer love for all who find that a great life leaves a very great gap.”
Philip, who was officially known as the Duke of Edinburgh, died at Windsor Castle on Friday. He was 99.
A Greek prince, Philip married Elizabeth in 1947, five years before she ascended to the throne. He helped the monarchy modernize in the post-World War II period and supported the queen through numerous crises over the years.
Buckingham Palace said on Saturday the funeral would be held on Saturday April 17, with long-established plans redrawn and scaled down because of COVID-19 restrictions.
The prince will be given a ceremonial royal funeral rather than a state funeral. There will be no public processions, and it will be held entirely within the grounds of Windsor Castle and limited to 30 mourners.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson will not attend.
John Major, who was British prime minister from 1990 to 1997, said he hoped the queen would be given the time she needs to grieve after she lost her husband of 73 years.
He said being the head of state was a “very lonely position in many ways,” and the queen would feel the loss of a man she had relied on for decades.
“I know she is the monarch, I know she has responsibilities, but she has earned the right to have a period of privacy in which to grieve with her family,” he told the BBC.
Union flags will fly at half-mast at royal residences and government buildings until the day after the funeral. The royal family is observing two weeks of mourning.
The queen has continued to carry out official duties by videolink during coronavirus lockdowns, and visited an Air Force memorial on the last day of March.
Earlier this year, Philip spent four weeks in hospital, where he was treated for an infection and had a heart procedure.
Major, who was guardian to Princes William and Harry after their mother Diana died, said he also hoped the funeral would help reunite the family that was rocked last month by an interview given by Harry and his wife Meghan to Oprah Winfrey.
During the interview, Meghan said that her pleas for help while she felt suicidal were ignored and that an unnamed member of the family had asked how dark their unborn child’s skin might be.
Buckingham Palace said Harry will return from the United States, where the couple now live, to attend the funeral while Meghan, who is pregnant with their second child, will not, on her doctor’s advice.
“The friction that we are told has arisen is a friction better ended as speedily as possible,” Major said.
The leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, also told Times Radio he hoped the private nature of the funeral would allow the family to come together and rebuild ties.