Despite meticulously planning his own funeral, Prince Philip’s couldn’t account for the scaling back of the event due to the coronavirus.
Even so, hundreds of mourners headed to Windsor Castle to pay their final respects to Prince Philip, ignoring public health advice to stay home due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“I know they told us to stay away but we haven’t,” said Fiona Oldham, a 53-year old admin worker who made the journey from near Blackpool in northwest England with friends. “I’m a real royalist – I absolutely love them.”
Having attended the London funeral of Prince Diana in 1997, Oldham described Philip as a “character” and the “power behind the throne” of Queen Elizabeth II.
Like many who gathered in Windsor, she was keen to see Princes William and Harry together during Saturday’s ceremonial procession and lamented Harry’s move to the United States.
“We miss him … I’m hoping the queen burns his passport,” she said, chuckling. “We feel that he’s ours.”
Inside the castle, the royal family honoured Philip’s life and service to the queen. Military musicians were spread out outside St. George’s Chapel while just four choristers sang inside. The queen sat alone and at a distance from the 30 other attendees, all wearing masks.
Outside the castle walls, Isabelle Wallace, a teacher from France, said she could not stay away.
“I’m a bit naughty. … I think it’s something to witness,” Wallace said.
Not everyone shares Wallace’s royalist sentiments, including her husband. She said, “My husband is Scottish and quite anti-royal – he’s bald and he’s washing his hair today.”
The 50-year old teacher also couldn’t ignore “stories of his racism”, referring to Philip’s previous public remarks, but countered that he had done a lot for the environment and young people.
The Duke of Edinburgh was interred on Saturday in a royal vault close to Henry VIII, the queen’s father King George VI, and other historic English kings. Philip organised the entire ceremony, including hand-picked music, prayers, and a specially modified Land Rover hearse that would carry his coffin.
Kaya Mar, 64, wandered around the busy town carrying a large painting he had made of Philip as a tribute to his life.
“He’s done a lot for this country and he was the glue for the royal family,” Mar said. Having travelled from London, the painter added that Greek-born Philip hadn’t had it easy in the royal establishment as an “outsider”.
Across the world, millions are expected to watch the televised but muted proceedings, with 13.6 million viewing the service in the UK alone.
Many from Commonwealth nations – mostly former British colonies, including some where the queen remains as ceremonial head of state – will take an interest in the proceedings.
Matthew Callender remembers the excitement of seeing the queen and Philip in Barbados in 1977 as a schoolchild. Now head doorman at a Windsor hotel near to the castle, Calendar said many back home would be sad.
“He was loved in Barbados and the Commonwealth because of his cheeky character; he was just a funny man,” he said, holding the door.
Although Barbados, along with Jamaica, recently expressed interest in becoming a republic, Calendar said that the queen and late Duke “will always be loved” despite the politics.