Queen Elizabeth II on Saturday led Britain in a one-minute’s silence in memory of her late husband, Prince Philip, as she bid him a final farewell at a funeral restricted by coronavirus rules but reflecting his long life of military and public service.
The 94-year-old monarch, dressed in mourning black and a black face mask, sat inside St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, as the Duke of Edinburgh’s coffin arrived on a bespoke Land Rover which he designed himself.
A military gun was fired to signal the start of the solemn tribute, which was observed in shops, railway stations and at sporting events across the country.
The ceremony with just 30 mourners took place entirely behind the castle’s stately walls, with the public urged to stay away because of the pandemic.
But small crowds still gathered in Windsor town centre, and on the sweeping Long Walk to the castle gates, behind barriers patrolled by uniformed police.
Ieuan Jones, 37, travelled to the town from his home in the Welsh capital, Cardiff, and called Philip “a strong man, a true hero (who) did so much for this country and the royal family”.
“It’s really a shame that because of the pandemic we can’t pay a wider tribute to the exceptional man he was,” he told AFP.
At Buckingham Palace, the Queen’s central London home, Cardiff-born chef Santosh Singh laid purple tulips to mark the end of an era.
“I love the royals. I think they’re amazing… It’s sad because in time, all this will change,” the 57-year-old said.
Ceremonies were earlier held in Sweden and Denmark, while birds from the Royal Pigeon Racing Association were released from the National Memorial Arboretum in central England.
The Duke of Edinburgh — described by royals as “the grandfather of the nation” — died on April 9, aged 99, just weeks after being released following a month-long stay in hospital for treatment of a heart condition and an infection.
Britain’s longest-serving royal consort was an almost constant presence at the Queen’s side during her record-breaking reign that began in 1952 as Britain rebuilt from World War II and as its global empire began to unravel.
His death, after 73 years of marriage, has left a “huge void” in her life, the couple’s second son, Prince Andrew, said last weekend.
The Queen released a touching personal photograph of herself with Prince Philip, both looking relaxed and smiling in the Cairngorms National Park in Scotland in 2003.
Images of key moments in the couple’s marriage were also shared on the royal family’s social media accounts, as most newspapers reflected on her deep personal loss.
At the service, the Dean of Windsor, David Conner, will pay tribute to Philip’s “unwavering loyalty” to his wife, who turns 95 next week, the country and the Commonwealth, as well as his “courage, fortitude and faith”.
Government Covid-19 regulations have forced hasty revisions to “Operation Forth Bridge”, the long-rehearsed funeral plans for former Royal Navy commander Philip.
But the stripped-back ceremonial funeral still featured members of the armed services he was associated with, including music from military bands.
More than 730 members of the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, in ceremonial dress and heads bowed, took part, lining the short funeral procession route through the immaculately trimmed grounds of the historic castle.
A minute gun fired and a bell tolled during the sedate, eight-minute journey.