13 million in the UK tune in for live TV coverage of Prince Philip’s funeral

Caroline Davies
·3-min read
<span>Photograph: WPA/Getty</span>
Photograph: WPA/Getty

More than 13 million people in the UK watched live television coverage of the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral which saw a Queen in mourning, masked and sitting alone, during her first public appearance since the death of her husband of 73 years.

The BBC’s coverage of the scaled-back military procession and St George’s chapel service at Windsor Castle attracted 11 million viewers at its peak, with ITV seeing 2.1 million and Sky about 450,000. The Queen Mother’s 2002 funeral was watched by 10.4 million, while that of Diana, Princess of Wales, had a record 32 million in 1997.

The service for Prince Philip incorporated impressive military spectacle despite Covid-19 restrictions, which limited mourners to 30, with no wake.

Nothing has been heard from the monarch since Philip’s death. The only words made public were on her handwritten card accompanying her wreath of white lilies, freesias, roses, jasmine and sweet peas. It read simply: “In loving memory”. Her signature was obscured by the flowers, but some reports said she had signed it “Lilibet”, the name she was known as a child by her family, and which she used on her flowers at her mother’s funeral.

Having always walked two steps behind his wife on official engagements, Saturday’s funeral saw the monarch follow her husband as she joined the rear of the procession in the state Bentley. Her vehicle paused briefly at the side of his customised Land Rover hearse and she was able to look upon the duke’s coffin in place, draped in his personal standard, and surmounted by his naval cap and sword.

Related: The Queen alone: how Prince Philip’s death will change the monarchy

The funeral yielded signs of growing rapprochement within the divided royal family. While the dukes of Cambridge and Sussex, whose rift is well documented, marched behind the coffin separated by their cousin, Peter Phillips, and were divided by an aisle inside the chapel, they were seen chatting afterwards, along with the Duchess of Cambridge.

The Duke of Cambridge, Peter Phillips and the Duke of Sussex walk behind the Land Rover hearse.
The Duke of Cambridge, Peter Phillips and the Duke of Sussex walk behind the Land Rover hearse. Photograph: WPA/Getty Images

Harry is understood to have been isolating at Frogmore Cottage, his former marital home at Windsor, since arriving from California a week ago. With his wife Meghan heavily pregnant with their second child, it is thought he is eager to return to the US as quickly as possible.

But it is the first time in more than a year that he has seen his family. After the Sussexes’ incendiary interview with Oprah Winfrey, there is undoubtedly much to discuss, not least between Harry and his father, Prince Charles.

While the period of national mourning for the duke, who died on 9 April aged 99, has now ended, the two-week period of royal mourning his family are observing still remains. During it, the Queen will mark her 95th birthday on Wednesday at Windsor Castle, where she and Philip had been shielding during the pandemic.

Prior to the funeral, the BBC had received 110,000 complaints about its coverage of Philip’s death, after it cleared its schedules and put mirrored coverage on BBC One, BBC Two and the news channel. The complaints were the highest number ever published in the UK about television programming.