Archbishop of Canterbury: Royal Family can't say goodbye in the way they hoped but Britons unite in grief

Phoebe Southworth
·2-min read
The Most Rev Justin Welby arrives at Windsor Castle for the funeral - Hannah McKay /Reuters
The Most Rev Justin Welby arrives at Windsor Castle for the funeral - Hannah McKay /Reuters

The Royals have not been able to "say goodbye in the way they'd hope or planned" like millions this year, the Archbishop of Canterbury has lamented.

The Most Rev Justin Welby, who will deliver a blessing at the Duke of Edinburgh's funeral, said members of the Royal Family were united in grief with Britons who had lost their loved-ones during the pandemic.

He praised the household for sticking to the Covid-19 social restrictions and said this means it "represents all funerals" in the last year - which have been characterised by the "burden" of not being able to have ideal send-offs for relatives.

"My first thought when I heard the news was for the family," he said.

"This is like every other funeral and distinct from every other funeral. It's like every other funeral because the family is the family is the family. But it's distinct because they're having to bear this loss and sorrow in the glare of goodness knows how many people watching them around the world.

"The Royal Family has behaved superbly, they've just kept to the rules. That means that they're going through what between six and eight million other people have gone through in this country alone over the last year - not really being able to say goodbye in the way they'd hoped or planned. And that's an extra burden.

"But as people around the world watch them tomorrow, I think they can identify with this and feel that here is a funeral that represents all funerals in a wonderful way."

The Archbishop commended the Queen for her poise and stoicism in the face of struggle.

"I never fail to be admiring of the way Her Majesty behaves. It's been one of the greatest privileges of this role to get to know her a little bit.

"She will be sitting on her own and masked. It would never cross her mind to complain about that. She will reflect and show her normal dignity and composure.

"People will make all kinds of judgements looking at her about what she's thinking. We can't do that at any funeral. You never know what people are thinking.

"All we know is that this is the Queen who has served us so extraordinarily for nearly 70 years, saying goodbye to the man who in her words has been her strength and stay for all those years."

Reflecting on the Duke's life, the Archbishop said he was always struck by his irrepressible energy.

"We all know someone who, when they come into a room, somehow they bring a bit of umph into the room," he said.

"In my experience, the Duke was one of those people. He was totally incapable of being boring."