The Prince of Wales last night paid a touching tribute to his father, the Duke of Edinburgh, saying: “My dear Papa was a very special person.”
In an unscripted, televised address, an emotional Prince Charles, 72, said: “As you can imagine, my family and I miss my father enormously. He was a much loved and appreciated figure.”
He said the Duke had “given the most remarkable, devoted service” to the Queen, the Royal Family, his country and the Commonwealth.
The Prince’s tribute, made on behalf of the whole Royal family, came as Buckingham Palace announced the details of the Duke’s funeral, which will take place next Saturday, April 17 at 3pm.
The royal ceremonial funeral, although significantly reduced due to Covid-19 restrictions, was meticulously planned by the Duke himself, and his coffin will be carried in a purpose-built Land Rover he designed for the occasion himself.
It will be a royal funeral like no other, with only 30 mourners, including all of the Duke’s children and grandchildren, who will be expected to wear masks and adhere to social distancing. He left strict instructions that it should be low-key, without a formal lying-in-state.
The entire ceremony will take place within the grounds of Windsor Castle, with no public access, and his coffin will travel on a short journey from the state entrance to the West Steps of St George’s Chapel.
The Prince of Wales is expected to deliver the eulogy at his father's funeral. The event will also mark the Duke of York's first public event since he was forced to step back from royal duties in November 2019, following his disastrous Newsnight interview over his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein, the convicted paedophile.
Buckingham Palace confirmed yesterday that the heavily pregnant Duchess of Sussex, 39, would not attend, on the advice of her physician. Her husband, Prince Harry, is expected to arrive in the UK as early as today.
On Saturday night, Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, offered to stand aside to let an additional member of the Royal family attend the funeral under the current guidelines.
A Number 10 source said: “The PM offered to stand aside to allow more family members to attend.” Other political parties had been told on Friday that the Prime Minister would be the only politician attending the funeral.
Armed police will patrol the streets of Windsor next Saturday as part of a massive security operation to safeguard the funeral and deter crowds.
Thames Valley Police issued a statement on Saturday night to local people and businesses urging them to be “vigilant” and warning that they would see an “increased police presence”.
Prince Charles, speaking from Highgrove, his Gloucestershire estate, recorded the family tribute to his father at 4.30pm yesterday.
A source close to him said the Prince was “deeply sad” about the Duke’s death, adding: “Just because you know a family member is not well does not mean it is any easier when the time comes.”
The Prince said: “I particularly wanted to say that my father, for I suppose the last 70 years, has given the most remarkable, devoted service to the Queen, to my family and to the country, but also to the whole of the Commonwealth.
“As you can imagine, my family and I miss my father enormously. He was a much loved and appreciated figure and apart from anything else, I can imagine, he would be so deeply touched by the number of other people here and elsewhere around the world and the Commonwealth, who also I think, share our loss and our sorrow.
“My dear Papa was a very special person who I think above all else would have been amazed by the reaction and the touching things that have been said about him and from that point of view we are, my family, deeply grateful for all that. It will sustain us in this particular loss and at this particularly sad time. Thank you.”
It came as the Queen’s children rallied around her yesterday, with the Duke of York and the Earl of Wessex both driving to Windsor Castle to comfort their mother.
As the Earl and Countess of Wessex left the castle after a one-hour visit, the Countess wound down her car window to acknowledge the crowds and thank those who had gathered to pay their respects. Asked how the family was coping, she replied, with tears in her eyes: “The Queen has been amazing.”
Sources close to the Prince of Wales spoke yesterday of the special bond he had enjoyed with his father, a relationship that had become closer in recent years, dismissing a long-held view that it was difficult and strained.
Oft-repeated claims of a tricky relationship have tended to focus on their differing experiences at Gordonstoun, the boarding school both attended in Scotland, or the Duke’s one-time comment that while his son was a “romantic”, he was a “pragmatist”.
Few would disagree that both the Prince and the Duke held strong views and opinions and naturally locked horns over certain issues.
Organic farming was one such example, a great passion of the Prince’s which his father dismissed in 2008 as “not quite as useful as it sounds”.
But over the past decade in particular, as they grew older, the pair had become incredibly close. Both had mellowed as individuals, one friend said, and they came to respect each other’s differing points of view.
Since the Duke’s retirement from public life, there had been no disagreement about anything, and in recent weeks, throughout his illness, the pair had been in constant contact.
Tellingly, perhaps, it was Prince Charles who was the only member of the family to visit his father during his recent, month-long hospital stay.
Far from being an orchestrated move for the cameras, or a decision made because of his position in the family, it was a personal, private visit made entirely of his own volition.
In the three weeks between the Duke’s discharge from hospital and his death, his elder son was at Windsor on many occasions.
“It’s a shame that the enduring impression of the Prince and the Duke’s relationship is one that is so much of a caricature and in no way actually reflects the warmth and the mutual respect they had for each other, particularly in later years,” one friend said.
Another source said: “They shared a commonality of view over many things, which is borne out of the tributes being made to the Duke.
“They talk about the same things, the environment, young people and youth opportunity. These are things both of them have shared over decades.”
Sources said there was no way the Prince would have stepped forward to make a tribute on behalf of his family had there been any underlying tensions. “That is not something that happens if you have deep-seated unhappiness towards your father.”
Yesterday gun salutes were fired across the UK, in Gibraltar and at sea in tribute to the Duke. Tributes were also paid across British sport, including the Grand National, where jockeys held a two-minute silence, and in the Premier League, where all players wore black armbands.
Meanwhile, in a reflection delivered from the chapel at Lambeth Palace last night, the Archbishop of Canterbury said the Duke “had the gift of moral imagination” and used his talents at “full throttle, right through his life”.
“He did not see the world just as it was, but he saw what could be, and what should be,” he said.
“He was very well known in the world of design, of engineering, and he used his convening power with enormous confidence.
“To get people together to begin to resolve problems, or to set up organisations that would themselves resolve problems.”
His work would carry on, the Archbishop said, because “he didn’t concentrate it on himself. It wasn’t ‘me, me, me’. It was about the world, about those he served, and in doing that his own role was more and more significant.
“He had a righteous impatience. He would not accept the status quo. If things were not right, he would say so and say so quickly, and clearly, and often bluntly.”
He exemplified “not a life that crushes our individuality, a life that brings a fruitfulness, a purpose, a calling, a sense of fun, a sense of humour”, the Archbishop added.
Separately, it emerged that the Duke is set to be memorialised by a statue near Buckingham Palace after the idea received cross-party backing last night.
Downing Street made clear that it supported the idea of a permanent monument to Prince Philip, who died on Friday aged 99.
Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, also supported the plan for a statue, which is likely to cost millions of pounds and will be funded at least in part by an appeal for donations.
A Labour source said: “The Duke of Edinburgh dedicated his life to the service of our country and the Queen. A statue would seem a fitting tribute for his years of service.”