The Duke of Edinburgh’s final farewell will be a royal funeral like no other, with the Queen and her family following guidelines and wearing face masks and socially distancing as they gather to pay tribute.
Buckingham Palace announced that Philip’s ceremonial royal funeral will take place on April 17 in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, and a national minute’s silence will be observed as it begins at 3pm.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will not attend the funeral to allow for the attendance of as many family members as possible during coronavirus restrictions.
A No 10 spokesperson said: “As a result of the coronavirus regulations, only 30 people can attend the funeral of HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
“The Prime Minister has throughout wanted to act in accordance with what is best for the Royal household, and so to allow for as many family members as possible will not be attending the funeral on Saturday.”
The duke’s long-standing close aide, his private secretary Brigadier Archie Miller Bakewell, will be one of the few, and possibly only, non-royals invited to attend the historic occasion inside St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle on Saturday.
Brigadier Miller Bakewell had been the duke’s right hand man for 11 years, taking on the role in 2010.
The duke’s coffin currently lies at rest in the private chapel of Windsor Castle. There will be no lying in state for Philip in keeping with his wishes.
On the morning of the funeral, the duke’s coffin will be transported from the castle to the chapel in a specially modified Land Rover he helped to design, and followed by the Prince of Wales and senior royals on foot, a senior Palace official said.
It is a fitting tribute to Philip – the nation’s longest consort – who was known for his practical skills and his enduring interest in design and engineering.
The purpose-built Land Rover was specially modified to carry a coffin – in a project that the duke helped with many years ago.
Philip’s coffin will be draped with his personal standard, and decorated with a wreath of flowers and his Naval cap and sword.
The coffin will be flanked by pallbearers drawn from the duke’s special relationships – the Royal Marines, regiments, corps and air stations.
The procession from the state entrance to the west steps of St George’s Chapel will take eight minutes.
The Queen has approved the Prime Minister’s recommendation of national mourning, which began on April 9 and runs until and including the day of the funeral.
Only 30 people – expected to be the Duke’s children, grandchildren and other close family – will attend as guests, but the Duchess of Sussex has been advised by her physician not to travel to the UK for the funeral, a Palace spokesman said.
It is understood Meghan made every effort to be able to travel with Harry, who will be among the mourners, but has not received the medical clearance to board a plane.
The Duke of Sussex will make the journey from the couple’s home in California and will be following Covid-19 protocols for the trip, as well as during his visit.
The duke and duchess posted a tribute to Philip on the website of their foundation Archewell on Friday.
It reads simply: “In loving memory of His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh 1921-2021
“Thank you for your service… You will be greatly missed.”
It also be the first time he has seen his family in person since his and Meghan’s bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey.
Originally 800 people would have been due to attend Prince Philip’s funeral, but the duke wanted a low key affair.
A palace spokesman said the Royal Family hoped the coming days would be seen as a chance to celebrate the duke’s “remarkable life”.
“While this is naturally a time of sadness and mourning for the royal family and the many others who knew or admired the Duke of Edinburgh, it is hoped that the coming days will also be seen as an opportunity to celebrate a remarkable life – remarkable both in terms of his vast contribution and lasting legacy,” the spokesman said.
Paying tribute to the duke’s military record, his passion for science, engineering, design, art, the armed forces and charities, the spokesman added: “You can see why his influence is so much greater than many may imagine the role of the consort to be.”
“The Covid-19 pandemic has of course required us to make significant adaptations to the original arrangements for His Royal Highness’s funeral,” the spokesman added.
“However, we are certain that the occasion will be no less fitting a farewell to His Royal Highness, marking his significant duty and service to the nation and the Commonwealth.”
The Royal Family has appealed to people who wish to pay their respects in person to stay at home instead.
“The family’s wish is very much that people continue to follow the guidelines to keep themselves and others safe,” the spokesman said.
“His Royal Highness’s funeral will be broadcast to enable as many people as possible to be part of the occasion, to mourn with us and celebrate a truly extraordinary life.”
Councillor John Story, the Mayor of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, said: “We are honoured that the funeral of His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh will be taking place at Windsor Castle on Saturday April 17.
“Although this will happen in private at St George’s Chapel, it will be televised meaning that those both locally and around the world will be able to be part of this historic event.
“We are reminding everyone to remember the current public health guidance around Covid-19 and request that people do not gather outside Windsor Castle, on the Long Walk or in Windsor town centre.
“We recommend that you pay your respects from the safety of your own home and avoid making non-essential journeys to Windsor.”
St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle is the resting place of 10 monarchs.
Steeped in history, the 15th century gothic church, set in the Lower Ward of the Queen’s favourite residence, has seen many royal funerals and weddings.
It was the setting for the marriage of the Duke of Sussex and Meghan Markle, now the Duchess of Sussex, in May 2018.
The Duke of Edinburgh, who had just recovered from a hip operation, was among the 600 guests who gathered to watch Harry, the Queen and Philip’s grandson, wed the American former actress in a star-studded ceremony.
It was also the venue for the wedding of Princess Eugenie to Jack Brooksbank in October 2018.