Queen will have to sit alone at Prince Philip's funeral because of strict Covid rules

Gordon Rayner
·4-min read
The Queen is not eligible to form a support bubble with another member of her family because she does not live on her own - Richard Pohle/The Times/PA
The Queen is not eligible to form a support bubble with another member of her family because she does not live on her own - Richard Pohle/The Times/PA
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter

The Queen faces the prospect of having to sit on her own during the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral because of strict Covid rules, it has emerged.

The law states that anyone attending a funeral must stay at least two metres apart from anyone who is not part of their household, meaning all members of the Royal family will have to spread out in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.

The Queen is not eligible to be in a support bubble because she does not live on her own, meaning the only person who could sit with her during the service would be a member of her Windsor Castle staff.

The Duke’s private secretary, Brigadier Archie Miller-Bakewell, is expected to be one of the 30 mourners allowed at the ceremony, and as a member of “HMS Bubble” at Windsor may be the only attendee eligible by law to sit with the Queen.

Royal sources confirmed that the Queen would be alone at the funeral service unless a member of the Windsor bubble joins her.

The Queen and other members of the Royal family will also, by law, have to wear face coverings during the ceremony, and will not be allowed to sing.

Buckingham Palace said exact details of the funeral service will be disclosed on Thursday, but a spokesman added: “We have made it very clear that the service will be Covid compliant.”

Andy Langford, clinical director of the charity Cruse Bereavement Care, of which the Queen is royal patron, said many people had found it “immensely difficult not being able to grieve the way they want to grieve” over the past year.

He said: “The Queen may be standing alone, but there is a difference between being alone and feeling isolated, and the important thing is that you can have people you can reach out to.

“It’s also about being fully informed in advance about how the ceremony will take place.

“We advise people that yes, the funeral itself is important, but the time before and the time after are really critical.”

Prince Philip: his funeral
Prince Philip: his funeral

The Government’s Covid website warns mourners that: “You may struggle not just with the bereavement, but with the impact of social distancing measures and the fact that you may not be able to say goodbye in the way that you would have wanted.”

Some funerals over the past year have been marred by members of staff at crematoria berating relatives for comforting next of kin and forcing them to move apart.

They included a funeral in Milton Keynes last October, at which a man moved his chair so he could put his arm around his mother at the funeral of his father, only for a member of staff to interrupt the service and order them to “move the chairs back”.

The incident was captured on film because the funeral was being live-streamed, and the local council later said its staff “should have taken a more considered approach”.

Other members of the Royal family who will have to sit 2m away from everyone else during the service include Prince Harry, who does not live with anyone else attending the ceremony, and his cousin Peter Phillips, who is expected to attend without his estranged wife Autumn.

Other members of the Royal family, such as the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, will sit together as couples, but 2m away from other mourners.

Brigadier Miller-Bakewell began working for the Duke in 2010, managing his diary and his public engagements before the Duke’s retirement in 2017.

The 66-year-old has represented the Duke at official events in the past four years. Before he joined the Royal Household, he worked at the Ministry of Defence as its director of resettlement, helping ex-military personnel settle into civilian life, following a distinguished Army career of his own.

The Government’s rules state that only one “professional” person can sing at funerals, though up to three people can sing “if it is essential to an act of worship”. It means a chorister or professional singer could be asked to sing at the ceremony, but it must “not include audience participation”, according to current rules.

The Queen is not eligible to form a support bubble with another member of her family because she does not live on her own. Around 20 people are included in the Windsor Castle bubble that the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh formed when Covid restrictions were imposed.

Although there are other qualifications for forming a support bubble, such as being a single parent, none of them apply to Her Majesty.

If the Queen intends to provide refreshments after the funeral, only five other people will be able to attend, as the rule of six applies.

Despite officially being in a two-week period of mourning, the Queen carried out a royal engagement on Tuesday, hosting an audience with the Earl Peel.