Prince Philip funeral: all eyes on William and Harry and the Queen

Body language experts will aim to dissect estranged princes’ movements and the Queen will pay silent tribute to her husband

William and Harry

All eyes will be on the sibling princes, not seen together since their frosty appearance at Westminster Abbey’s Commonwealth Day service more than a year ago, just before the Duke and Duchess of Sussex departed for good. Brought very close by the death of their mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, they are now separated by more than the Atlantic. It falls to cousin Peter Phillips to fill the physical and emotional gulf between the two as they walk apart behind their grandfather’s coffin on Saturday.

Whatever the reasons behind the order of procession, which was signed off by the Queen, it fuels reports of a continuing rift. Who requested it? Can the funeral lead to reconciliation? Will the brothers even look at each other?

Body language experts will subject them to ferocious examination in a search for answers, although mandatory social distancing is an impediment. Lip readers, a staple of tabloid coverage of such royal occasions, will be hampered by official guidelines dictating the wearing of masks within St George’s Chapel. Only the eyes will have it.

Prince Andrew

Prince Andrew.
Prince Andrew. Photograph: Steve Parsons/AP

Vilified since his disastrous Newsnight interview over his friendship with the US financier and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, little has been seen of Prince Andrew. This is a rare public appearance. He remains suspended from royal duties until the dust settles. With the trial of his friend Ghislaine Maxwell looming, it seems unlikely that will be soon.

Social media has been brutal in criticising his television appearance after Philip’s death, and over reports of an internal palace row about his wish to wear the uniform of an admiral at the service. Yet, supporters remind his critics that he is a grieving son, more than entitled to pay his own public tribute to his father, as his siblings have also done.

The Queen, who has demonstrated her continuing closeness to her son on several occasions, has previously been photographed out riding with him, and has ensured his presence at family events. And this is, at heart, a family funeral, royal aides have stressed countless times, and as such to be treated with respect.

The Queen

Seen for the first time in public since her husband’s death, the Queen will pay a special, silent tribute to her husband of 73 years immediately before his funeral service.

As she travels behind the ceremonial procession in the state Bentley with her lady-in-waiting, the car will pause, briefly, next to the specially modified Land Rover hearse where she can look upon his coffin before it is borne into St George’s chapel.

On the eve of the funerals of her mother, the Queen Mother, in 2002, and of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997, the monarch delivered televised addresses. Prince Andrew has described her as “stoic” in her grief, with her describing Philip’s death as leaving a “huge void”.

The crowds

A portrait of Prince Philip in the window of a department store in Windsor, England.
A portrait of Prince Philip in the window of a department store in Windsor, England. Photograph: Alastair Grant/AP

There are no crowds, or at least there should not be. Buckingham Palace and the authorities have implored the public to stay away. An estimated 200,000 people filed past the coffin of the Queen Mother over three days at the Palace of Westminster.

But even before the Covid pandemic forced a scaling back of Philip’s funeral plans, he had decreed no lying in state for him. While 2,200 attended the Queen Mother’s funeral service, just 30 official mourners are allowed for the duke’s.

And though the grand military procession planned for central London has been cancelled, hundreds of military personnel will take part in the reduced ceremonial aspect of the funeral, from lining the eight-minute processional route, paying tribute in the castle’s quadrangle, or firing tribute guns from the UK’s saluting stations.

Unfamiliar faces

Most of the 30 official mourners are familiar faces. Three middle-aged men, however, are largely unknown. These are the duke’s German relatives – great-nephews and a cousin – and are from his “blood” family.

They are a link to his four older sisters, Princesses Margarita, Theodora, Cecilie and Sophie. Bernhard, hereditary prince of Baden, 50, is the grandson of the duke’s second sister, Theodora. Prince Donatus, Landgrave of Hesse, 54, is the head of the House of Hesse into which his sister Sophie married. Prince Philipp of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, 52, is the grandson of the duke’s eldest sister, Margarita.

Philip’s sister Cecilie died, at the age of 26, in a plane crash with her husband and two sons, en route to a family wedding in London in 1937. The duke maintained close contact with his nephews, nieces and cousins.

The three invited have flown in from Germany and have been isolating at a house in Ascot before the funeral. To be invited was “an incredible honour”, Prince Philipp has said.


Caroline Davies

The GuardianTramp

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