With the sad news of the death of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, it is natural that the British and global public are now discussing what will happen at his funeral. It is not due to Coronavirus that Prince Philip will not receive a State Funeral as a State Funeral is reserved for the Sovereign and in rare circumstances for others by order of the Monarch in such cases as Lord Nelson and Sir Winston Churchill. Prince Philip, if no restrictions were in place, should be having a full Royal Ceremonial Funeral, which differs ever-so-slightly from the State Funeral. However, per Prince Philip’s own wishes, the funeral service will take place at St George’s Chapel, and his coffin won’t lie in state ahead of his burial.
The last consort of a monarch to have a full Royal Ceremonial Funeral was Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, on 9 April 2002, coincidentally 19 years ago today.
Prior to the funeral, The Queen Mother in Lay in State in Westminster Hall and around 200,000 people filed slowly past her crown-topped coffin during this time to pay their respects as her grandsons took turns standing guard.
The funeral was a huge public event held in London and began early in the day on 9 April. After the lying-in-state, the coffin covered with the Queen Mother’s personal standard and crown was moved the 300-metres to Westminster Abbey, where the bells rang 101 times in her honour.
The coffin was followed by a pipe band and members of the Royal Family including The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles, Prince Andrew, Princess Anne, Prince Edward, Prince William, Prince Harry, Viscount Linley, Peter Phillips, Daniel Chatto, The Duke of Gloucester and The Duke of Kent as well as members of the Bowes-Lyon family and some of The Queen Mother’s senior staff members. The rest of the Royal Family, including The Queen, Lady Sarah Chatto, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie and Zara Phillips, arrived after the 2,200 guests had been seated.
The funeral was attended by reigning and non-reigning royals from around the globe, including The King and Queen of Spain, The Sultan of Brunei and The Prince and Princess of Hanover. Prime Ministers, leaders and Ambassadors were also in attendance, including Tony Blair, Baroness Thatcher and Laura Bush.
The service itself began at 11.30 and lasted almost an hour; it was filled with songs by the choir, communal hymns and lessons and readings from the Archbishops of Canterbury, York and Westminster. The service was drawn to a close by a proclamation of titles and styles of the Queen Mother before the coffin was removed by hearse. She was interred beside her husband King George VI in the George VI Memorial Chapel at St George’s Chapel, along with the ashes of her daughter Princess Margaret who had died just seven weeks before.
250,000 mourners headed to London for the funeral of The Queen Mother in 2002, and the event was viewed on TV by 10 million people, showing how widely loved she was. It is unclear at the moment what the exact plans will be for the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral, but he is sure to receive a wonderful send-off even with Covid-19 restrictions in place, and he will be mourned and missed by many.