The Prince of Wales has paid a moving tribute to his “dear Papa” – highlighting his “remarkable, devoted service to the Queen” – as details of the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral were released.
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.
The royal funeral like no other, with the Queen and her family following guidelines and wearing face masks and socially distancing as they gather to say their final farewell.
Speaking from his Gloucestershire home of Highgrove on behalf of the royal family, Charles 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.”
He added: “As you can imagine, my family and I miss my father enormously,” and said he would be “deeply touched” by the people around the world sharing “our loss and our sorrow”.
The prince said: “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.”
While Charles spoke for the family, his siblings visited the Queen – with the Duke of York and Princess Royal spotted at Windsor.
The Earl and the Countess of Wessex spent around an hour with the Queen at the castle, with a tearful Sophie telling reporters as she left: “The Queen has been amazing.”
Philip’s wishes are the driving force behind the funeral plans, and on the day his 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 Palace official said.
The coffin will be covered by the duke’s personal standard together with his naval cap and sword and a wreath of flowers.
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.
Boris Johnson has given up his seat at the funeral to allow a family member to attend, No. 10 has said.
Originally 800 people would have been due to gather to pay their respects to the nation’s longest serving consort, but Philip is known to have wanted a low key affair.
All public elements of the funeral have been cancelled, it will be televised but take place entirely in the grounds of the castle, the Palace said.
As the funeral procession makes it way through the grounds of the castle Charles will be joined by senior royals – but not the Queen – walking behind the coffin and followed by Philip’s household, the most senior figure his private secretary Brigadier Archie Miller-Bakewell.
The route of the procession will be lined by representatives from the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Army and RAF and the Service chiefs will walk ahead of the coffin, with the cortege led by the Band of the Grenadier Guards.
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and David Conner, the Dean of Windsor, are expected to officiate at the service.
The Queen has decided the royal family will enter two weeks of royal mourning, and engagements will continue appropriate to the circumstances, a senior royal official said.
Public elements of Operation Forth Bridge – the codename for the duke’s funeral plans – were abandoned for fear of drawing crowds including the long held arrangements for military processions through London and Windsor.
Instead, the proceedings will take place entirely in the grounds of Windsor Castle, televised, but away from public view and with no access for royal fans.
The duke died peacefully in his sleep at Windsor Castle on Friday, two months before his 100th birthday, leaving the Queen and the royal family “mourning his loss”.
Gun salutes have been fired across the UK, in Gibraltar and at sea in tribute to Philip.
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.”
Asked if the royal family will be wearing face masks and social distancing, the spokesman said the “service will be in line with guidelines”.
The royal family has appealed to people who wish to pay their respects in person to stay at home instead.
The Palace spokesman said: “While there is sadness that the public will not be able to physically be part of events to commemorate the life of the duke, the royal family asks that anyone wishing to express their condolences do so in the safest way possible and not by visiting Windsor or any other royal palaces to pay their respects.”