A quiet send off for the Duke of Edinburgh – how Prince Philip’s funeral was like nothing seen before

The unique private funeral of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh

Social media posts on Twitter
These are some of the recent social media posts on Twitter about Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Image created using Canva.

Unlike grand royal funerals of the past, Prince Phillip, who died at 99, received a far more private mourning.

Restricted by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Duke of Edinburgh was laid to rest in a peaceful manner away from the public eye.

In the past, a death in the Royal Family incurred a state of nationwide visible grief. The mourning for Prince Philip however, has been far more hidden, with the worldwide pandemic casting a shadow over an already dim day.

During the ceremony of King George VI on the 15th of February 1952 – the last state funeral – his coffin laid on a raised platform at Westminster. Over a few days, more than 300,000 people passed through to pay respects and remember the life of the king.

When King George’s mother Queen Mary died a year later, her body was also placed at Westminster, this time 120,000 people passing by. Her funeral service St George’s Chapel, Windsor was broadcasted on BBC radio and attended by 1,500 people. A further 4,000 people watched as she was finally laid to rest beside her husband King George V in Windsor.

The next royal death, Princess Diana, who died in 1997 at the young age of 36, sparked national shock. Only hours after the tragic news thousands of flowers appeared outs side Kensington Palace.

For Prince Philip, though, there was no huge ceremony.

On Saturday, April 17, the funeral service in honour of the Duke of Edinburgh took place. There were 30 invited guests. Immediate family, three relatives representing his German heritage, and his close friend the Countess of Burma bore witness to a ceremony behind closed doors.

The funeral was crafted specifically with Covid-19 in mind. Without the restrictions forced upon the United Kingdom by the global pandemic, Prince Philip’s celebration of his life would have been grand affair akin to the ceremonies mentioned earlier. Instead, all attendees wore masks outside of the procession behind the coffin, and all adhered to social distancing guidelines.

After the Prince’s death was announced on Friday, April 9, dozens of flowers appeared in front of Buckingham Palace by midday. While appreciative of the gesture of mourning, the Palace urged people not to place floral gifts outside royal residences, aware of the risks of covid.

While the Prince had the scale of his funeral stripped, he was afforded a level of intimacy no other royal day of mourning could attain. The Queen sat alone, having approved every change made to the meticulously planned funeral, for example the decision to wear suits rather than the regular military uniform. Queen Elizabeth II was poignant image as she left a personal note atop her husbands coffin.

The public were not completely shut out of the national event however. In the United Kingdom, more than 13 million watched the 1-hour service. This figure is similar to the 10 million viewers of the Queen Mother’s funeral in 2002, but pales in comparison to the 31 million watchers of Princess Diana’s funeral.

Prince Philip’s funeral was an event years in the making, but changed abruptly in the wake of COVID. The Duke of Edinburgh was meticulous in his planning of his celebration, so it came as no surprise that his fingerprints were still left on the event despite all the drastic alterations.

Philip’s design on the customised Land Rover started 16 years ago, his intent to leave a mark on his funeral evident. The Prince’s hearse had specifications of a dark bronze green, the colour of military Land Rovers. Even details as intricate as the size of the open top rear section, and the pins securing the coffin were planned by the Duke.

Originally the car was to carry Prince Philip’s body 22 miles from Wellington Arch in central London to Windsor, but coronavirus foiled these desires. Instead, determined to allow the long wish of the recently departed Prince, the car carried him on a short journey round the grounds of Windsor Castle.

The funeral on Saturday celebrated the life of a great man. A man who serviced his nation to the grand age of 99.

From his 22,219 solo royal engagements, to his personal achievement as president of the World Wildlife Fund, the Duke of Edinburgh has left a distinct stamp on the United Kingdom and the World.

And while his funeral may not have been a wild event, it was a ceremony with a deep impact for many across the country.