WINDSOR, England (Reuters) – Britain’s senior royals will eschew tradition and wear morning suits rather than military uniforms for the funeral of Queen Elizabeth’s husband Prince Philip, in an attempt to prevent embarrassment for Princes Andrew and Harry.
Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, died aged 99 last week and his funeral – a ceremonial royal funeral rather than a state funeral – will be held entirely at Windsor Castle on Saturday.
The service will feature much of the original planning made by the prince himself, but has had to be scaled back and modified because of restrictions brought in to curb the spread of COVID-19, meaning the queen and the other 29 mourners permitted to attend will wear masks.
“Members of the royal family will be wearing morning coat with medals or day dress,” a Buckingham Palace spokesman said. “That’s to say members of the royal family will not be in military uniform.”
Traditionally at such formal occasions, the royals wear military uniforms, often reflecting honorary titles they hold.
However, the funeral is taking place against a backdrop of recent crises for the monarchy, with the queen’s grandson Prince Harry quiting royal duties and criticising the family for the treatment of his wife in a bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey.
Harry, 36, the Duke of Sussex, lost all his military patronages in January after moving last year to Los Angeles with wife Meghan and son Archie, but wanted to wear the military uniform he wore for his wedding day.
Newspapers reported that Prince Andrew, 61, the Duke of York and the monarch’s and her late husband’s second son, wished to attend the funeral in the uniform of admiral, a honorary rank he was awarded to mark his 60th birthday.
However, he had deferred that title after stepping away from official engagements because of his “ill-judged” association with the late disgraced U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein.
Compounding the issue was the fact that the two royals are the only ones to have seen active service – Harry in Afghanistan and Andrew in the 1982 Falkland Islands conflict.
SIGNED OFF BY QUEEN
“All the arrangements have been signed off by her majesty,” the palace spokesman said. “So that’s all there is to say.”
The funeral ceremony will begin on Saturday at 1300 GMT. The duke’s coffin will be carried out and placed on a specially-commissioned Land Rover and will process to the castle’s St George’s Chapel.
Walking behind will be senior royals including heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles, his eldest son William and his brother Harry, while the queen will follow behind in the State Bentley. There will be a one minute’s national silence at 1400 GMT before the 50-minute service starts.
At the end, the coffin will be lowered into the royal vault.
Much attention during the service will be on other royals treatment of Harry, and he will not be next to William, with whom he has had a fallout, during any of the processions.
“We’re not going to be drawn into those perceptions of drama, or anything like that,” the palace spokesman said. “This is a funeral. The arrangements have been agreed, and they represent her majesty’s wishes, so we’re not going say anything more on that.”
The spokesman also added that the queen and the royals had been grateful for all the messages of condolence from around the world.
Earlier, Charles and his wife Camilla visited piles of floral tributes which have been moved from outside Buckingham Palace to the private gardens of Malborough House, the headquarters of the Commonwealth, to prevent crowds gathering.
Amongst the hundreds of bouquets was a small Land Rover with the message “The Duke. RIP.”
Prince Edward, Philip’s youngest son, also issued a statement to thank those who took part in the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme, set up by the late prince for young people, for their “truly uplifting” memories.
“I think I may have said once that he was a man that once met, never forgotten,” Edward said.
(Writing by Michael Holden; editing by Sarah Young/Guy Faulconbridge)