Queen Elizabeth II carries on, leads royals at memorial service for Prince Philip at Westminster Abbey
- The service was the first major in-person gathering for Queen Elizabeth II since her COVID-19 diagnosis.
- The service was held because his funeral in 2021 was limited to just 30 people under Britain's strict pandemic rules.
- Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla of Cornwall, Prince William and Duchess Kate of Cambridge attended.
Queen Elizabeth II appeared in public Tuesday for her first major in-person gathering since her COVID-19 diagnosis, leading her family, dozens of foreign royals and hundreds of Britain's great and good in a service of thanksgiving for the life of her late husband, Prince Philip, at Westminster Abbey.
Her presence at the service had been up in the air until the morning of the service. She was spotted in a car, accompanied by her second son, Prince Andrew, Duke of York, being driven from Windsor Castle where she has been living since the start of the pandemic.
After the 1,800 invited guests had been seated, a fanfare sounded and the queen entered, welcomed by the Very Reverend David Hoyle, Dean of Westminster, who conducted the service.
She walked into the ancient abbey through a side door on the arm of Prince Andrew, then separated from him to walk to her seat alone, easing concerns about her health that had raised questions about whether she would attend. It was her first major public event since unspecified mobility issues hampered her ability to walk up and down steps or long distances.
She sat in a throne-like chair at the front of the congregation, flanked by senior members of the royal family and backed up by row after row of more royals and leaders of Britain. The monarch wore a dark green coat with a black color, a matching hat trimmed in black and black gloves.
The queen's appearance for the ceremony to pay tribute to her husband of 73 years, who died in April 2021, gave Britons some reassurance that their sovereign for the last 70 years had not been entirely discomfited by illness or age. Her ability to get around may be more restricted and she now carries her husband's walking stick, but she was carrying on.
The service for the late Duke of Edinburgh, who died just short of his 100th birthday, was scheduled because his funeral in 2021 was limited to just 30 people under Britain's then-stringent pandemic rules.
The funeral was televised, leaving the nation with a poignant image of the queen sitting alone in her pew at St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle.
Now that the pandemic has eased in Britain, Philip's family and the nation wanted to give him a proper sendoff in the 753-year-old royal church where British and English monarchs have been crowned, married, buried and mourned for centuries.
The service incorporated some elements originally planned for the funeral that had to be dropped, including music: The choir, for instance, sang "Te Deum in C" by English composer Benjamin Britten, originally selected by Prince Philip for his funeral service.
"The Queen has also been actively involved in the plans for today’s Service of Thanksgiving, with many elements reflecting Her Majesty’s wishes," Buckingham Palace said Tuesday in announcing the order of service.
This month, the queen, who turns 96 in April, has missed two major events on the annual royal calendar that she had hoped to attend, including the Commonwealth Day service at the abbey on March 14.
The queen had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 but on Feb. 20 the palace announced she was experiencing mild cold-like symptoms after testing positive for the virus.
Her son and heir, Prince Charles the Prince of Wales, stood in for her at the Commonwealth ceremony, accompanied by his wife, Duchess Camilla of Cornwall, and his son and daughter-in-law, Prince William and Duchess Kate of Cambridge.
Buckingham Palace did not say why the queen missed the Commonwealth service or why she agreed to postpone the annual Diplomatic Reception on March 2 (although the Russian invasion of Ukraine likely played a role in the latter).
But if missing those events meant she was able to commemorate her first and only love in the soaring expanse of Westminster Abbey, who could blame her?
In the last few weeks, the queen did appear for several in-person audiences at Windsor Castle, and on March 23, in the White Drawing Room of the castle, she welcomed artisans and leaders of the 70-year-old British craftworks company, Halcyon Days, to view a selection of the hand-painted enamel-ware trinkets and fine bone English china it has made since the 1950s.
The Tuesday service was to "give thanks" for Philip's "dedication to family, Nation and
Commonwealth," according to an advance press release from Buckingham Palace.
His extended family, dozens of foreign royals, hundreds of friends and representatives of his numerous charities and patronages wanted to celebrate his legacy in creating opportunities for young people, promoting conservation and environmental stewardship, and supporting the Armed Forces. His contributions to public life were recognized as will his steadfast support for more than 700 charitable organizations with which he was associated throughout his life.
Members of the royal family who attended included some of his 12 great-grandchildren, such as future king Prince George of Cambridge, 8, and his sister, Princess Charlotte, 6, the two eldest children of Prince William and Duchess Kate.
Leading the senior royals were the Prince of Wales and his wife, Duchess Camilla, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Prince Andrew and his daughters, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie and their husbands were there, as were the queen's only daughter, Princess Anne the Princess Royal and her husband, Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, the princess' two children and her eldest grandchildren.
The queen's youngest son, Prince Edward the Earl of Wessex and his wife, Countess Sophie of Wessex, and their children, Lady Louise Windsor-Mountbatten and James, Viscount Severn, were there, as were the queen's cousins, the Duke of Kent, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, and Princess Alexandra.
(Prince Charles' younger son, Prince Harry, and his wife, Duchess Meghan of Sussex, did not attend; they now live in California and he declined to return to the U.K. due to concerns over security.)
Besides the duke's British family, other attendees included members of eight European royal families, including the kings and queens of Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden, most of whom are related to Philip and the British royals as descendants of Queen Victoria.
Representatives of European former royal families, such as those from Romania, Serbia and Greece (the latter ex-royals include Prince Philip's closest birth-family relatives) also attended.
Also attending were some 500 representatives of the duke's patronages and charities, reflecting the breadth of causes he championed and in recognition of those who continue his prodigious charitable work.
Representatives of the government, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson; the Armed Forces; the governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; the high commissioners of the queen's 14 other realms; and representatives of the Overseas Territories will be there, as will representatives from the royal households, the duke’s regimental affiliations in the U.K. and the Commonwealth.
Top leaders of the Church of England, including the Archbishop of Canterbury and the deans of Westminster and Windsor, led the service. Representatives of other faiths in the U.K. also were there.
The Right Reverend David Conner, Dean of Windsor, gave the address, quoting from the Puritan writer John Bunyan about how man's first intent is to "be a pilgrim."
"We do not understand the (prince) unless we see him, at the heart, to be a man of faith," Conner said. "That faith was never dogmatic, sentimental or paraded and, as it went in search of understanding, was frequently questioned and examined. However, it was real and it endured, inspiring and shaping a lifetime of commitment to the making of this world a better place."
The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, founded by Prince Philip in 1956, featured prominently in the service with a tribute by Doyin Sonibare, a Gold Award winner who grew up in East London, the child of a "strict" Nigerian mother who encouraged her to apply to the award program as a teen. Sonibare told the congregation it changed her life for the better.
"In 1956, when the Duke of Edinburgh created the Award, he had a vision to create a program which supported the development of young people all over the world," she said. "Today, you’ve learned how his legacy has impacted me and how it will continue to impact future generations to come."
The Band of the Royal Marines (the duke was Captain General for more than 60 years) provided music before and after the service, and the Westminster Abbey and Chapel Royal choirs provided song during the service.
The duke asked that clergy from the royal estates of Windsor, Sandringham and Balmoral (known as the queen's domestic chaplains) be at his funeral given his role in the day-to-day management of the estates. The minister of Crathie Church in Scotland, the rector of Sandringham and the chaplain to the Royal Chapel of All Saints in Windsor Great Park will offer prayers celebrating Prince Philip's energy and spirit of adventure, the palace said.
Among the composers on the list of musical excerpts were Bach, Wagner,Beethoven, Britten and Hans Zimmer, who won an Oscar Sunday for best original score for the music of “Dune.”
The service was broadcast live on BBC One .The abbey was wired with a "hearing loop," featuring a hearing aid so that attendees could hear better in the vast space.
Attendees were asked to switch off their devices and to refrain from using cameras, video or recording equipment.
Contributing: The Associated Press