By Yolande Brener
Some members of the public hoped for a procession through the streets of Windsor or wished that there had been a grand state funeral.
The Royal Family had an intimate ceremony for the “grandfather of Windsor,” with thirty guests, which is the current number of people allowed in a funeral in England, due to Covid restrictions.
The ceremony took place in St. George’s Chapel on the grounds of Windsor Castle on Saturday, April 17th, 2021, following the Duke’s death on April 9th, 2021. A minute of silence at 3 p.m. BST was opened and closed by a gun fired by The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery.
Spontaneous applause broke out in front of Windsor Castle at the end of the silence. All parts of the ceremony took place behind the castle walls, unseen by members of the public who came to say goodbye in person unless they were also watching the televised service on their phones.
Inside St. George’s Chapel, the fifty-minute-long funeral was led by the Dean of Windsor, and The Blessing was pronounced by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Covid-friendly service did not include a eulogy or speeches by family members. I particularly liked the inclusion of the Duke’s titles, included in the full order of service.
There was a choir of four singers, and—because of Covid—there was no singing by attendees. All guests in the chapel wore masks, and seating was arranged in accordance with social distancing recommendations. Among the thirty guests were Prince Charles, Prince Andrew, Prince Edward, Princess Anne, Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince Harry. Other close family members were also in attendance.
The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead website advised, “We are encouraging people to follow the advice from the Cabinet Office and pay their respects from the safety of their own home. People should avoid making non-essential journeys to Windsor.”
Hundreds of members of the public still turned up to pay their respects to Prince Philip. They may have been outnumbered by the security, armed personnel, Marshalls, and Royal Ambassadors, but they came with good wishes, flowers, posters, and other tributes. The following are some of the people I met in Windsor who shared their feelings about Prince Philip and the Royal Family.
Elizabeth Mackinday Oribe Johnson: I am from the Freedom, Light and Liberty Organization and the Movement for Justice organization. We are all here to support Her Majesty and the Royal Family, especially Her Majesty. She loves her husband and they’ve been together for 73 years.
The whole world understands what it’s like to lose someone you love. If there is love, there will be unity. When there is unity there will be peace all over the world. We are all one.
Kaya Mar, artist: I came to pay respects. He was a nice man, a public servant, and an ambassador for the community. This is a dignified event. He would like it.
A spokesperson for the British Army: I’m here today supporting the media as a former Commanding Officer of the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery. We will be firing a salute today on the East Lawn. There will be a number of royal salutes that will be fired across the country today at 3 o’clock exactly and so there will be one at the beginning and end of the one-minute silence.
This funeral is exactly in line with what the Royal Family had asked for, so I think it’s entirely appropriate that we do what they wish. We’re here to support the Royal Family.
Alfonso and Paula: We are originally from Colombia, and now live in London. We came to say goodbye to the Duke. Windsor is a beautiful place. It’s the first time we’ve been here.
Riccardo Petrachi: I’m very fond of the Royals. I follow them everywhere. I know everything about them. I’m very sorry for Her Majesty the Queen and the whole Royal Family for their loss. I live in London, but I came to Windsor to pay my tributes, and to show my support.
I know they’ve asked people not to gather outside the royal residence, I feel like I wanted to come to say goodbye to the Duke.
Lily Gallagher with Clare Gallagher: The Duke of Edinburgh does a lot for the Prince’s Trust and we just felt the need to come up. I know it’s a sad time but it’s also a big celebration of his life. It’s sad because of Covid because no doubt you wouldn’t be able to move through these streets, but we felt safe coming up.
I met Princess Sophie of Wessex at a blind veterans’ event, and she was just lovely. And I also met Princess Ann at a fundraiser for the blind. They were amazing.
Matthew, Head Doorman at MacDonald Hotel: It’s a sad occasion and I don’t think he would have wanted a big sendoff but if not for the restrictions we probably would have seen a bit more.
Sir Fitzgerald (on right): I have to come and pay my respects to him. He was a man of integrity and a man of honor. He stood for creativity.
Professor Chris Imafidon: He is one person who contributed so much. I saw it first-hand. I’m an educator. I’m a chairman of the Excellency in Education program. I saw first-hand children that were influenced positively by him, over thirteen or fourteen years.
When they received a letter from him, from the palace, it was like going to Heaven without dying. When they went to the palace it wasn’t just a ceremony. He interacted with them. He asked, “What are you doing? What do you want to do next?” And the children felt important because of the way he spoke to them.
When the children went for the Duke of Edinburgh Award, they went to the fields, they saw animals and grass; they became aware of ecology and the environment.
He championed sustainability at every age. And today you have 136 different nations sign onto this program. He was not just the Duke of Edinburgh or the Duke of England. He was the Duke of 136 countries.
Look what he did for women in power. With his wife, he stood back. He became a house husband. He gave up his naval career. He was going to be a top man in the navy. He was at the top of his class in the naval college. So, for him to stand back for his wife to be the monarch was a challenge.
He deserves global recognition. His accomplishments are second to none. He invited me and the students to the Palace every year, every summer. I met him several times. He invited the students to Westminster Abbey every March, and the children saw that the Duke was looking at them. When a child sees a big man coming down to his level, they feel important. And those children are the most successful members of the community.
And he didn’t discriminate based on sex, race, social class, no. He too was a foreigner. He put everybody at ease. He had not a cell of racism in him. I can swear. It is my testament from my interactions, from facts, not innuendo and tabloid gossip. The nation has lost a gem. And the nation can never be the same again.
Jan Woodhouse Pickton, Royal Borough Ambassador: I’ve lived in Windsor for over thirty years, and seeing the royal family was a big part of it. It felt important for me to be there today. I’ve been there for all other occasions. I was there for Princess Margaret’s funeral, the Queen Mother’s, so it’s important.
Windsor is a part of me. It’s in my heart. A lot of Windsorians were there even though they couldn’t see anything. He was the grandfather of Windsor and a lot of the older generation respected him, his sense of duty, and that he gave up his naval military life to support his wife.
One of his main legacies is the Duke of Edinburgh scheme promoting community service and physical health; he’s very much a part of the town. He will be sorely missed. There were a lot of overseas tourists watching but also locals who had spoken to the Duke and seen him many times.
Many people respected the Duke of Edinburgh and the balance he got in his life and being his own man carving out a role for himself he’s even become famous for saying what he thinks, he didn’t stand for any fools gladly and he had so many interests and supported many causes, for instance playing fields. He loved the outdoors and being active.
One high point for me was carrying bunches of flowers to Brook Street from members of the public in the knowledge that they would be brought into the Royal Family. There were wreaths, balloons, a pink piglet, a crocheted Duke of Edinburgh, letters, and cards.
The ambassadors were definite in our views that they will be transported to the Royal Family. Another high point was waiting by the Queen Victoria statue and seeing the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and also seeing Sir David Attenborough walking by.
The Ambassadors started in 2012. We all did spectator safety training, road safety, and even terrorist training. We support the local police; we are the eyes and ears. We have local knowledge, different from the Marshalls bussed in from outside.
Any event in Windsor, we are there with our friendly smiley faces. I love being part of the camaraderie and helping to show Windsor at its best to the world!
Someone You Love
Some members of the public watched the service on their phones while in Windsor, but most of them just came to be near the mourners, and to pay tribute to a person they felt they knew, whether because of his position as a public figure or because they participated in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme or one of his other organizations.
Many people expressed their sympathy for the Queen. As Elizabeth Johnson of the Freedom, Light, and Liberty Organization said, “The whole world understands what it’s like to lose someone you love.”
Read more articles by Yolande Brener here.
Yolande Brener is an English writer living in Harlem, NY. She is the author of Holy Candy, a book about faith, love, and change. She is a seeker and lover of the arts as she talks about on her Yolande Brener blog. She’s published work in New York Press, Fiction Magazine, The Promethean, and Harlem World Magazine. She has received awards from The British Film Institute, the Arts Council of Great Britain, the NYC Parks Department Poems in the Park, and Writer’s Digest e-Book Awards in Life Stories. www.yolandebrener.com.
Photo credit: 1-13) By Yolande Brener. 14) By Jan Woodhouse Pickton. 15-16) By Yolande Brener.