Prince Philip Is Laid to Rest in a Somber 50-Minute Ceremony

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LONDON — His coffin borne on a military green Land Rover that he had helped design, Prince Philip was laid to rest on Saturday at Windsor Castle in an austere, meticulously choreographed funeral that captured his steely role in Britain’s royal family and offered a solemn glimpse of its uncertain future.

Queen Elizabeth II bade farewell to Philip, her husband, who died on April 9, two months shy of his 100th birthday, from solitude inside St. George’s Chapel. She was clad in a mask and kept at a distance from her children and grandchildren by pandemic social distancing requirements, which limited attendance to 30 people.

Her grandsons Prince William and Prince Harry were separated as well, by one of their cousins, as they walked behind Philip’s coffin. This quirk of royal protocol dramatized the rift between the brothers that opened after Harry’s marriage to an American former actress, Meghan Markle.

That wedding was held nearly three years ago in the same Gothic chapel on a similarly crystalline Saturday. It was both a joyful contrast and a poignant reminder of the turbulence that has enveloped the House of Windsor since its patriarch faded into retirement and a new generation of royals seized the limelight.

There were glimmerings of a possible thaw between Harry and William as the brothers walked together after the funeral and spoke quietly to each other. But this was a somber occasion, a family convening in sadness to mark the death of a man whom many credited with providing stability and meting out discipline to younger royals as they struggled to navigate the pressures of duty and celebrity.

Less than an hour later, Philip’s coffin was lowered into the royal vault as the dean intoned, “Go forth upon thy journey from this world, O Christian soul,” and the pipe major of the Royal Regiment of Scotland played. The brisk schedule was in keeping with the no-fuss manner of Philip, a man known as much for his remote demeanor and penchant for gaffes as for his enduring fealty to the queen.

Still, the ceremony was rich in symbols of the military career that Philip, whose formal title was Duke of Edinburgh, gave up when his young wife unexpectedly ascended the throne in 1953 after the death of her father, George VI.

The duke’s coffin was draped in his personal standard and carried his sword and naval cap. On nine cushions on the altar were military regalia, including Philip’s Royal Air Force wings and field marshal’s baton, as well as the Order of the Elephant, bestowed on him by Denmark, and the Order of the Redeemer, by Greece. Those symbolized his royal lineage as a prince of Denmark and Greece.

After Philip was interred, the Royal Marines’ buglers played “The Last Post” and “Action Stations,” a summons to battle stations that is rarely played at funerals but can be requested by a veteran of the Royal Navy. During World War II, the duke saw combat aboard a British destroyer and battleship.

Nothing captured the day’s military feeling like the custom-made Land Rover Defender that conveyed Philip on his last journey to the chapel. The duke tinkered with the vehicle’s design for 18 years, settling on an open back and metal pins to secure his coffin. He requested the military-green paint job.

At 3 p.m., after the Land Rover had passed beneath Windsor’s crenelated towers and arrived at the chapel — to the metronomic boom of cannon shots and the peal of bells — there was a national minute of silence.

The restrictions meant that Philip’s converted Land Rover made a trip of only a few hundred yards, rather than the 22 miles from Buckingham Palace to Windsor. Rather than crowds lining the route, troops from the Royal Navy, Marines, the Highlanders and the knights of Windsor stood at attention as he passed.

Queen Elizabeth, who turns 95 next week, followed the procession in her gleaming aubergine Bentley, not at the head of it, which would have been customary for a sovereign. Charles, her heir, headed the procession, joined by his sister, Princess Anne.

Those limits also meant a circumscribed guest list inside the chapel. Among those not in attendance: Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who gave up his seat, according to Downing Street, so that the royal family could invite an extra guest, and Meghan, who is pregnant and did not attend on advice of her doctor.

The queen did invite three German relatives of Philip, a reminder of his non-British roots and a sign of history’s march. In 1947, in the shadow of World War II, the duke’s German family was kept away from the couple’s wedding.

The queen had other delicate protocol decisions to make. She decreed that the none of family’s male members would wear military uniforms at the ceremony — a decision that spared Harry the indignity of appearing in civilian clothes despite having served in Afghanistan. As part of the agreement with the palace under which he withdrew from royal life, Harry was stripped of his honorary military titles.

The British news media reported that Prince Andrew, the queen’s second son, had forced the issue by demanding that he wear the uniform of an admiral, a title that he was scheduled to acquire last year on his 60th birthday. He asked for the appointment to be deferred after being caught up in scandal over his friendship with the disgraced financier and sex predator, Jeffrey Epstein, which led to Andrew’s exile from royal duties.

Stephen Castle and Anna Schaverien contributed reporting.

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