The Duke of Edinburgh’s final farewell will be a royal funeral like no other, with the Queen and her family following guidelines and wearing face masks and socially distancing as they gather to pay tribute.
Buckingham Palace announced that Philip’s ceremonial royal funeral will take place on April 17 in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, and a national minute’s silence will be observed as it begins at 3pm.
The duke’s coffin will be transported from the castle to the chapel in a specially modified Land Rover he helped to design, and followed by the Prince of Wales and senior royals on foot, a senior Palace official said.
Only 30 people – expected to be the Duke’s children, grandchildren and other close family – will attend as guests, but the Duchess of Sussex has been advised by her physician not to travel to the UK for the funeral, a Palace spokesman said.
It is understood Meghan made every effort to be able to travel with Harry, who will be among the mourners, but has not received the medical clearance to board a plane.
Originally 800 people would have been due to gather to pay their respects to the nation’s longest serving consort, but Philip is known to have wanted a low key affair.
The Queen has decided the royal family will enter two weeks of royal mourning, and engagements will continue appropriate to the circumstances, a senior royal official said.
Public elements of Operation Forth Bridge – the codename for the duke’s funeral plans – were abandoned for fear of drawing crowds including the long held arrangements for military processions through London and Windsor.
Instead, the proceedings will take place entirely in the grounds of Windsor Castle, televised, but away from public view and with no access for royal fans.
The Earl and the Countess of Wessex spent around an hour with the Queen at the castle on Saturday, with a tearful Sophie telling reporters as she left: “The Queen has been amazing.”
The Duke of York also arrived at Windsor on Saturday, while the Prince of Wales visited his mother there on Friday.
Gun salutes have been fired across the UK, in Gibraltar and at sea in tribute to the duke.
A Palace spokesman said the royal family hoped the coming days would be seen as a chance to celebrate the duke’s “remarkable life”.
Paying tribute to the duke’s military record, his passion for science, engineering, design, art, the armed forces and charities, the spokesman added: “You can see why his influence is so much greater than many may imagine the role of the consort to be.”
“The Covid-19 pandemic has of course required us to make significant adaptations to the original arrangements for His Royal Highness’s funeral,” the spokesman added.
“However, we are certain that the occasion will be no less fitting a farewell to His Royal Highness, marking his significant duty and service to the nation and the Commonwealth.”
The royal family has appealed to people who wish to pay their respects in person to stay at home instead.
The Palace spokesman said: “While there is sadness that the public will not be able to physically be part of events to commemorate the life of the duke, the royal family asks that anyone wishing to express their condolences do so in the safest way possible and not by visiting Windsor or any other royal palaces to pay their respects.”