William and Harry to walk apart as Queen sits alone at funeral
The Dukes of Cambridge and Sussex will walk apart for their grandfather’s funeral, which is likely to see the Queen sitting alone, details released by Buckingham Palace reveal. Prince William and Prince Harry, whose troubled relationship was further strained after the Sussexes’ controversial interview with Oprah Winfrey, will be separated by their cousin Peter Phillips as they walk behind the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh on Saturday.
The decision, said to be the Queen’s, is unlikely to dampen speculation of a rift between the brothers, or raise hopes of reconciliation at this emotional time for the family.
Buckingham Palace would not be drawn on any “perceptions of drama” the public might draw from the order of procession as senior royals walk first behind the coffin as it is borne by a modified Land Rover, and then again inside St George’s chapel at Windsor Castle. A spokesperson said: “The arrangements have been agreed, and they represent Her Majesty’s wishes.”
The palace also confirmed no military uniforms would be worn by royals, as is usually traditional at a ceremonial royal funeral such as the duke’s, with royals entitled to wear the ceremonial uniforms of the honorary military ranks bestowed on them.
According to reports, the decision was made to spare embarrassment to Harry, who having been stripped of his honorary military positions on stepping down from royal duties, would be the only senior royal in civilian clothes, despite having served two tours of Afghanistan.
The no-uniform decision would also quell an internal palace row over whether the Duke of York should be permitted to wear the uniform of admiral, a rank Andrew, 61, was due to be promoted to on his 60th birthday. The promotion was deferred in the fallout of his disastrous Newsnight interview over his friendship with the financier and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
A palace spokesperson said: “Members of the royal family will be wearing morning coat with medals or day dress. That’s to say members of the royal family will not be in military uniform.”
Refusing to elaborate on the reasons, the spokesperson said: “All arrangements have been signed off by Her Majesty.”
Prince Charles and Princess Anne will lead family members walking behind the coffin as it travels from the castle to the chapel within the grounds in an eight-minute long procession. Both William and Harry will walk behind Andrew and Prince Edward.
Inside the chapel, as a bearer party of Royal Marines carry the coffin to the catafalque, William will walk next to Peter Phillips, and ahead of Harry.
The 30-strong congregation will all wear masks inside St George’s chapel, and sit 2 metres apart from those outside their household or support bubble. Those walking in the procession will don masks before entering the chapel.
The Queen, masked, will travel in the state Bentley at the rear of the ceremonial procession and be accompanied by a lady-in-waiting who will then take a seat at the back of the chapel, away from the quire, where the main congregation will be seated.
No seating plan has yet been released. But with social distancing observed, it is likely the Queen will sit alone.
Mourners will include the duke’s children and grandchildren, as well as relatives from the German side of his family, who have flown into the UK and are isolating before Saturday’s service. Those invited are Bernhard, Hereditary Prince of Baden, Donatus, Landgrave of Hesse, and Prince Philipp of Hohenlohe-Langenburg – two great-nephews and a cousin – who are staying at a house in Ascot.
Not invited is the Duchess of York, whom the duke famously refused to speak to after her separation from Prince Andrew.
Also missing from the guest list is the Duchess of Sussex, heavily pregnant and advised by physicians not to fly. But the Queen has invited Philip’s carriage-driving companion – one of his closest confidantes – Countess Mountbatten of Burma. The 67-year-old countess is the wife of Earl Mountbatten, Norton Knatchbull – the grandson of Philip’s beloved uncle, Louis Mountbatten, who was murdered by the IRA in 1979.
A choir of four will perform music chosen by Prince Philip, which has been specially adapted to be performed by a minimal number of choristers. The choir will be located in the nave of the chapel, away from the seated congregation. In line with public health guidelines, there will be no congregational singing. As the coffin is lowered into the royal vault at the end of the service, the choir only will sing the national anthem.
Also situated well away from mourners, buglers from the Royal Marines will sound the last post and trumpeters will sound the reveille. A lament will be played by a pipe major. Buglers will also sound “action stations” – a naval warship announcement that all hands must go to their battle stations – at the duke’s request.
“At its heart, it is still a family event. We are following the Covid guidelines. There is a limit on who could be invited as a guest and Her Majesty wanted to ensure that all branches of the duke’s family were there and had to make some very difficult decisions about who would be there,” said a spokesperson.
He added: “Her Majesty and the royal family are grateful for all the messages of condolence from around the world and have been touched to see and hear so many people sharing fond memories of the duke in celebration of his life. The tributes received from young and old are truly a testament to the remarkable life and lasting endeavours of His Royal Highness.”
Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall paid a visit to Marlborough House – the home of the Commonwealth – to look at floral tributes, which had been laid at the gates of Buckingham Palace, but moved each evening. Tributes included a model of a Land Rover, similar to one that will bear Philip’s coffin on Saturday. Some notes were written for the Queen, including one card quoting the monarch herself, which read: “We are so sorry for your profound loss. Your Majesty’s ‘strength and stay’ will endure in our hearts always.”
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