On Saturday, gun salutes were fired throughout the United Kingdom and Commonwealth countries in honour of Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth II’s long-time husband who died on Friday at the age of 99.
Philip, known officially as the Duke of Edinburgh, was the UK’s longest-ever serving consort, a term used for the husband or wife of a reigning monarch. Tributes have poured in from all over the world.
At Windsor Castle, where the duke died, saluting batteries shot 41 rounds at one round per minute, as well as at the Tower of London in the capital and Edinburgh Castle in Scotland, among other places. Australia, a Commonwealth nation, also paid its respects with a gun salute outside Parliament House in the capital, Canberra, on Saturday morning.
The duke had previously spent a month in two London hospitals for heart surgery and infection care before returning to Windsor Castle in mid-March.
The duke’s death will be commemorated solemnly, with the royal household and the UK government requesting that the public refrain from gathering or leaving flowers at royal residences due to the country’s strict Covid-19 restrictions.
The College of Arms, which manages many ceremonial aspects of the royal family’s function, announced Friday that the funeral would be held at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, by the duke’s wishes, and that he would not receive a state funeral or lie in state, which could have resulted in thousands of people lined up to see his coffin.
According to CNN, royal funeral arrangements have been in the works for many years, but due to the pandemic, certain ritual aspects have had to be changed. Covid rules restrict the number of people who may attend funerals to 30, so the duke’s planned public procession does not take place.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson paid tribute to the duke in a televised speech, saying he had “won the respect of generations here in the United Kingdom, around the Commonwealth, and around the world” and had lived by a service ethic.
“Like the expert carriage driver that he was, he helped to steer the royal family and the monarchy so that it remains the institution indisputably vital to the balance of our national path. He was an environmentalist, and a champion of the natural world, long before it was fashionable,” Johnson said.
However, the duke was a divisive figure. For many Britons, it was his off-the-cuff and sometimes insulting remarks, including those that were undeniably racist, that defined him, not his public service.
After cancelling hours of regular programming to make room for wall-to-wall coverage of Philip’s life and death, the BBC said Friday it was getting concerns over too much air time devoted to the duke’s death.
Because of the high number of complaints, the BBC set up a dedicated input form within hours of the news from Buckingham Palace.
Because of the special coverage, some of the UK’s most famous series, such as the soap opera EastEnders and the final of the cooking competition MasterChef, was cancelled.
Philip’s death comes when many people around the country and the world mourn the loss of loved ones due to the Covid pandemic, and prohibitions prevent people from expressing their sorrow in the way they usually do.
Just a few dozen bouquets were seen outside Windsor Castle on Saturday, as people were advised to avoid royal residences by Covid-19 legislation and instead donate to charities.
Well-wishers left massive banks of bouquets outside Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace, Windsor Castle, and other locations following the deaths of Diana, Princess of Wales, and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.
In April 2002, over 200,000 people filed past the Queen Mother’s coffin as she laid in state, and many more lined the streets to pay their respects as her funeral procession passed.