I want to begin this newsletter, dear readers, with a quote from the Queen about her husband that has been widely shared — even on the royal family’s official Instagram account — since Prince Philip’s death on Friday. It’s from a speech she delivered Nov. 20, 1997, to mark the 50th anniversary of their marriage, and it kind of says it all:
“He is someone who doesn't take easily to compliments but he has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years, and I, and his whole family, and this and many other countries, owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim, or we shall ever know.”
Over the weekend, the Queen and Philip’s four children shared moving tributes to their father.
Prince Charles: “My dear Papa was a very special person who I think above all else would have been amazed by the reaction and the touching things that have been said about him and from that point of view we are, my family, deeply grateful for all that. It will sustain us in this particular loss and at this particularly sad time.”
Princess Anne: “You know it’s going to happen but you are never really ready. My father has been my teacher, my supporter and my critic, but mostly it is his example of a life well lived and service freely given that I most wanted to emulate.”
Prince Andrew: “He was a remarkable man. ... We’ve lost almost the grandfather of the nation. And I feel very sorry and supportive of my mother, who’s feeling it, I think, probably more than everyone else."
Prince Edward: “It’s been a bit of a shock. However much one tries to prepare oneself for something like this it’s still a dreadful shock, and we’re still trying to come to terms with that. And it’s very, very sad.”
Buckingham Palace also released details about the funeral service, which will be held this Saturday at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle at 3 p.m. local time. Due to the UK government’s COVID-19 restrictions, only 30 people will be able to attend. Downing Street confirmed this maximum number of attendees over the weekend, saying that Prime Minister Boris Johnson would not attend “to allow for as many family members as possible” to be present at the service.
According to the Palace, Philip had a hand in planning his funeral and even helped design the Land Rover that will carry his body to the church for the service.
Of course, it didn’t take long for the breathless, albeit bereaved, media coverage of the Duke of Edinburgh’s death to seemingly become as much about the current tension between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (aka the Duke and Duchess of Sussex) and the rest of the royal family as it did about Philip’s life and legacy.
Will they attend the funeral, and why or why not? Will Harry and his brother, Prince William, walk together with their father behind their grandfather’s coffin, as they did for their mother? Is there going to be palpable tension between the Sussexes and the rest of the royal family, as there was at Harry and Meghan’s last official event as working royals? You get the idea.
As of now, we (sort of) know the answers to two of those questions.
Harry and Meghan’s spokesperson confirmed to me that Harry will be attending the funeral alone. Meghan, who is pregnant with the couple’s second child, a daughter, was not given clearance from her physician to travel. The Sussexes’ son, Archie, will be staying home with his mother in California. Harry traveled to the UK over the weekend and is quarantining in the couple’s home on the grounds of Windsor Castle, Frogmore Cottage, per the UK’s COVID-19 protocols.
With regard to the funeral procession, the Palace said that Charles “and members of the royal family” will walk on foot behind the coffin, so it seems likely that William and Harry will be part of that group.
Both royal brothers released statements honoring their grandfather on Monday, and in truth, your correspondent was struck by how similar the two remembrances were. Each praised Philip’s devotion to Queen and country, but also shared remembrances of the duke’s famously dry (and often controversial) humor and no-nonsense, no-fuss approach to life.
“I will miss my Grandpa, but I know he would want us to get on with the job,” William said.
In his statement, Harry also referenced the fact that Philip would likely not approve of all the fuss being made over his death.
“He has been a rock for Her Majesty The Queen with unparalleled devotion, by her side for 73 years of marriage,” he said. “And while I could go on, I know that right now he would say to all of us, beer in hand, ‘Oh do get on with it!’’
Saturday’s funeral will be the first time the world sees what shape the Mountbatten-Windsors — as an institution and as a family — will take now that Harry, the sixth in line to the throne, has officially removed himself from “the firm.”
And although he has emphasized again and again, in speeches, statements, and the explosive interview with Oprah Winfrey, that “stepping back” from royal life was primarily his decision, to protect his wife, the final words of Harry’s statement (“Per Mare, Per Terram”) seem to explicitly reference a consequence of that decision — his removal as captain general of the Royal Marines, a ceremonial position he inherited from his grandfather, who also served in the military. The Latin phrase is the motto of the Royal Marines.
But ultimately, the “story” here is not that of the Sussexes, the Cambridges, or any of the tabloid-fueled drama that supposedly exists behind the walls of Montecito mansions and royal palaces. It is that of the life and legacy of a man, flawed as everyone is, who, the Queen says, is owed “a debt greater than he would ever claim, or we shall ever know.”
I remain, as ever, your faithful royal correspondent,