Royals assemble for memorial service to Prince Philip

Royals assemble for memorial service to Prince Philip

Royals assemble for memorial service to Prince Philip

A thanksgiving service will take place on Tuesday for Queen Elizabeth II’s late husband, Prince Philip, nearly a year after his death, and the funeral held under coronavirus restrictions.

Philip, who was married to the queen for 73 years, died on April 9 last year aged 99, following a month-long stay in hospital with a heart complaint.

The service, at Westminster Abbey in central London, will "give thanks for the Duke of Edinburgh’s dedication to family, nation, and Commonwealth", royal officials said.

The sight of senior royals and their foreign counterparts, British and foreign dignitaries, and rousing military bands will give the impression of a return to business as usual.

But it has been an eventful 12 months in the storied history of the royal family, with ill health, scandal, and division -- plus the growing sense of the end of an era.

All eyes will inevitably be on the queen, who provided the enduring image of the duke’s socially distanced funeral, sitting on her own near his flag-draped coffin.

Her name was printed on Tuesday’s official order of service, as it was for the Commonwealth Day service earlier this month when she had been scheduled to appear.

But the 95-year-old monarch, who is in her record-breaking 70th year on the throne, pulled out at the last minute.
The queen, who turns 96 next month, has rarely been seen in public since spending an unscheduled night in the hospital in October last year.

On medical advice, she has cancelled a series of high-profile engagements, and more recently complained of mobility issues that made standing and walking difficult.

She has been seen using a walking stick, and has reportedly been using a wheelchair -- and even a golf buggy -- behind the stately walls of her sprawling Windsor Castle home.

Speculation has also been rife that she could soon spend more time at her Balmoral estate in Scotland, after claims that a stairlift has been installed.

The couple’s second son, Prince Andrew, will be attending, in what will be his first major public appearance since settling a US civil case for sexual assault.

Andrew, 62, has been keeping a low profile since late 2019 after being vilified for defending his friendship with the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

One notable absentee will be the queen’s grandson, Prince Harry, who will not be making the trip from his home in California after he quit royal life last year.

Harry, 37, is currently battling the UK government in the courts over his security arrangements when he returns home, while the fall-out from his shock move is still being felt.

He and his wife, Meghan, gave a bombshell US television interview just weeks before his grandfather’s death, accusing the royal family of racism, and criticising his father, Prince Charles, and brother, Prince William.

His decision to stay away from Philip’s memorial has been questioned as he is due to attend his Invictus Games for disabled veterans in the Netherlands in the coming weeks.

In the last 12 months, Charles, 73, has become more visible and is said to be on standby if the queen pulls out of the State Opening of Parliament in May.

Last November, the heir to the throne was in Barbados as the island nation became the world’s newest republic, replacing his mother as head of state.

William, 39, acknowledged other Commonwealth countries in the Caribbean will inevitably follow suit, after visiting Belize, Jamaica, and The Bahamas last week.

His comments -- that retaining the monarch as head of state is "for the people to decide upon" -- came after a visit that was criticised for being out of touch and a throwback to colonialism.

The assessment, and recognition a British royal may not head the Commonwealth in years to come, have been seen as preparing the ground for the future when he becomes king.