Sophie, Countess of Wessex, today movingly described Prince Philip’s ‘peaceful’ death on Friday aged 99 as ‘so gentle,’ saying ‘it’s just like someone took him by the hand and off he went’.
The royal was among those attending a Sunday service at the Royal Chapel of All Saints at Royal Lodge in Windsor this afternoon, two days after the Duke of Edinburgh died at Windsor Castle.
Speaking to a group of three mourners outside the chapel, the countess said: ‘You know it’s going to happen but when it happens it’s just this massive, massive hole. It was so gentle, it was just like someone took him by the hand and off he went. Very, very peaceful and that’s all you want with somebody isn’t it?
‘I think it’s so much easier for the person that goes than the people left behind, we’re all sitting here looking at each other going ‘This is awful,” Sophie said. She called all the tributes to the nation’s longest-serving consort ‘amazing’, especially considering current coronavirus restrictions.
The Queen is understood to have attended the private mass in Windsor Castle and was later spotted arriving at Windsor Castle after taking her pet corgis out for a walk. Along with the rest of the royal family, they are currently in a two-week mourning period and will only carry out engagements if appropriate.
The countess also shared a joke about the manicured lawn of the church yard. Pointing to the sky, Sophie said: ‘Well we know if [staff] had not done such a great job, there is one person who would have noticed!’
Sophie, Philip’s daughter-in-law, also joined her husband Prince Edward and daughter Lady Louise Windsor to speak to the media outside the Royal Chapel of All Saints in Windsor.
Edward told ITV News: ‘It’s been a bit of a shock. However one tries to prepare oneself for something like this, it’s still a dreadful shock and we’re sort of trying to come to terms with that.
‘It’s very, very, sad, but I have to say, the extraordinary tributes and the memories that everybody’s had and been willing to share has been so fantastic and it just goes to show, he might have been our father, grandfather, father-in-law, but he meant so much to so many other people.
‘And just being here this morning with everybody from Windsor Great Park and he was a ranger here for, I think, more years than any other ranger and he means so much to so many people here and it’s the same for those who lived and worked at Balmoral and Sandringham.
‘For all those past and present, he means a huge huge amount to them … they all have their own personal memories and stories and our hearts go out to all of them as well,’ Edward said.
‘He always exchanged words with everybody because it didn’t matter what anybody was doing in and around the estate, here and everywhere else, they all meant a lot to him and he always took a very personal interest in everything that they were doing. So they’ve all got stories to tell and most of them are quite funny as well’ Sophie added.
Sophie, Countess of Wessex (right), has described Price Philip’s death as ‘so gentle,’ saying ‘it’s just like someone took him by the hand and off he went.’ Sophie was among those attending a Sunday service at the Royal Chapel of All Saints at Royal Lodge in Windsor today
Sophie (right) also joined her husband Prince Edward (left) and daughter Lady Louise Windsor (centre) to speak to the media outside the chapel
Prince Philip died peacefully in his sleep at Windsor Castle on Friday, two months before his 100th birthday, leaving the Queen and the royal family ‘mourning his loss’
A specially modified Land Rover, Naval procession and royal mourning: Prince Philip’s funeral details are released by palace
- 2.40pm: Coffin emerges from State Entrance of Windsor Castle
The duke’s coffin, accompanied by the Dean of Windsor and the Lord Chamberlain, will be moved to the State Entrance of Windsor Castle by a Bearer Party of The Queen’s Company, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards.
The coffin will emerge and the Bearer Party will place it onto a specially modified Land Rover, which Philip helped to design, to transport it to St George’s Chapel.
- 2.45pm: The procession leaves for St George’s Chapel
The procession from the state entrance to the West Steps of the chapel will take eight minutes.
The Prince of Wales and members of the royal family will take part in the procession on foot, immediately behind the duke’s coffin, together with staff from Philip’s household.
The route of the procession will be lined by representatives drawn from the Royal Navy, the Royal Marines, the Highlanders, 4th Battalion Royal Regiment of Scotland and the Royal Air Force.
Minute guns will be fired by the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery from the east lawn of Windsor Castle for the duration of the procession, and the Curfew Tower Bell will toll.
- 2.53pm: The Land Rover reaches the West Steps of the chapel
A Guard of Honour and Band from The Rifles will receive the coffin at the foot of the West Steps, with the national anthem being played as the coffin enters Horseshoe Cloister.
A bearing party of Royal Marines will carry the coffin up the steps and pause for the minute’s silence.
- 3.00pm: National minute of silence
Following the minute’s silence, the Dean of Windsor, together with the Archbishop of Canterbury, will receive the coffin at the top of the West Steps.
In keeping with coronavirus guidelines to limit guests inside the chapel, most of the procession will not enter the chapel, except for members of the royal family, and the duke’s private secretary Archie Miller Bakewell.
The funeral service will begin as the coffin enters St George’s Chapel.
Separately, Edward added that his mother was ‘bearing up’ and the royal family appreciated ‘the wave of affection’ for the Duke of Edinburgh from the public since his death was announced on Friday.
The earl said: ‘That wave of affection for him and just those lovely stories. They just mean so much and the tributes have been just fantastic. That’s really, really important and we really do appreciate it.’
Referring to the warm wishes that have poured in from around the world, Sophie said it had been ‘so lovely for so many people to learn about what he did’. She added: ‘I just think quite a lot of things that have come out will have surprised some people and how intrinsic he was to every element of society, if you look at it.’
The couple recalled some of the scrapes Philip got into while carriage driving around the Windsor estate. Smiling, Sophie said Philip had been ‘pulled out of a few ditches here I seem to remember as well’.
Laughing, Edward said: ‘In the early days, yes, he used to have a few problems.’ Sophie added: ‘More recently too.’ Philip took up carriage driving after being forced to retire from polo in 1971 due to a wrist injury.
He was driving competitively just two years later and would go on to teach Sophie, while Lady Louise is also a keen participant. The sport can be dangerous and Philip had what he dubbed his own ‘annus horribilis’ in 1994 with ‘no less than eight disasters’.
The Duke of York said the Queen is ‘an incredibly stoic person’, but said Philip’s death had left the 94-year-old monarch grieving and ‘she is feeling it more than anyone’.
‘She described his passing as a miracle and she’s contemplating, I think is the way that I would put it,’ the duke said. ‘She described it as having left a huge void in her life but we, the family, the ones that are close, are rallying round to make sure that we’re there to support her.’
Andrew’s tribute to his father is thought to have been the first time he has spoken in public since his disastrous Newsnight interview in 2019 about his friendship with convicted billionaire paedophile Jeffrey Epstein. He stepped down from public duties shortly after the ‘car-crash’ showdown with Emily Maitlis.
The duke added of his father today: ‘He was a remarkable man. I loved him as a father. He was so calm. He was always someone you could go to. We have lost the grandfather of the nation.’
While leaving the church service, Sophie, the Countess of Wessex, said that the Queen is ‘thinking of others before herself’. Addressing a mourner, the royal, who was Philip’s daughter-in-law, added: ‘You know it’s going to happen but when it happens it’s just this massive, massive hole.’
Speaking of the Duke of Edinburgh’s last moments, she added: ‘It was so gentle. It was just like somebody took him by the hand and off he went. It was very very peaceful and that’s all you want for somebody isn’t it. I think it’s so much easier for the person that goes than the people that are left behind. We’re all sitting here, looking at each other going: ‘This is awful’.’
She said the tributes left by the public have been ‘amazing’, but claimed Covid-19 is ‘preventing people from doing what they naturally want to do which is coming together, which is hard’.
Prince Edward, Philip and the Queen’s youngest son, added: ‘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. But I have to say that the extraordinary tribute and the memories that everybody has had and been willing to share has been so fantastic. And it just goes to show, he might have been our father, grandfather, father-in-law, but he meant so much to so many other people.’
Philip, the nation’s longest-serving consort, died peacefully in his sleep at Windsor Castle on Friday just two months before his 100th birthday, leaving the Queen and the royal family ‘mourning his loss’.
The Duke of York also added: ‘It’s a terrible loss. My father said to me on the telephone a few months ago, ”We are all in the same boat and we must always remember that, but occasionally we, the family, are asked to stand up and show compassion and leadership”.
Prince Andrew was also in attendance at the service and said the Queen had described the loss of her husband as ‘having left a huge void in her life’. Pictured: Prince Andrew (right) with Sophie on Sunday
Prince Harry can leave quarantine for funeral on compassionate grounds
The Duke of Sussex will be able attend Prince Philip’s funeral by a leave quarantine on ‘compassionate’ grounds.
The palace confirmed on Saturday the duke would fly back to the UK for the service, although heavily pregnant Meghan has been advised against flying by her doctor.
But as the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral is due to take place next Saturday, Harry would not have time to complete the quarantine period.
The rules, however, do allow a person to temporarily leave their place of quarantine on compassionate grounds – which includes funerals.
Guidance published on the Government’s website states: ‘You can leave your place of self-isolation in limited circumstances, including on compassionate grounds.
‘This includes attending a funeral of a household member, a close family member or a friend (if neither household member or close family member can attend the funeral).’
It adds: ‘You must continue to self-isolate at all other times.’
Harry will have to return a negative coronavirus test result in the three days before travel, and complete a passenger locator form with details of where he will be spending his quarantine.
He will also have to book a travel test package, which involves two tests – one to be taken on or before the second day of his quarantine, and the second on or after his eighth day of quarantine.
Harry could also participate in the ‘Test to Release’ scheme. Under the scheme, if he pays for a £130 private test from an approved supplier five days into quarantine, he may be free to leave if the result is negative.
If Harry were to break the quarantine rules, he risks a penalty of up to £10,000, and if he fails to take the tests on day two and day eight, he could be fined a maximum of £2,000.
‘And unfortunately, with my father’s death, it has brought it home to me, not just our loss, but actually the loss that everybody else has felt, for so many people who have died and lost loved ones during the pandemic. And so, we are all in the same boat – slightly different circumstances because he didn’t die from Covid, but we’re all feeling a great sense of loss.’
Anne, The Princess Royal and Philip’s only daughter, described how ‘you are never really ready’ for the loss of a close one. In a statement, she called her father ‘my teacher, my supporter and my critic’.
‘Mostly it is his example of a life well lived and service freely given that I most wanted to emulate,’ she said.
‘His ability to treat every person as an individual in their own right with their own skills comes through all the organisations with which he was involved. I regard it as an honour and a privilege to have been asked to follow in his footsteps and it has been a pleasure to have kept him in touch with their activities.
‘I know how much he meant to them, in the UK, across the Commonwealth and in the wider world.
‘I would like to emphasise how much the family appreciate the messages and memories of so many people whose lives he also touched. We will miss him but he leaves a legacy which can inspire us all.’
Canon Martin Poll, chaplain to Windsor Great Park, greeted Edward, Sophie, their teenage daughter and Andrew before the service today.
Looking sombre and reflective, the royal party spoke to workers from the Windsor estate and the congregation when they arrived at All Saints, which the Queen normally attends outside of lockdown.
The royals thanked everyone for their support particularly over the last few days following the duke’s death on Friday.
Philip’s funeral at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, next Saturday will be like no other royal funeral, with the Queen and her family wearing face masks and socially distancing as they gather to say their final farewell amid coronavirus restrictions.
Buckingham Palace announced yesterday that Prince Philip’s ceremonial royal funeral will take place on April 17 at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle, and a national minute’s silence will be observed as it begins at 3pm. The funeral service will be broadcast worldwide.
The Archbishop of Canterbury also led a solemn remembrance service for Prince Philip at Canterbury Cathedral today.
The service started at 10.30am with Justin Welby paying tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh after his death on Friday morning.
It was a small, socially distanced gathering with the Queen represented by Lady Colgrain, the Lord-Lieutenant of Kent. Also in attendance was the High Sheriff of Kent, the Lord Mayor of Kent, the Sheriff of Canterbury and the chief executive of Canterbury.
Edward Elgar’s stirring Nimrod was played, the piece of music that accompanies many British funerals and memorial services and is played annually at the Cenotaph in London to mark the National Service of Remembrance.
In his sermon, the Archbishop said that the Duke of Edinburgh had a ‘remarkable willingness’ to ‘take the hand he was dealt in life’. However, he added that the Duke ‘would have been the first to harrumph strongly at over-spiritualisation of himself’.
The Reverend Canon Tim Naish spoke after the Archbishop and added: ‘We pray for all those who mourn Prince Philip’s death. We pray for comfort and strength for Elizabeth our Queen.’
Marking the third of eight days of national morning, people also gathered at royal palaces to leave flowers despite calls from the palace and the government to stay away to maintain social distancing guidelines.
Paying tribute to the late Duke at the special service today, Mr Welby said: ‘It is God who creates, God who calls, and God who sends. For His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, there was a willingness, a remarkable willingness, to take the hand he was dealt in life, and straightforwardly to follow its call. To search its meaning, to go out and on as sent, to inquire and think, to trust and to pray.
The Queen has described the loss of the Duke of Edinburgh (pictured with the Queen in 2007) as ‘having left a huge void in her life’, according to Prince Andrew
The Countess of Wessex, attends the Sunday service at the Royal Chapel of All Saints at Royal Lodge, Windsor, following Prince Philip’s death
He added: ‘For the royal family, as for every other, no words can reach into the depth of sorrow that goes into bereavement. We all know that it is not simply a factor of age or familiarity. It is not obliterated by the reality of a very long life remarkably led, nor is the predictability of death’s arrival a softening of the blow. Loss is loss.’
The archbishop urged prayers for the family and others who are grieving.
He said: ‘Our lives are not completed before death, but their eternity is prepared. So we can indeed pray that the Duke of Edinburgh may rest in peace and rise in glory. We may pray for comfort. We may pray and offer love for all who find that a great life leaves a very great gap.
‘For the royal family and the millions who have themselves suffered loss, we can know that the presence of Christ will bring peace, and the light of Christ will shine strongly, and it is in that light that we can strengthen one another with eternal hope.’
The Duke will be taken to St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle on a Land Rover he helped to design, and will be flanked by pall bearers from the Royal Marines, Regiments, Corps and Air Stations.
The decision to carry Philip in the custom-built car comes after he is said to have told the Queen: ‘Just stick me in the back of a Land Rover and drive me to Windsor.’
Immediately behind the Land Rover, the Prince of Wales and other members of the family, likely to be the Duke’s other children and some of his grandchildren including Harry and William, will proceed on foot.
Prince Harry will travel to the UK to be with his family for the service, but his pregnant wife Meghan will remain at their home in California after being advised not to travel by her doctor.
Official royal mourning will then take place for two weeks after the funeral.
Only 30 people – expected to be the Duke’s children, grandchildren and other close family – will attend as guests.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson will not be among guests, having stepped aside to allow for the attendance of as many family members as possible during coronavirus restrictions, No 10 said last night.
The Land Rover’s poignant role in the funeral proceedings always formed part of Operation Forth Bridge – the codename given to the plans following Philip’s death.
A senior Palace official said: ‘The Duke of Edinburgh had a hand many years ago in the design of these vehicles.’ The official added that there were two Land Rovers for ‘belt and braces’.
The Queen has approved the Prime Minister’s recommendation of national mourning, which began on April 9 and runs until and including the day of the funeral.
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 first guest confirmed by the palace was the duke’s long-standing close aide, his private secretary Brigadier Archie Miller Bakewell, who will be one of the few, and possibly only, non-royals invited to attend.
Brigadier Miller Bakewell had been the Duke’s right hand man for 11 years, taking on the role in 2010.
And brothers William and Harry are expected to stand ‘shoulder to shoulder’ a they come together for the first time since Harry’s bombshell Oprah interview.
All public elements of the funeral have been cancelled, and it will be televised but take place entirely in the grounds of the castle, the Palace said.
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.