In Depth

Prince Philip’s thanksgiving: the order of service

Representatives from the Duke of Edinburgh’s charitable causes attended today's remembrance service

Almost a year after his death, members of the Royal Family gathered in Westminster Abbey today to pay tribute to the life and achievements of Prince Philip.

The funeral of Prince Philip last April was “scaled back significantly” owing to Covid restrictions, with just 30 mourners able to attend the small ceremony at Windsor Castle, said Sky News’ royal correspondent Rhiannon Mills.

But today, the Abbey’s door were “flung open” to guests for the Service of Thanksgiving that the Duke “never asked for and was unlikely ever to have expected”, said The Telegraph’s associate editor Camilla Tominey.

A chance to remember

The 40-minute ceremony offered the Queen the opportunity “to attend a service in her beloved husband’s memory without having to sit alone in the pews, her face covered by a black mask”, as she did last year, said The Telegraph’s Tominey. This service was “more of a celebration than a commiseration of his death”, enabling Her Majesty to “honour the life her late husband lived to the full”.

According to Buckingham Palace, the Queen was “actively involved” in planning the memorial.

The service paid tribute to Philip’s “contribution to public life and steadfast support for the over 700 charitable organisations with which His Royal Highness was associated throughout his life”, according to the official Royal website. Representatives from those charities were in attendance, and the ceremony in its entirety was planned to “reflect Prince Philip’s life, work and enthusiasms”, said the BBC’s royal correspondent Sean Coughlan.

The Thanksgiving service was to be “the state occasion that the reluctant royal shunned – but that his loved ones always insisted he dearly deserved”, added Tominey.

What will happen?

“Some of the original elements” from Philip’s funeral plans were included in today’s service, such as the attendance of “gold award holders from The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and representatives from UK Cadet Force Associations”, said Sky News’ Mills. Members of the clergy from the royal estates of Windsor, Sandringham and Balmoral will also played a part in the service, in accordance with Philip’s wishes for his funeral. 

The Royal Marines Portsmouth band played as the congregation arrived at Westminster Abbey, where Philip and the Queen married in 1947. The Service itself featured music sung by the Abbey’s choir and that of Her Majesty’s Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace. They performed Te Deum in C by Benjamin Britten, and the congregation sung Guid Me, O Thou Great Redeemer

There was also music by “Beethoven, J.S. Bach, Wagner, Vaughan Williams and William Byrd,” the BBC’s Coughlan reported. And of course, the National Anthem was “belted out” too, said Tominey in The Telegraph.

The Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle, paid tribute to “a man of rare ability and distinction” who “ever directed our attention away from himself. He put privilege to work and understood his rank as a spur to service.”

The Abbey was decorated with flowers in red, white and blue including the type of orchids featured in the Queen’s wedding bouquet. The floral arrangements also included sea holly, “to echo” the Duke’s naval career “and lifelong affection for the sea”, Mills reported.

The service began at 11am, and was broadcast on BBC One.

Who is going?

The Queen's attendance was confirmed hours before the Service, and “special measures” were put in place “for her comfort”, said the BBC’s Coughlan.

The Queen’s children and their spouses were by her side. It was the first time that Prince Andrew has been seen in public since settling his sex abuse case with Virginia Giuffre. Prince William and Kate Middleton were also present, as well as Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie. But Prince Harry and Meghan Markle decided not to attend.

According to the Royal.uk website, members of foreign royal families sat alongside the Duke’s wider family and friends, as well as more than 500 representatives of the Duke of Edinburgh’s patronages and charities. 

“VIPs including the prime minister and Sir David Attenborough” were also invited, said The Telegraph’s Tominey.

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