It was a stripped-down service, pared back to its essentials by a prince and by a pandemic. Covid-19 shrunk the congregation and forced the thirty, mostly royal mourners who made the cut to wear masks, observe social distancing and resist the urge to sing, even when it was the National Anthem.
Prince Philip had ensured it captured and amplified his affinity with the sea and for the military. He signed off its crucial elements back in 2003. At his insistence there was no sermon. As he once remarked, ‘the mind cannot absorb what the backside cannot endure’.
The noises off of recent days were silenced. The fuss over uniforms forgotten. William and Harry, having failed to walk side by side behind their grandfather’s coffin as it was brought to the chapel, did do just that when they left the service. They chatted. They have much to talk about and resolve.
Inside St George’s Chapel the focus was on a departed duke and a monarch in mourning. The Queen sat alone, head often bowed, dressed in black. Theirs was a union between a cautious woman and a forthright man that was tested and endured. For 73 years. Little wonder she is said to have described the death of her husband as having left ‘a huge void in her life’.
She’ll mark her 95th birthday next week without the man by her side whom she relied so much on. Tempting as it might be, she will not be putting her feet up. Retirement remains a non-starter. Nor will she disappear from view. She will continue to reign, visibly. When Earl Mountbatten was murdered by the IRA, she told someone that she would not be ‘drawing down the blinds. I am not Queen Victoria’.