The Queen ignored recent health issues to attend a service of thanksgiving for her late husband Prince Philip at Westminster Abbey on Tuesday, entering the cavernous church through a side door to shorten the distance to his seat.
The monarch entered the abbey on the arm of her second son, Prince Andrew, then separated from him to go to her seat alone, allaying concerns about unspecified ‘mobility issues’ which have limited her public appearances in recent months.
Her choice of escorts will be seen as a vote of support for Andrew after settling a lawsuit related to his relationship with late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
Elizabeth, who has recently recovered from COVID-19, did not attend a Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey earlier this month, although she continued with other scheduled engagements.
Queen involved in service planning
The 95-year-old was deeply involved in the planning of the service, which included hymns and tributes from charities supported by Philip. Such touches were not allowed at his funeral last year due to pandemic restrictions.
About 1,800 family members and guests attended Tuesday’s memorial. Only 30 people were allowed into the funeral last year, conducted under strict lockdown rules that saw the Queen sit alone in a black mask as she mourned the loss of her 73-year-old husband. Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, died on April 9 at the age of 99.
The Reverend David Conner remembered Philip’s service to the Queen during today’s service, his dedication to protecting the environment and his commitment to equipping young people with the skills they need to succeed thanks to his Duke of Edinburgh award.
“Through his passionate commitment, he drew others to him in admiration and respect and, in the case of those who lived and worked most closely with him, genuine love,” Conner said.
Family dressed in green
There were also more subtle honours, rendered by the sartorial choices of the royal family. Elizabeth, her daughter, Princess Anne, and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, were all dressed in dark green – echoing Philip’s livery colour, Edinburgh Green.
Doyin Sonibare, 28, also wore green, which won honors with the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, created by Philip to teach young people confidence and life skills through outdoor activities and services community. More than 6.7 million teens and young adults have participated in the program since 1956.
Sonibare paid the first tribute to Philip, thanking him for creating a program that gave her the tools she needed to get her first job, go to college and now study for a PhD in sickle cell research.
The highlight of the program is an overnight expedition, something that scared a teenager from east London who had never been camping before and was afraid to climb steep hills.
“I kept thinking I was going to trip, roll down the mountain and the lights go out for Doyin,” she said. “Fortunately for me, that didn’t happen. I remember thinking to myself that if I could complete this expedition, I could do anything; even though at the time I was 18 and I wasn’t sure of my future.”
Duke and Duchess of Sussex absent
The entrances to Westminster Abbey were lined up with winners of the programme’s highest honour, the Gold Award, as well as members of youth cadet associations – a touch requested by Philip.
There were also prayers, offered in homage to Philip’s faith, and the congregation joined in the singing Guide me, O Great Redeemer, which was not possible at his funeral due to restrictions that prohibited singing. The queen sang.
The British Royal Family were in attendance, with Prince Charles seated next to his mother and Prince William right behind her. The most notable absences were the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Harry and Meghan.
Prince Harry has filed a complaint against the UK Home Office after he was told he would not get the same level of security when visiting from his new base in the US – even though he offered to pay for it himself.
Harry wants to bring his children Archie and Lilibet to visit the UK but it’s too risky without police protection, his legal representatives have said.
Also in attendance were many of Philip’s friends and around 30 foreign royals, including Prince Albert of Monaco, Queen Margrethe of Denmark and King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of Spain.
Brief service, a family affair
The service was brief – Philip was known to hate fuss – with the Queen leaving the church less than 50 minutes after entering. But it gave Britain a chance to offer a note of thanks to the man who at the Queen’s coronation in 1953 swore to be her ‘man liege of life and bodily integrity “.
It was also a family occasion, showing that the Windsors will stick together even in difficult times.
Andrew’s role underscored that he is still part of the family, even after scandal over his ties to Epstein forced him to step down from public duties. Earlier this month, the prince settled a lawsuit brought by an American woman who alleged she was forced to have sex with him when she was 17. Andrew denies the allegations.
“It was the Queen endorsing Andrew after paying millions to a woman he says he has no recollection of ever meeting,” royal analyst Peter Hunt wrote on Twitter. “Either Charles and William did not intervene, or they did and failed to prevent the prince from playing such a prominent role at his father’s memorial service.”