E.There were many moving moments at this funeral service, but the image that will stick was the moment the Queen took her place in St George’s Chapel. The almost 95-year-old monarch sat lonely at the very edge of the pew, her mouth and nose covered by a black mask, and above it an indecipherable look. After more than 70 years of marriage, Elizabeth II said goodbye to her husband on Saturday, with only 29 guests in the large, high chapel.
The British witnessed an unusually touching and masterfully staged state funeral. All the restrictions that the corona measures required seemed to increase the effect of the funeral service. BBC commentator Hugh Edwards spoke of the “power of simplicity” after the service. He could also have appreciated the grace of the void, because the dignified loss that clung to this intimate celebration in the spacious church hall sharpened the sense of the occasion.
Less is more
The camera accompanied the sacred chamber play artistically and sensitively. The great choir at Windsor Castle had been reduced to three singers and one female singer. They made more of an impression than a dozen could have; especially in “The Jubilet” by Benjamin Britten, a piece that the British composer had written for the Windsor Choir on behalf of the Duke.
Towards the end a bagpiper appeared who, with his back turned to the mourners, slowly walked down an empty corridor towards the exit and took his sad manner outside with him. The camera captured the small moments, selected unusual perspectives and, above all, never came too close to the mourners. Only occasionally did she flit across the benches, just long enough to capture the mood but too short to see tears.
No family member said anything, only the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Dean of Windsor alternately recited passages from the Bible that the Duke had requested. Hardly a personal word was uttered, probably also in the sense of the dead man. The honor was given to Philip, the servant who had served the army, the church and the nation. When the infinite number of medals that the Duke had amassed in the course of his almost one hundred years of life were enumerated, the word “husband” was once mentioned. It remained the only conceivably sober reminiscence of Philips’ role as a private individual.
Close ties to the armed forces
More than an hour before the funeral service, ceremonial regiments had taken up line and marched into the castle making music. All branches of service and all regions were represented; this should reflect the close ties the Duke had with all parts of the armed forces. This was followed by his favorite two-horse carriage, with his cap and leather gloves on the empty seat next to it – and finally the military green Land Rover on which the coffin adorned with white roses and lilies was transported.
Around 700 splendidly uniformed soldiers supported the ceremony, which was held from the first to the last minute in camera. In the original plans, in which the Duke had participated, allegedly far more soldiers were assigned a role. But this too had to be changed because of the pandemic. After the mourners had accompanied the unusual hearse on its way towards the chapel, graded according to age, eight soldiers with red sashes shouldered it and carried it up the steps to the church. The Queen, who was driven to the entrance in a state car, was the first to enter the chapel, accompanied by the Archbishop and the Dean. She left the scene before anyone else. The rest of the mourners then set off on foot.
Signs of relaxation
Most family members wore military medals on their morning suits and black dresses – a compromise. The Queen had asked the family to refrain from wearing the uniform clothing customary for such occasions in order to avoid diplomatic entanglements. Prince Harry has been out of uniform since retiring from the family’s service in favor of a private life in California, and Prince Andrews rank has remained unclear since he suspended a promotion to admiral over an unsolved abuse affair.
Signs of relaxation were at least observed between Harry and his brother William. Behind the coffin they had walked separately – the Queen had used a cousin as a buffer (or as a mediator) – but after the funeral the brothers could be seen walking next to each other, communicating.
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