A.At the time of Prince Philip’s engagement to the then heir to the throne, it is said that a courtier explained the story of Windsor Castle to the young groom, who at the time was regarded by many as a kind of stranger. The courtier had noticed from above that the prince would certainly feel at home there once he got used to it. Prince Philip is said to have quick-wittedly put the courtier in their place by pointing out that his mother was born in the royal fortress. Queen Victoria was present at the birth of her great-granddaughter Alice von Battenberg in the palace’s carpet room.
Features correspondent based in London.
Accordingly, the funeral of Prince Philip in St George’s Chapel in Windsor closes a circle. The prince’s death marks a little-noticed turn in other respects as well. Although he married out of love, according to all that can be heard, he was the last representative in the British royal family of the policy of dynastic marriage zealously pursued by his great-great-grandparents in the tradition of the European rulers. Just like the democratically elected politicians who later believed they could secure peace in the long term through the establishment of a European community after the Second World War, Viktoria and Albert had sought the continent under the impression of the turmoil of the Napoleonic Wars and the revolutionary unrest of 1848 stabilize the gentle power of conjugal covenants.
Monarchs across Europe
This was linked to the hope of expanding Britain’s influence, bringing the liberal values of the parliamentary monarchy into the world and promoting a community of nations that would be united by common goals. Beginning with the marriage of their eldest daughter Vicky to the Prussian Crown Prince, eight of the nine children of Victoria and Albert entered into marriages with offspring of the continental European rulers. In the next generation, the grandchildren of the British royal couple held the thrones of Prussia, Russia, Norway, Greece and Romania, not to mention the other family ties to the Greek monarchy, from which Prince Philip comes.
Marriage policy proved to be illusory even during Victoria’s lifetime, long before the royal cousins fought each other in World War I. For example, when Princess Vicky and her siblings, who were bound to Denmark and Hesse, met at family events in Windsor, her mother forbade her presence to discuss contentious matters relating to Prussian power politics. During the burial in St George’s Chapel, Prince Philips embodied three German relatives from the German aristocracy, who after all made up a tenth of the small mourning community, the widespread dynastic connections of the descendants Viktoria and Albert.
They were also reflected in the church music, which the cosmopolitan prince had personally determined. Now that Britain is reorienting itself after Brexit, the increasing Anglicisation of the British royal family as a result of the two world wars and the abolition of most monarchies is almost symbolic of the turning away from continental Europe. The influence that the royal family once tried to gain through marriage policy is now more likely to be conveyed through the media.
As a pragmatist through and through, Prince Philip was not a fan of nostalgic retrospectives. He lived in the present and thought about the future. When he accepted an award from the Guild of Cloth Merchants in the City of London, founded in 1394, in 1953, he admonished his hosts not to forget responsibility for the present because of sheer reflection on the glorious past. This attitude went hand in hand with an aversion to any form of sentimentality, a quality that the down-to-earth prince shared with his wife. Only a subtle touch of nostalgia was allowed during the funeral service: the blanket, whip, gloves, cap and vessel with the sugar for the ponies were placed on the empty box of Philips’ carriage. This gesture was reminiscent of the picture of how the Edward VII fox terrier had once run behind the gun carriage with his master’s coffin.
The queens’ grief
As the image of the queen vividly recalled during the funeral service, she and her husband also had stoicism in common. In the past few days there has been much talk of the similarities between Prince Philips and Queen Victoria’s Prince Consort Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. The two also shared the desire to be buried without causing a stir. Prince Albert’s funeral was kept as simple as possible despite the presence of the dignitaries who were being transported to Windsor by rail. In contrast to Queen Elisabeth, Queen Victoria was not present. The Queen, whose sentimental exuberance had already weighed on her husband, had retired to Osborne, on the Isle of White, to mourn. From there she sent a bouquet of violets with a white camellia, which was placed on the prince’s coffin.
Her great-great-granddaughter, the new widow of Windsor, had already signaled before her husband was buried that she would follow the naval order to take a stand, which was blown at the end of the funeral service, and continue her services, objectively and dutifully, as she is.
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