Prince Philip's funeral on April 17; gun salutes mark Duke of Edinburgh's death as UK enters 8-day mourning
London, Apr 10: Gun salutes rang out across all capitals of the United Kingdom as well as aboard some Royal Navy ships on Saturday in the honour of Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh, who passed away aged 99 at Windsor Castle on Friday.
Soon after the 41-gun salute, Buckingham Palace said that the funeral of the senior royal will take place on April 17. A national minute's silence will mark the start of the funeral next Saturday at 15:00 local time at St. George's Chapel in Windsor Castle, the Queen's royal residence in south-east England.
"Whilst this is a time of sadness and mourning, the coming days will be an opportunity to celebrate a remarkable life," a Buckingham Palace spokesperson said.
The arrangements are said to "very much" reflect the Duke's own wishes of a lower key rather than a state funeral and have been adapted in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Under the rules, only 30 people - expected to be the Duke's children, grandchildren and other close family - will attend the ceremony as guests. Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, will be flying in from the US but his pregnant wife, Meghan - Duchess of Sussex, has been advised by her doctor not to travel, the palace said.
Earlier, 41 rounds were fired from sites across London, including the Tower of London, the Welsh capital of Cardiff, the Northern Ireland capital of Belfast and from Edinburgh Castle in Scotland at a rate of one shot per minute from midday local time on Saturday to mark the start of an eight-day national mourning period.
"The tradition of Gun Salutes being fired throughout the country to mark significant national events dates back to at least the 18th century, and there are historical records of salutes taking place as early as the 14th century when guns and ammunition began to be adopted more widely," a statement on the royal website read.
"Similar gun salutes were fired to mark the death of Queen Victoria in 1901," it notes. They also honour the Duke's strong military links, having served with the Royal Navy in World War II. "His Royal Highness has been a great friend, inspiration and role model for the armed forces and he will be sorely missed," said General Sir Nick Carter, the UK's Chief of the Defence Staff.
"The Duke of Edinburgh served among us during the Second World War, and he remained devoted to the Royal Navy and the armed forces as a whole. A life well lived, His Royal Highness leaves us with a legacy of indomitable spirit, steadfastness and an unshakeable sense of duty. From all of us who serve today and who have served, thank you," he said. People were asked to watch the gun salutes from a distance as they are broadcast both online and on TV.
In line with the coronavirus pandemic concerns, Buckingham Palace has asked the public to not gather in large numbers at the royal residences and consider making a donation to a charity instead of leaving flowers in memory of the Duke. An online Book of Condolence has also been launched on the official palace website.
Announcing the Duke's death on Friday, Buckingham Palace said: "It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty the Queen announces the death of her beloved husband. "The Royal Family join with people around the world in mourning his loss."
The Duke's eldest son, Prince Charles - the Prince of Wales, described his father's life as an "astonishing achievement". "I think he'll probably want to be remembered as an individual in his own right," said Prince Charles, in tribute to his father.
"He didn't suffer fools gladly so if you said anything that was in any way ambiguous, he'd go 'make up your mind', so perhaps it made you choose your words carefully. He was very good at showing you how to do things and instructing you how to do things," he said. It is reported that Charles, the heir to the British throne, travelled to Windsor Castle to visit his mother, the Queen, on Friday afternoon. His sister, Princess Anne, said of her late father that he "treated everyone as an individual, and gave them the respect he felt they were due as individuals".
Other members of the Royal Family have visited the Queen at Windsor Castle, with Countess of Wessex - her youngest daughter-in-law - saying "the Queen has been amazing" as she left the castle with the Earl of Wessex, Prince Edward, on Saturday. During the national mourning period Union flags will be flown at half mast, TV presenters will wear black and Parliament will pass no new laws.
As per tradition, the Queen will not carry out any duties either in public or in private, and any new laws requiring Royal Assent will not be sent to her for approval. Westminster Abbey in London tolled its tenor bell once every 60 seconds for 99 times from 18:00 on Friday, to honour each year of the Duke's life. Political parties have suspended their campaigning for local elections on May 6 and Parliament is set to honour the Duke with a special House of Commons session on Monday.