THE Duke of Edinburgh was laid to rest in the royal vault in St George’s Chapel, Windsor, on Saturday afternoon.
Before the Duke’s coffin was lowered into the vault, the Dean of Windsor, the Rt Revd David Conner, read the commendation: “Go forth upon thy journey from this world, O Christian soul, in the name of God the Father Almighty who created thee; in the name of Jesus Christ who suffered for thee; in the name of the Holy Spirit, who strengtheneth thee; may thy portion this day be in peace, and thy dwelling in the heavenly Jerusalem. Amen.”
The funeral service was stripped to its basics, and not only because of the coronavirus restrictions, which meant that the Queen could be accompanied only by 29 members of her family and close friends. Prince Philip’s hand was apparent in the arrangements, not least in the absence of a sermon. It was, perhaps, his last act of kindness to his wife of 73 years, sparing her the ordeal of a long service.
As it was, the service took almost 50 minutes, and was preceded by a slow procession through the grounds of Windsor Castle from the private chapel to St George’s, the Duke’s coffin borne on a Land Rover that had been adapted to his own design. This led to the unique rubric at the start of the funeral booklet: “All stand. The Coffin is removed from the Land Rover and is carried to the West Steps.”
The four-strong choir sang the Sentences as the coffin was brought into St George’s, draped in the Duke’s colourful standard, on which rested his ceremonial sword and naval cap, with a wreath of flowers chosen by the Queen. The Dean read the Bidding Prayer: “We have been inspired by his unwavering loyalty to our Queen. . . Our lives have been enriched through the challenges that he has set us, the encouragement that he has given us, his kindness, humour, and humanity.”
Next, the choir, standing socially distanced in the empty nave, sang perhaps the most obvious hymn for the occasion: “Eternal Father, strong to save” — the Duke’s life-long association with the Navy having given him a close connection with those in peril on the sea.
The sea featured in the first lesson, a passage from Ecclesiasticus: “Look at the rainbow and praise its Maker.” The text is a hymn in praise of the beauty of the world, seen explicitly as the work of God. The rainbow is “a bow bent by the hands of the Most High. . . By the power of his thought he tamed the deep and planted it with islands. Those who sail the sea tell stories of its dangers, which astonish all who hear them. . .”
The choir then sang the Jubilate Deo in C which had been composed by Benjamin Britten for St George’s Chapel, Windsor, at the Duke’s request. This was followed by the second lesson, read by the Archbishop of Canterbury: the passage from St John’s Gospel when Martha encounters Jesus, expressing her belief in resurrection, about to be surprised by Christ’s raising of Lazarus, her brother.
Psalm 104 followed, sung by the choir in a setting by William Lovelady, an abridged version of a cantata composed for the Duke’s 75th birthday:
My soul give praise unto the Lord of heaven,
In majesty and honour clothed;
The earth he made will not be moved,
The seas he made to be its robe. Give praise.
The service then moved into the prayers, with the Lesser Litany, the Lord’s Prayer, the Responses, and the Collect. The television cameras showed brief glimpses of the Queen and members of the Royal Family with heads bowed.
The prayer said by the Archbishop gave thanks for the Duke of Edinburgh’s “resolute faith and loyalty, for his high sense of duty and integrity, for his life of service to the nation and Commonwealth, and for the courage and inspiration of his leadership”.
It was the final prayer, read by the Dean, which seemed most personal to the Duke, giving praise for God’s servant Philip, “who has left us a fair pattern of valiant and true knighthood; grant unto him the assurance of thine ancient promise that thou wilt every be with those who go down to the sea in ships and occupy their business in great waters.”
The anthem that followed was a traditional version of the Russian Kontakion of the Departed, arranged by Sir Walter Parratt. The camera panned across the many insignia and honours given to the Duke and laid on the altar. Then came the commendation, and, as the coffin sank slowly into the Royal Vault, a ceremonial recitation, lasting more than a minute, of the Duke’s styles and titles by the Garter Principal King of Arms: “Exalted Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich . . .” ending with “Husband of Her Most Excellent Majesty Elizabeth the Second. . .”
Finally, the Pipe Major of the Royal Regiment of Scotland played a lament, buglers of the Royal Marines sounded the Last Post, state trumpeters of the Household Cavalry sounded Reveille, the buglers finished with Action Stations, before the blessing by the Archbishop, and the National Anthem.
The organ was played by the assistant director of music at St George’s, Luke Bond. Before the service he played Bach, Harris, Whitlock, Vierne, and Vaughan Williams. He finished the service with Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in C minor.