Saturday’s funeral for Prince Philip will feature plenty of pomp and pageantry — but all eyes are on his grandsons.
The dramatic breach between Prince Harry and the rest of the royal family, particularly his brother Prince William, will be on global display during their solemn procession to St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle and throughout the 50-minute liturgy commemorating their grandfather’s long life.
(U.S. viewers can watch the observances live on CNN starting at 9 a.m. EDT and on CBS, NBC and ABC at 9:30.)
But the woman who sparked the divide — Harry’s wife, Meghan Markle — will be nowhere in sight.
The Duchess of Sussex, in the final months of pregnancy with the couple’s second child, remained at their California home under doctor’s orders.
That means her husband will return alone to the site of their lavish 2018 wedding to bury the grandfather whose compassionate strength sustained him through the wrenching funeral of his mother, Princess Diana, when Harry was only 12.
“I’ll walk if you’ll walk,” Philip told his grandsons when William, then 15, and Harry shied away from joining the procession that followed the gun carriage bearing their mother’s coffin as it traveled to Westminster Abbey in 1997.
Two decades later, the princes will echo that somber march as they walk behind the electric Land Rover — built to Prince Philip’s specifications — carrying him to his resting place beneath the chapel’s marble floor.
The funeral trip is Harry’s first visit to his homeland since he and Markle ditched royal life a year ago — and his first meeting with his 94-year-old grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II; his father, Prince Charles; brother William; sister-in-law Kate Middleton, and the rest of the clan since the Sussexes’ explosive Oprah Winfrey interview last month.
The royal rift, along with coronavirus considerations, forced the Queen to make a slew of last-minute changes to a funeral program — low-key for a royal — that her husband of 73 years had personally designed with military precision ahead of his April 9 death at age 99.
With only 30 mourners permitted under the British government’s strict COVID-19 rules, the Queen pared the original 800-strong guest list down to the closest of relatives: her children and grandchildren, their spouses, a favorite niece and nephew, and a few royal cousins. Philip’s “close confidante,” Penelope Eastwood, the Countess Mountbatten of Burma,” is also set to attend.
By the Queen’s decree, Harry and William will not walk side-by-side in the eight-minute funeral procession from Windsor Castle to the chapel’s imposing West Steps. Instead, they will be separated by their cousin Peter Phillips, the son of Princess Anne.
Inside the chapel, mourners will remain socially distanced throughout the service, a rule that will keep the feuding princes far apart — but will also force the Queen to sit alone as she bids farewell to the man she called “my strength and stay.”
And while 700 military personnel will throng the castle grounds to salute the prince — a Royal Navy veteran who served heroically in World War II — with fusillades, bands, buglers, and naval pipers, his sons and grandsons are barred from wearing their own military uniforms for the ceremonies.
That ban came down Thursday from Buckingham Palace to spare Harry the embarrassment of appearing in business attire after his departure from royal duties last year forced him to give up his military appointments.
It also keeps Prince Andrew, whose ties to multimillionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein led to his withdrawal from the Royal Navy in 2019, from wearing an admiral’s uniform to the observances.
The funeral begins at 10 a.m. Eastern time, while a nationwide minute of silence is observed in Britain as a military honor guard bears Philip’s woolen coffin — a nod to his passion for environmental causes — up the chapel’s entrance stairs.
The prince will be interred in the chapel’s Royal Vault, where his coffin will remain until the death of Queen Elizabeth — when they will be buried together in the George VI Memorial Chapel, the annex where the Queen’s father George VI, mother Queen Elizabeth, and sister Princess Margaret are entombed.