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Britain mourns Prince Philip, longtime consort of Queen Elizabeth II, as funeral plans are awaited

Many Britons and others around the world will wake Saturday to a sense of sadness at the death of Prince Philip, the patriarch of the UK royal family who spent more than 70 years by the side of Queen Elizabeth II.

The news that Philip, also known by his official title of the Duke of Edinburgh, had “passed away peacefully” at the age of 99 was announced Friday by the Queen “with deep sorrow,” Buckingham Palace said.

The duke had recently spent a month in two London hospitals, undergoing heart surgery and treatment for an infection, before returning in mid-March to Windsor Castle, where he died on Friday morning.

The timing of Philip’s death, with Covid-19 restrictions still in place across the UK, means the nation’s public expressions of grief will be constrained.

The royal household and the UK government have urged the public not to gather or lay flowers outside royal residences, as has happened in the past. Huge banks of bouquets were left by well-wishers outside Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace, Windsor Castle and elsewhere following the deaths of Diana, Princess of Wales, and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.

“Although this is an extraordinarily difficult time for many, we are asking the public not to gather at royal residences, and continue to follow public health advice particularly on avoiding meeting in large groups and on minimizing travel,” a Cabinet Office spokesperson said in a statement.

Funeral arrangements for Philip are expected to be confirmed by Buckingham Palace on Saturday, according to a royal source. CNN understands that plans for royal funerals have been in place for many years, but the ceremonial elements have had to be altered due to the Covid-19 restrictions in the UK.

The College of Arms, which oversees many ceremonial aspects of the royal family’s work, said in a statement Friday that the funeral would be held at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, “in line with custom and with His Royal Highness’s wishes.”

The statement said the ceremony would not be a state funeral and would not be preceded by a lying-in-state, which could have seen thousands of members of the public lining up to view his coffin.

“The funeral arrangements have been revised in view of the prevailing circumstances arising from the Covid-19 pandemic and it is regretfully requested that members of the public do not attempt to attend or participate in any of the events that make up the funeral,” the statement added.

More than 200,000 people filed past the coffin of the Queen Mother — who preceded Philip as royal consort — as she lay in state in April 2002, and many thousands lined the streets to pay their respects as her funeral procession passed.

Such a mass expression of grief is unthinkable in a time of pandemic. However, signs of a nation in mourning will still be apparent. Players in the English Premier League will wear black armbands, and “there will be a minute’s silence before kick-off at all Premier League matches … across the weekend,” the organization has announced.

An online book of condolence was launched on the royal family’s official website, as they joined the British government in asking that “members of the public consider making a donation to a charity instead of leaving floral tributes in memory of the Duke of Edinburgh.”

The bells of London’s Westminster Abbey, where Prince Philip married Queen Elizabeth more than 70 years ago, rang on Friday evening in honor of him.

Gun salutes will be fired from noon local time on Saturday, the UK Ministry of Defense wrote in a statement. “Across the United Kingdom, in Gibraltar and on HM Ships at sea, saluting batteries will fire 41 rounds at one round every minute for 40 minutes,” it wrote. Gun salutes are also scheduled to be fired across Commonwealth countries, including in the Australian capital Canberra.

Philip’s death comes as many across the country and the world grieve the loss of loved ones during the Covid pandemic.

Tributes to a life of service

Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, said Prince Philip would be “greatly missed” in a statement following news of the death of Harry’s grandfather.

Posted on the front page of the couple’s Archewell charity website, the message simply reads: “In loving memory of His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, 1921-2021. Thank you for your service… you will be greatly missed.”

Paying tribute in a televised statement, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the duke had “earned the affection of generations here in the United Kingdom, across the Commonwealth, and around the world” and had lived by an ethic of service.

“Like the expert carriage driver that he was, he helped to steer the royal family and the monarchy so that it remains the institution indisputably vital to the balance of our national path. He was an environmentalist, and a champion of the natural world, long before it was fashionable,” Johnson said. “With his Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme, he shaped and inspired the lives of countless young people.”

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair said the “whole nation will be united in sadness at the passing of Prince Philip,” adding he should be recognized “as a remarkable and steadfast support to the Queen over so many years” but also “celebrated in his own right as a man of foresight, determination and courage.”

Tributes for the duke also flooded in from all over the world, including the Commonwealth nations of India, Australia and Canada. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he had had a “distinguished career in the military and was at the forefront of many community service initiatives. May his soul rest in peace.”

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Philip “embodied a generation that we will never see again.” Canada’s Justin Trudeau said: “Prince Philip was a man of great purpose and conviction, who was motivated by a sense of duty to others. He will be fondly remembered as a constant in the life of our Queen.”

US President Joe Biden said Philip had “gladly dedicated himself to the people of the UK, the Commonwealth, and to his family,” and that his legacy would live on “not only through his family, but in all the charitable endeavors he shaped.”

‘Constant strength and guide’

Philip married the then-Princess Elizabeth in 1947, following distinguished service in the Royal Navy during World War II. Together, they had four children — Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward — eight grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

When Elizabeth ascended the throne in February 1952, on the death of her father, George VI, Philip’s lifetime of service as royal consort began.

Over the decades, Philip often accompanied the Queen on royal engagements, and conducted thousands of his own solo appearances. He once referred to himself as “the world’s most experienced plaque unveiler,” while the Queen lauded him as her “constant strength and guide.”

Philip continued making public appearances well into his 90s, retiring only in August 2017.

He was seen in public only infrequently from that point, notably at the Windsor Castle wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in May 2018, and at the nuptials for Princess Eugenie in October 2018 and for Princess Beatrice in July 2020.

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