As they mourned the death of Prince Philip, who through 73 years of marriage to Queen Elizabeth II helped preserve a monarchy that many people saw as out of place in the modern world, the royal family and the nation grappled with how to pay him final honors amid a pandemic when mass gatherings are prohibited.
Tributes and condolences poured in from around Britain and the world, and small crowds collected outside Windsor Castle, where the 99-year-old prince died, and outside Buckingham Palace in London, despite rules barring outdoor gatherings of more than six people. Many of those gathered laid bouquets at the perimeter gates.
Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, will not lie in state for public viewing. His funeral will be held at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, rather than a much larger and more public venue like Westminster Abbey in London, and because of the pandemic it will not be open to the public. More details are expected to be released on Saturday.
His death follows a traumatic 13 months in which Covid-19 has killed more than 150,000 Britons — by far the highest official toll in Europe — and social distancing requirements have deprived millions of survivors of the usual commemorations. Now it is the nation’s most prominent family dealing with the same issue. Britain currently allows no more than 30 people to attend a funeral.
The subdued treatment of Philip’s death reflects not only the times but also the prince, who occasionally relished deflating the stuffy pomp surrounding the monarchy — as well as the self-important airs of others — and indicated that he did not see himself as being significant except as an extension of his wife.
His penchant for insulting and bigoted comments, and the image of him as a cold father, made Philip a somewhat problematic public figure for the queen, now 94, and the royal family. But by the 1990s his controversies were overshadowed by those of his children, and his advancing age made his sharp tongue charming to many people, or simply more irrelevant than offensive.
The prince’s devotion to the queen throughout the longest marriage in British royal history, despite some rocky times early on, and to sustaining and modernizing the monarchy improved his popularity, as did his dogged adherence to a schedule of charity events, ribbon-cuttings and travel well into his 90s. He received an assist from the popular series “The Crown,” which has depicted him as maturing into a wise and dedicated, if emotionally distant, figure.
Again and again, people paying tribute on Wednesday cited Philip’s commitment to duty.
“I just have so much respect for Prince Philip and all he’s done,” Britta Bia, 53 said outside Buckingham Palace, headquarters of the royal household. “I have so much respect for the royal family. I think they’ve done so much for charitable causes, and I think they’ve been upstanding citizens of the commonwealth.”
Philip served in the Royal Navy and saw combat during World War II, “and from that conflict, he took an ethic of service that he applied throughout the unprecedented changes of the postwar era,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said outside No. 10 Downing Street.
In a statement, President Biden and the first lady, Jill Biden, said: “The impact of his decades of devoted public service is evident in the worthy causes he lifted up as patron, in the environmental efforts he championed, in the members of the armed forces that he supported, in the young people he inspired, and so much more.”
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany cited the prince’s “straightforwardness and his sense of duty.”
Last month, the royal family endured an unusually painful and public airing of its internal tensions, as Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, gave an interview to Oprah Winfrey, explaining their clashes within the palace and their decision to move to California. Philip, Harry’s paternal grandfather, was not mentioned as a factor, but defenders of the royals attacked the young couple for adding strain to the family at a time when Philip was hospitalized and appeared to be in failing health.
The decision not to give Philip a state funeral and have him lie in state is in accordance with his wishes, according to the College of Arms, a part of the royal household that helps organize state occasions. The last consort of a monarch who died, Queen Mary, mother of Queen Elizabeth and widow of King George VI, did lie in state after her death in 2002.
“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 College of Arms said in a statement.
The palace said Philip had died peacefully and did not cite a specific cause, but said he did not have the coronavirus. He had been hospitalized several times over the past decade, including once for treatment of a blocked coronary artery and, in increasingly frail condition, he had stepped back from public duties in 2017.
This year, he was hospitalized for four weeks, and underwent surgery on March 3 for what the palace described only as a pre-existing heart condition. He was also treated for an unspecified infection. He was released on March 16, just 24 days before his death.
Elian Peltier, Stephen Castle, Derrick Bryson Taylor, Geneva Abdul, Alex Marshall and Daniel Victor contributed reporting.