In the end this was no long goodbye. Indeed as royal funerals go it was over with almost indecent haste – exactly how he would have wanted it.
Prince Philip’s lifetime of unstinting service was recognised in an intimate funeral of muted pomp and circumstance at Windsor Castle.
He’d plotted and planned every detail of the occasion with military precision, his body taken to St George’s Chapel in a bespoke Land Rover hearse he had designed.
He selected the readings and hymns and issued a characteristically firm instruction there’d be no eulogising sermon. After a week of fulsome tributes, from all corners of the globe, it was – in his own famous words – time to ‘get on with it’.
There were still braided uniforms, bearskins, pith hats, precision marching, muffled drums, kilted bagpipers, organ recitals and choral singing but the splendour and feeling of the traditional pageantry of these occasions was turned down from its normal maximum setting.
The royal firm, as they dub themselves, have certainly appeared rather fractured in recent months but on a crisp spring day under cloudless skies, they were united in grief for the undisputed leader of their clan. Squabbles and scandals will wait for another day.
And the enduring image of this sombre occasion was of a solitary 94-year old widow, a little frailer than before, in her mask and seemingly all alone, two metres from her loved ones due to the pandemic restrictions of the day.
At least we can agree that was not what he would have wanted.
After 99 years, including 73 by the side of his wife, Britain’s longest-serving consort was laid to rest in the royal vault alongside three kings of the realm, not bad for a refugee child, smuggled from his homeland in an orange crate, and plucked from the Mediterranean by the Royal Navy.
His coffin, covered with his personal standard, along with his sword, naval cap and a wreath of flowers, was moved from the family’s private chapel, where the Queen said a private farewell, to the Castle’s soaring Inner Hall by members of The 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards.
He then made his final journey through the grounds of this 1,000 year old castle flanked by his children, Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward, grandchildren Prince William, Prince Harry and Peter Phillips, son-in-law Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence and nephew the Earl of Snowdon.
The Queen went ahead in her state Bentley, accompanied by a lady-in-waiting, arriving at the chapel’s Galilee porch to lead a congregation of just 30 in a sombre reflection and celebration of a 99 year long life well lived.
“We have been inspired by his unwavering loyalty to our Queen, by his service to the Nation and the Commonwealth, by his courage, fortitude and faith,” said David Conner, the Dean of Windsor.
“With grateful hearts, we remember the many ways in which his long life has been a blessing to us. 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.”
Once a sailor, always a sailor, the top cadet of the Royal Naval College’s class of 1940, made sure his love of the ocean wave was represented.
His coffin arrived to a series of shrill coxswain’s calls, a choir of just four sung ‘Eternal Father, Strong To Save’, the naval hymn, and buglers played an echoing Action Stations and haunting Last Post as his casket was lowered into the vault.
A piper’s lament followed and then the soaring Reveille, used to wake the military at sunrise, was sounded by the State Trumpeters of the Household Cavalry.
There’s a lot about Britain in 2021 that the Duke of Edinburgh couldn’t empathise with or even recognise.
And yet on this gothic, grand and storied stage, a chapel in name but not in standing, this farewell would felt very familiar for a man steeped in the tradition of crown, country, family and service.