'A great life leaves a very great gap': Prince Philip honoured at Canterbury memorial

11 April 2021, 11:47 | Updated: 12 April 2021, 05:59

The "great life" of Prince Philip has been remembered in a service at Canterbury Cathedral.
The "great life" of Prince Philip has been remembered in a service at Canterbury Cathedral. Picture: PA

By Joe Cook

The "great life" of Prince Philip has been remembered in a moving service at Canterbury Cathedral, watched by thousands online.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby described the Duke of Edinburgh as a man of “remarkable willingness”, who would have been “the first to harumph strongly at over-spiritualisation”.

“When death comes there is another sort of change, there is deep loss and profound sorrow, but there is neither eternal separation nor darkness forever,” the archbishop said.

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“Our lives are not completed before death, but their eternity is prepared,” he continued.

“So we can indeed pray that the Duke of Edinburgh will rest in peace and rise in glory, we may pray for comfort, we may pray and offer love for all who find that a great life leaves a very great gap.”

Read more: 'Ceremonial' funeral for Prince Philip to take place next Saturday

The memorial service was watched by 120 people sitting inside the cathedral in socially distanced household groups, but was also watched live by over 5,000 people online.

The duke was remembered as a man of great public service, who was committed his life to “this nation, the monarchy and his family”.

“For his HRH Duke of Edinburgh there was a willingness, a remarkable willingness, to take the hand he was dealt in life and straightforwardly to follow its call, to search its meaning, to go out and on, as sent, to enquire and think, to trust and to pray,” Mr Welby said.

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The clergy and choir were socially distanced, with most wearing masks when they were not speaking.
The clergy and choir were socially distanced, with most wearing masks when they were not speaking. Picture: Canterbury Cathedral
Prince Philip's funeral will be held at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, on Saturday.
Prince Philip's funeral will be held at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, on Saturday. Picture: PA

“Where we find lives that have prophetic aspects of foreseeing and practical applications of inspiring, as with Prince Philip, we see signs of this new creation, of the spirit of God.”

He added: “We should not exaggerate, the Duke would have been the first to harumph strongly at over-spritualisation of the world he found, let alone of himself.”

Prayers for “comfort and strength” were made for the royal family “as they face this private sorrow in the face of so much public attention”.

Read more: Prince Charles says he misses 'dear Papa' in first speech since Prince Philip's death

Prince Philip’s work in setting up the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, his time in the navy and his efforts in highlighting conservation issues were also highlighted.

Leading the congregation in prayers, the Revd Dr Tim Naish, Canon Librarian at the cathedral, praised the Queen and Prince Philip’s generation.

“Lord as we face so many challenges today, both during the current pandemic and as we seek to rebuild our world, we pray for the persistence, creativity and fortitude shown by the Queen and Prince Philip’s generation over many years to bring about healing and a better future from the trials and struggles of the past,” he said.

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The UK is officially in a period of national mourning for the next week, up to and including Prince Philip's funeral on the afternoon of Saturday April 17.

Next Saturday's royal service in St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, will be like no other, with the Queen and her family wearing face masks and socially distancing as they gather to say their final farewell amid coronavirus restrictions.

Only 30 people - expected to be the Duke's children, grandchildren and other close family - will attend as guests, but the Duchess of Sussex has been advised by her doctor not to travel to the UK for the funeral, a Palace spokesman said.

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Mourners coming from outside England are required to self-isolate for the first full 10 days after they arrive, but are allowed to leave on compassionate grounds to attend a funeral of a close family member.

The Duke of Sussex, who will have travelled from the US, could also be released from quarantine if he gets a negative private test on day five under the Test to Release scheme.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has given up his seat at the funeral to allow a family member to attend, No. 10 said.

While all public elements of the funeral - to take place entirely in the grounds of the castle - have been cancelled, it will be televised.