Prince Philip's final farewell: Queen hopes to join hundreds at poignant memorial service

29 March 2022, 06:21 | Updated: 29 March 2022, 06:52

The Queen will be joined by members of the Royal Family and representatives from more than 500 charities at Prince Philip's Service of Thanksgiving.
The Queen will be joined by members of the Royal Family and representatives from more than 500 charities at Prince Philip's Service of Thanksgiving. Picture: Alamy

By Sophie Barnett

The Queen hopes to lead her family at a poignant memorial service later for her beloved husband Prince Philip, featuring elements he planned for his own funeral which were forbidden last year.

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The 99-year-old will be remembered as a "man of rare ability and distinction" at the Service of Thanksgiving for the life of the Duke of Edinburgh on Tuesday.

Members of the Royal Family, including Prince Andrew, are expected to attend, with the Queen also hoping to join the congregation at Westminster Abbey.

The 95-year-old monarch, who has faced mobility issues and was recently struck down with Covid-19, is mentioned in the Order of Service, but Buckingham Palace is expected to confirm on Tuesday morning whether or not she will be able attend.

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The Queen pulled out of the Commonwealth Day service earlier this month due to comfort issues and has spoken about not being able to move - but appeared on good form at Windsor last week.

Westminster Abbey is where the couple got married and was the original venue for Prince Philip's funeral, until Covid forced it to be held at Windsor instead.

The farewell to Prince Philip in St George's Chapel last April was limited to just 30 people in the midst of the pandemic and mass singing was banned, with the Queen sitting alone in a mask.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will not return to the UK to attend over security reasons, his spokesperson confirmed on March 11.

Alongside the royal family, members of foreign royal families and the Duke of Edinburgh's wider family and friends, the congregation will include members of the Government and over 500 representatives of the duke's patronages and charities.

It is understood some of Philip's older great-grandchildren may attend, giving the youngest generation of royals the chance to honour their much loved great-grandfather.

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Boris Johnson, who publicly apologised to the Queen and the country over gatherings in Downing Street on the eve of the duke's funeral, will be in the abbey with wife Carrie.

Missing gestures from Philip's pre-pandemic arrangements will see Gold Duke of Edinburgh's Award holders and members of the youth UK Cadet Force associations line the steps of Westminster Abbey as guests arrive.

The duke's express wishes for the congregation to join and sing the rousing hymn Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer, and for the clergy from Windsor, Sandringham and Balmoral to play a special part will finally be granted on Tuesday.

Prayers will be said for the duke's "gifts of character; for his humour and resilience; his fortitude and devotion to duty" by the Chapels Royal's Sub-Dean, while "his energy and spirit of adventure" and "strength and constancy" will be heralded by royal estates' clergy - known as the Queen's domestic chaplains.

Around 30 foreign royals will attend, including Prince Albert of Monaco, Denmark's Queen Margrethe, King Harald and Queen Sonja of Norway, and Spain's King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia, who would have originally been on the pre-pandemic guest list.

Also invited are Sir David Attenborough, Dame Floella Benjamin, Baroness Grey-Thompson and members of the military who were involved in the funeral, including Pipe Major Colour Sergeant Peter Grant and the Grenadier Guards Bearer Party.

Philip, who worked on his own funeral details - codenamed Forth Bridge - for many years, had asked for the choir to sing Te Deum in C by Benjamin Britten, and this will be part of Tuesday's proceedings.

The Dean of Westminster, The Very Reverend David Hoyle, will describe Philip in the bidding as "a man of rare ability and distinction, rightly honoured and celebrated, he ever directed our attention away from himself".

"Working at pace, with so many claims on his attention, he encouraged us to focus, as he was focussed, on the things that matter," he will say.

"His was a discipline and character that seized opportunity and overcame obstruction and difficulty.

"We recall, with affection and respect, the sustained offering of a long life lived fully."

The service will be televised live on BBC One.