Daily Mail Online: LONDON, England – The Queen today announced with ‘deep sorrow’ the death of her husband Prince Philip at the age of 99, her ‘strength and guide’ throughout their 73-year marriage and her 69-year reign.
The Duke of Edinburgh spent his final days at Windsor Castle with his wife, who he lovingly called Lilibet throughout their long life together, after a 28-night stay in hospital having been admitted in mid-February for an infection and a pre-existing heart condition.
Her Majesty announced her husband’s death at midday as the Union Flag was lowered to half-mast outside Buckingham Palace and on public buildings across the UK and Commonwealth. Westminster Abbey rang its bells 99 times in his memory from 6pm.
A frail Philip was last seen leaving hospital on March 16 and his death plunges the nation and the Royal Family into mourning, and brings to an end his lifetime of service to Britain and to Elizabeth, the Queen who adored him since her teens. The couple shared their 73rd wedding anniversary last November and he was due to turn 100 on June 10 this year.
The Royal Family said in a statement: ‘It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen announces the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle. Further announcements will made in due course. The Royal Family join with people around the world in mourning his loss’.
Hundreds gathered in the spring sunshine at the palace and in Windsor, where many hugged and wiped away tears as they laid flowers in his memory – and left messages of love and support for the Queen and her family.
But as the crowds grew this afternoon the Government urged people to stay away and not to leave bouquets for public health reasons because Britain remains in lockdown due to Covid-19. The notice announcing the Duke of Edinburgh’s death at the gates of Buckingham Palace even had to be removed to maintain social distancing, officials said.
Her Majesty, who remains at Windsor Castle with her husband, will enter an eight-day period of mourning. She will not carry out any duties, even in private, while laws will not be given the Royal Assent and affairs of state will also be paused.
A state funeral including a flotilla of boats on the Thames to mark his life looks impossible due to COVID restrictions, but the Duke was said to have disliked the idea because he “didn’t want the fuss”.
His funeral will be a small family service at St George’s Chapel in the grounds of Windsor Castle before the duke is buried in Frogmore Gardens, where Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were laid to rest.
Details will emerge in the next few days, with the plan nicknamed ‘Operation Forth Bridge’, but the public have already been urged to stay away from the event to avoid spreading COVID-19 and watch it on TV instead.
Boris Johnson led the tributes to the Queen’s husband and addressed the nation outside No 10 Downing Street shortly after the announcement. He said: “We give thanks, as a nation and a kingdom, for the extraordinary life and work of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
“Speaking on their golden wedding anniversary, Her Majesty said that our country owed her husband ‘a greater debt than he would ever claim or we shall ever know’ and I am sure that estimate is correct So we mourn today with Her Majesty The Queen.
“We remember the duke for all of this and above all for his steadfast support for Her Majesty the Queen. Not just as her consort, by her side every day of her reign, but as her husband, her ‘strength and stay’, of more than 70 years.
“And it is to Her Majesty, and her family, that our nation’s thoughts must turn today. Because they have lost not just a much-loved and highly respected public figure, but a devoted husband and a proud and loving father, grandfather and, in recent years, great-grandfather.” Mr Johnson also praised his Duke of Edinburgh scheme, which has ‘shaped and inspired the lives of countless young people’.
Officials at Buckingham Palace are now preparing for a royal ceremonial funeral at Windsor Castle in Berkshire in keeping with Philip’s wishes, with a military procession also expected in London – COVID laws permitting.
Until his death, Philip was the longest-serving consort in British history and the oldest partner of a reigning monarch. Despite his ill health, the Queen remained resolutely stoic in Prince Philip’s final days and took part in her first royal engagement of 2021 last week.
People stood in masks, two metres apart to hug and remember the Queen’s husband, who dedicated his life to the country
A member of staff carries an announcement, regarding the death of Britain’s Prince Philip, to be displayed on the fence of Buckingham Palace
Prince Harry is preparing to return to the UK for the first time since leaving Royal duties after the death of Prince Philip – but questions remain over whether Meghan will join him.
Harry’s grandfather’s death comes weeks after they gave an interview to Oprah alleging racism in the Royal Family which aired while Philip was in hospital.
Since then, they have launched a charity, accepted lucrative business deals with Netflix and Spotify, given public talks, appeared on Zoom conferences, and on March 7, they criticised the Royal Family in a sit-down interview with Oprah that was viewed around the world.
Meghan is now pregnant with their second child and due to give birth sometime in the summer but she has not disclosed exactly when. The couple has not commented on any plan to return to the UK.
Members of the public were advised to join a queue to take pictures and place flowers, with stewards urging people not to gather in large crowds.
More than 100 floral tributes – ranging from bunches of daffodils to fuller bouquets, many with notes attached – and two Union flags have been placed at the gates by mourners.
Traffic is being diverted in some areas of Windsor town centre close to Windsor Castle, as crowds continue to gather.
A number of wellwishers have laid flowers at the Henry VIII Gate in the town, with a number of other tributes left at the Cambridge Gate.
The Queen is in the depths of ‘deep sorrow’ following her husband’s death.
“He has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years,” Her Majesty said at their Golden Wedding banquet in 1997. “I and his whole family, and this and many other countries, owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim, or we shall ever know.”
The quizzical, witty, faithful – and often controversial – the Duke was the Queen’s greatest source of support, her confidant and the man she relied on above all others.
He was a great-grandfather of ten, with the most recent addition to his wider family being Zara and Mike Tindall’s baby son Lucas Philip Tindall on March 21 – soon after Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank’s son August, who was born on February 9.
Tributes have been paid by political and religious leaders to the ‘much-loved’ Duke of Edinburgh after his death at the age of 99.
Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said Philip was an “outstanding example of Christian service”.
In a statement, he said: “On the occasions when I met him, I was always struck by his obvious joy at life, his enquiring mind and his ability to communicate to people from every background and walk of life.
“He was a master at putting people at their ease and making them feel special.
“The legacy he leaves is enormous.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the UK has “lost an extraordinary public servant in Prince Philip”.
He said: “He will be remembered most of all for his extraordinary commitment and devotion to the Queen.”
The Duke of Edinburgh drew up the plans himself and in character with his no-nonsense attitude will eschew usual state formalities.
Philip will lie at rest in Windsor Castle for a period of days ahead of his funeral at St George’s Chapel, which is expected to be socially distanced.
Royal fans have been told not to attend any part of the events that make up the funeral die to COVID restrictions, or lay flowers.
The Duke of Edinburgh is expected to then be buried in Frogmore Gardens, in the grounds of Windsor Castle.
The Queen will not carry out any duties even in private under COVID restrictions, laws will not be given the Royal Assent and affairs of state will also be paused.
Following these eight days, a further period of official Royal Mourning is expected to continue for 30 days.
Scores of people will be involved in the days ahead, from military guards and the clergy, to staff at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, who will be making sure the household continues to run smoothly during this traumatic time for the Queen.
The Queen and her children and grandchildren will enter a period of mourning for their patriarch, which could last several weeks.
Official engagements, most of which are presently online, can continue during this time, although most are postponed or cancelled, but it depends on the wishes of the monarch.In recent months the couple have lived through the coronavirus pandemic together, at Sandringham in Norfolk, during a summer break at Balmoral Estate in Scotland and latterly in what was dubbed ‘HMS Bubble’ at Windsor Castle from October 2020.
Top Feature Photo: A boy leaves flowers next to a Union flag in front of the gate outside the Duke of Edinburgh’s London home