LONDON: Gun salutes echoed around the United Kingdom on Saturday as the military paid solemn tribute to Queen Elizabeth II’s husband Prince Philip after his death aged 99, reports AFP.
Coordinated 41-round salutes to the former Royal Navy commander were fired at one round per minute from 12:00 (1100 GMT) in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, as well as at naval bases, from ships at sea, and in the British territory Gibraltar.The number of shots fired—the longest salute used according to military protocol—has been fired in the past to mark the deaths of queen Victoria and wartime prime minister Winston Churchill. Similar salutes were also held in Canberra and Wellington, as the queen is head of state in Australia and New Zealand.
Sporting events, including Premier League football matches and at English county championship cricket, held moments of silence as part of worldwide tributes to mark the death of the Duke of Edinburgh, during a period of national mourning.
The death of the duke, the longest serving royal consort in British history, on Friday is a profound loss for the 94-year-old monarch, who once described her husband of 73 years as her “strength and stay” throughout her long reign.
Flags are flying at half-mast on government buildings and will do so until the morning after his funeral, the date of which has yet to be announced. A two-minute silence will be held ahead of Saturday’s Grand National, the country’s showpiece horse race.
The well-rehearsed protocol for the duke’s death—codenamed “Forth Bridge”—includes the recall of parliament on Monday.
British television stations cleared their schedules for special broadcasts looking back on his life, although the BBC said it had received complaints about the blanket coverage.Westminster Abbey, where the couple married in 1947, tolled its tenor bell 99 times on Friday, once for each year of the prince’s life.
Political campaigning for May local elections stopped, and loyalist leaders in Northern Ireland, who have been rioting for days amid heightening political tensions in the British province, urged a pause in violence on Friday.
The call—“as a mark of respect to the Queen”—was largely heeded.
Marches that had been planned by members of the pro-UK unionist community in Belfast were cancelled on Saturday.
But despite the calls for calm, some lower-level disorder continued overnight.
Philip—who would have celebrated his 100th birthday in June—had been ill for some time, and spent more than a month in hospital from February 16 being treated for a pre-existing heart condition and an infection.
Despite looking frail on his release from hospital on March 16, hopes were raised for his recovery.
But the queen announced Philip’s passing “with deep sorrow” after he died peacefully on Friday morning at Windsor Castle, west of London.
In pre-recorded comments aired in a special BBC programme on Friday, Philip’s children reminisced about memories of their father, his long life and achievements.
“Well, you know he didn’t suffer fools. So if you said anything that was in any way ambiguous - he’d say ‘make up your mind!’” his eldest son and the queen’s heir, Prince Charles, said.
The queen and the duke’s two youngest children—Prince Andrew and Prince Edward—both visited Windsor Castle on Saturday morning. Prince Charles saw his mother was there on Friday.
Britain’s newspaper front pages on Saturday expressed an outpouring of grief, with The Sun tabloid running the headline “We’re all weeping with you Ma’am”.
The Daily Mail splashed a picture of the queen looking at her husband along with the headline “Farewell, my beloved” on the front page of its 144-page souvenir edition.
Tributes came in from home and abroad, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson giving “thanks, as a nation and a kingdom, for the extraordinary life and work of Prince Philip”.
Political and faith leaders in Britain, and from the United States, Europe and Commonwealth countries including Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand and Pakistan also paid their respects.
US President Joe Biden highlighted World War II veteran Philip’s long record of duty to the Queen, “the people of the UK, the Commonwealth, and to his family”.
He called him a “heck of a guy” who “never slowed down” over his long life.
Tributes also came pouring in from Britain’s entertainment royalty, including cast members of the hit Netflix drama, “The Crown”.
Actor Matt Smith, who played Philip in the first two series, said: “Prince Philip was the man. And he knew it. 99 and out but what an innings. And what style.”
Philip is expected to be buried at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle, according to the royal College of Arms, at a date to be determined.
His grandson, Prince Harry, is likely to make his first return to Britain since his shock move to the United States last year, British media reported.
Philip retired from public duties in 2017 at the age of 96, declaring “I’ve done my bit”.
The couple, who celebrated their 73rd wedding anniversary in November, had been living largely in isolation at Windsor, because their age put them at heightened risk from Covid-19.
He was last seen at a staged appearance at a military ceremony at Windsor last July, days after attending the wedding ceremony of his granddaughter Princess Beatrice.
Much of the planning for the funeral has had to be adapted to avoid the gathering of large crowds, because of strict coronavirus restrictions and social distancing guidelines.
On Saturday members of the British public continued to pay their respects outside Buckingham Palace and Windsor, despite royal family requests for people not to gather at royal residences because of Covid restrictions.
Hundreds of flowers that had been layed outside the Queen’s official residence in central London on Friday have been moved to Windsor to apparently to discourage further gathering.
An online book of condolences on the royal family’s official website has been put in place rather than conventional public tributes, and no lying in state.