Queen Elizabeth II was reportedly at the bedside of her ‘beloved husband’ of 73 years Prince Philip when he passed away ‘peacefully’ at Windsor Castle on Friday, MailOnline reports.
The Duke of Edinburgh, the nation’s longest-serving consort, died in his private apartment just two months and a day before what would have been his 100th birthday.
Though palace officials declined to ‘go into any specifics’ about the nature of his passing, it is understood his frail condition worsened overnight on Thursday and that insiders had warned he was ‘gravely ill’. However, any talk of whisking the elderly duke to hospital was reportedly quickly dismissed by the Queen.
Philip, who recently spent a month being treated for an infection and a pre-existing heart condition, is thought to have died suddenly and unexpectedly, but peacefully in the company of his dear ‘Lilibet’. The Telegraph reported that the duke had wanted to pass away ‘in his own bed’ and ‘on his own terms’.
One well-placed source told the paper: ‘He spent most of the four weeks he was in hospital trying to get home. They operated on his heart in a bid to give him a little longer, maybe with the 100th birthday in mind. But he didn’t really care about that.’ They added: ‘There is no way he would have wanted to die in hospital.’
In a short but poignant statement at noon, Buckingham Palace said: ‘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 be made in due course. The Royal Family join with people around the world in mourning his loss.’
As tributes poured in from around the world, the Palace’s focus was on the royal family‘s aching personal bereavement. ‘They are a family in mourning,’ one official said last night.
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Prince Charles, the heir to the throne, was seen leaving Windsor Castle hours after the news of his father’s passing. The Prince of Wales, 72, drove from his Highgrove Estate in Gloucestershire to the 94-year-old monarch’s Berkshire residence ahead of the public announcement of the duke’s passing.
Sitting in the front passenger seat of a silver Tesla, the prince looked on as he pulled away. It is not known whether Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, had accompanied him on what is their 16th wedding anniversary.
A source close to Charles said he was ‘comforted’ by the fact he and his father had been in touch more regularly than ever in recent weeks and months – and that they ‘had said all the things that needed to be said’.
The source said: ‘It is some small comfort today that the prince was in much more regular contact with his father in recent weeks and months than he otherwise might have been. He was the only family member who was able to visit him in hospital and he was at Windsor as recently as the week before last. They spoke a great deal.’
Friends were at pains to point out that the relationship between father and son was also warmer than it had ever been. One said: ‘The idea that their relationship was strained, certainly in recent years, couldn’t have been further from the truth. And that’s an important thing to remember in all that is being written.
‘There was genuine love, affection and understanding there. Which is all anyone holds dear at the end.’
There was no immediate personal reaction from the wider Royal Family, such was their grief. But in a previously recorded tribute to his father, Philip’s youngest son Prince Edward told ITV: ‘My parents have been such a fantastic support to each other during all those years and all those events and all those tours and events overseas. To have someone that you confide in and smile about things that you perhaps could not in public.
‘To be able to share that is immensely important.’
Recalling his humour ‘which always came through and the twinkle in his eye’, Edward added that he would remember his father ‘for what he has done in his public life for all the organisations he has supported and influenced’. Philip’s daughter Princess Anne told the broadcaster: ‘Without him life will be completely different.’
Harry and Meghan posted a message on their website thanking the duke for his service. ‘You will be greatly missed,’ it read. The prince was last night said to be ‘likely’ to fly from his home in the US, although it is unclear whether his heavily pregnant wife will join him.
At around 10.40am there was a flurry of police activity at the castle before Prince Andrew, who lives closest at Royal Lodge on the Windsor estate, arrived at a back entrance to the Queen’s private apartments five minutes later. Then at 11.15am another family member, believed to be Prince Edward, arrived to console their devastated mother.
News of Philip’s death, after being confirmed by the on-call royal doctor and disseminated to members of the Royal Family, was relayed to the Prime Minister and relevant arms of government – via a simple message: ‘Forth Bridge is down’, the official codeword for the Duke of Edinburgh’s death. Around the country, Union flags began to be flown at half-mast and will remain so until after the funeral next Saturday.
As the Queen lost her husband, and the country mourns one of its greatest servants, it also emerged:
A period of official mourning has begun that will last for a month.
Uniformed staff from the Royal Household and officers in the Armed Forces will wear mourning bands.
Following tradition, a formal notice announcing Philip’s death was posted on the gates at Buckingham Palace by two mask-wearing members of staff. But it was removed within an hour in an effort to deter crowds from forming during a time of pandemic.
Palace officials asked members of the public not to gather outside any royal residence and to consider making a donation to charity instead of leaving flowers. An online book of condolence was set up on the royal website www.royal.uk.
It is likely that Covid requirements will force wholesale changes to the funeral plans, which have been in place for many decades.
Philip’s coffin should have been brought from Windsor to London to lie in state, but such an undertaking, which could attract crowds, is likely to be scrapped. Instead it will remain at Windsor until the funeral.
Philip was the longest-serving consort in British history and retired from public life in 2017, largely moving to Sandringham in Norfolk. At the start of the first lockdown last year he returned to Windsor to be with his wife and according to sources they have since enjoyed some of their happiest months together.
Boris Johnson paid tribute last night to the duke, saying he would be remembered for his ‘steadfast support’ of the Queen.
The Prime Minister added: ‘He was an environmentalist, and a champion of the natural world long before it was fashionable.
‘With his Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme he shaped and inspired the lives of countless young people and at literally tens of thousands of events he fostered their hopes and encouraged their ambitions.’
Britain entered eight days of mourning ahead of Prince Philip’s expected funeral next Saturday, after The Queen announced with ‘deep sorrow’ the death of her husband at the age of 99.
Philip was her ‘strength and guide’ throughout their 73-year marriage and her 69-year reign, as crowds of mourners laying flowers and tributes at palaces became so large they were told to disperse because of the pandemic.
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, in Downing Street and on public buildings across the UK and Commonwealth. Westminster Abbey will ring its bells 99 times in his memory from 6pm.
A frail Philip was last seen leaving hospital for Windsor on March 16. 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.
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, and police horses even arrived to help marshal mourners.
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. The date has not been set officially, but sources claim it could be on Saturday, April 17.
More 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 to avoid spreading Covid-19 and watch it on TV at home instead. A state funeral including a flotilla of boats on the Thames to mark her husband’s life looks impossible due to covid restrictions, but the Duke was said to have disliked the idea because he ‘didn’t want the fuss’.
The plans for the funeral were posted online by the government – before swiftly being taken down again. They appeared to confirm claims from sources.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle today paid a short tribute to Prince Philip following news of the Duke of Edinburgh’s death. In a post on their Archwell website, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex paid tribute to his grandfather with the two line message: ‘Thank you for your services… You will be greatly missed.’
The 21-word post, which takes up the whole of the website’s main page, was first revealed by their friend Omid Scobie, co-author of their biography Finding Freedom.
Harry is expected to return to the UK and be among the small number of mourners at the funeral, but it is much less clear whether his pregnant wife Meghan will return, weeks after the couple accused the Royal Family of racism in their bombshell Oprah interview while Philip lay in hospital.
The Duke of Edinburgh’s title will eventually pass on to his youngest son, Prince Edward, it was confirmed today – but he will have to wait until after the death of his mother and his brother Charles becomes king because of royal protocols.
The cause of Philip’s death has not been made public, but Philip had his first Covid-19 vaccination with the Queen on January 9, with his second one due around a week ago. It is not known if it was administered.
Parliament will be recalled from its Easter recess on Monday – a day earlier than planned – where MPs will give tributes in the Commons. The Conservatives, Labour and other major parties have suspended campaigning for the local, mayoral and police and crime commissioner elections in May out of respect for the duke.
Her Majesty, who remains at Windsor Castle with her husband, has now started 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.
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’.
He added: ‘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’.