UK churches celebrate the 'great life' of Prince Philip

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Royal Wedding in Windsor

(Fixes typo in paragraph 2)

By Paul Sandle and Kate Holton

LONDON (Reuters) – The life of Prince Philip was celebrated at church services across Britain on Sunday, with the Archbishop of Canterbury praying for those who found that the death of Queen Elizabeth’s husband had left a “very great gap” in their lives.

Marking the third of eight days of national mourning, people gathered at royal palaces to leave flowers, while religious and political leaders expressed support for the 94-year-old queen, the world’s oldest and longest-reigning monarch.

At Canterbury Cathedral, Edward Elgar’s stirring Nimrod was played, the piece of music that accompanies many British funerals and memorial services and is played annually at the Cenotaph in London to mark the National Service of Remembrance.

“We may pray and offer love for all who find that a great life leaves a very great gap,” Justin Welby, the leader of the global Anglican Communion, told the congregation at Canterbury Cathedral as he remarked on the prince’s inquiring mind.

Philip, who was officially known as the Duke of Edinburgh, died at Windsor Castle on Friday. He was 99.

Buckingham Palace said on Saturday the funeral would be held on Saturday April 17, with long-established plans redrawn and scaled down because of COVID-19 restrictions.

The prince will be given a ceremonial royal funeral rather than a state funeral. There will be no public processions, and it will be held entirely within the grounds of Windsor Castle and limited to 30 mourners.

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John Major, who was British prime minister from 1990 to 1997, said he hoped the queen would be given the time she needs to grieve after she lost her husband and companion of 73 years.

“I do hope she’s given a little space, and a little time, and a little freedom to grieve in the way anybody else would wish to do so after having lost their spouse,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr.

“He was the person who was there,” he said of Philip. “He was the person to whom she could unburden herself.”

The royal family was plunged into its greatest crisis in decades last month when Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex and the couple’s grandson, gave an explosive interview to Oprah Winfrey alongside his wife Meghan in the United States.

During the interview, Meghan said her pleas for help while she felt suicidal were ignored and that one unnamed member of the family had asked how dark their unborn child’s skin might be.

Buckingham Palace said Harry will return from the United States where the couple now live to attend the funeral while Meghan, who is pregnant with their second child, will not, on her doctor’s advice.

The leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, said he hoped the private nature of the funeral would allow the family to come together and rebuild ties.

“Many a family gather and get over tension and broken relationships at the time of a funeral,” he told Times Radio. “Something very profound unites them all again. And that would be true of this family, I’m sure.”

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(This story fixes typo in paragraph 2)


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