Mellowing is not a quality that anybody associates with the Duke of Edinburgh, and today, out of Windsor and London, respectively, the warring princes Harry and his brother William have each made it clear that Prince Philip maintained his iron discipline of being absolutely irreducibly himself until his peaceful, permanent night’s sleep on April 9. Harry, for one, — now successfully having made the hop on BA from Los Angeles to Heathrow on March 11 in an aptly black mask — is currently reportedly quarantining at, and obviously posting from, his old digs Frogmore Cottage at Windsor. He and Meghan Markle had loaned it to Harry’s cousin Princess Eugenie and her husband Jack Brooksbank, who then vacated it rather quickly, apparently on orders of the Queen.
According to reports, the grandsons of Philip posted tweets within thirty minutes of each other on April 12 in proper protocol order, William first, Harry next. Whether that was orchestrated is not known. But the brothers hewed to character in their posts, which could not have been more exemplary and different. William’s was by far the statelier, and Harry’s statement more militarily blunt, with just that extra dash of what we might call the trait shared by Harry with his grandfather, the Tabasco sauce of irreverence.
Here are the posts in their order of appearance. William:
“My grandfather’s century of life was defined by service – to his country and Commonwealth, to his wife and Queen, and to our family.
I feel lucky to have not just had his example to guide me, but his enduring presence well into my own adult life – both through good times and the hardest days. I will always be grateful that my wife had so many years to get to know my grandfather and for the kindness he showed her. I will never take for granted the special memories my children will always have of their great-grandpa coming to collect them in his carriage and seeing for themselves his infectious sense of adventure as well as his mischievous sense of humour!
My grandfather was an extraordinary man and part of an extraordinary generation. Catherine and I will continue to do what he would have wanted and will support The Queen in the years ahead. I will miss my Grandpa, but I know he would want us to get on with the job.”
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“My grandfather was a man of service, honour and great humour. He was authentically himself, with a seriously sharp wit, and could hold the attention of any room due to his charm – and also because you never knew what he might say next.
He will be remembered as the longest reigning consort to the monarch, a decorated serviceman, a prince and a duke. But to me, like many of you who have lost a loved one or grandparent over the pain of this past year, he was my grandpa: master of the barbecue, legend of banter, and cheeky right ‘til the end.
He has been a rock for Her Majesty the Queen with unparalleled devotion, by her side for 73 years of marriage, and while I could go on, I know that right now he would say to all of us, beer in hand, ‘Oh do get on with it!’
So, on that note, Grandpa, thank you for your service, your dedication to Granny, and for always being yourself. You will be sorely missed, but always remembered – by the nation and the world. Meghan, Archie, and I (as well as your future great-granddaughter) will always hold a special place for you in our hearts.
‘Per Mare, Per Terram.’
The simple, elegant Latin farewell from Harry is freighted with a shared history. “By Sea, By Land” is the motto of the Royal Marines, whose honorary captaincy Harry inherited from Philip in 2017, and whose concert was among his last official duties as a full-time royal a year ago. Of the two brothers, Harry broke form in his last paragraph, abandoning the third-person singular and addressed his grandfather directly with two quite emotional sentences employing the second-person singular.
Back in that part of London that closely observes and dissects royal affairs, much has been made in the British press of the fact of Harry’s presence in England after a year’s absence, with Britain’s legions of royal experts commenting hither and yon about the possibility of a ‘rapprochement’ between William and Harry, at least, if not between Harry and his father and grandmother.
Having Harry in country at last, for the first time since the March 9 Oprah broadcast, might now best be compared to hauling an unsteady detonator cap into a roomful of sweating dynamite. All eyes are on each and every move any member of the royal family makes. One lasting effect of the Oprah Winfrey interview given by Harry and Meghan Markle is that Buckingham and Kensington Palaces are now tightly buttoned-up shops — there won’t be any comment on how any of that is going at this point, or for the foreseeable future from any members of the royal family, save perhaps unguarded Harry.
Bottom line: Uncomfortable as his immediate family might now be with Harry, and he with them — and it’s fair to say that there will be more than a little discomfort come next Saturday — it’s far likelier that they will do what Windsors do, namely, as Philip would certainly have suggested, they’ll soldier through the thing. They’re going to want a dram or two when it’s done.
As for the funeral arrangements at Windsor proper, as Buckingham Palace has made clear, all will take place behind the castle walls.
That’s not to suggest that the laying to rest of Philip won’t bear the trademark Windsor spit-and-polish: There will be a rather grand procession, and no fewer than three regiments will be involved in the carry, with several others, including the Rifles band, represented in unit size throughout the grounds of the castle during “Operation Forth Bridge” as the funeral is being called. It is a military event, and it will be televised. Thirty family members and close staff will attend. Philip will be laid to rest in his Navy uniform and will find a home in the Royal Vaults under St. George’s Chapel, where a space for Elizabeth, when her day comes, awaits her.