Letter: What a fitting send off

This letter sent to the Star was written by Cathy Langan, Sheffield, S8

Monday, 26th April 2021, 7:07 am
Queen Elizabeth II (Photo by Jonathan Brady via Getty Images)

Is it possible to combine pomp and pageantry with Covid compliance?

I had my doubts about that one, but I have to say that the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral proved me wrong. It was powerful but simple, and at times very moving.

Always one to call a spade a damn shovel, his instructions regarding the transportation of his body were, as was his wont, short, sharp and to the point.

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“Just stick me in a Land Rover and drive me to Windsor!” So no horses and carriage involved there. They assented to his wish and the Land Rover was put in to service, although all the royal regalia was an inevitability given the fact that he was the reigning monarch’s husband and consort, and with his naval connections, there was a nautical theme throughout.

As the officers oh so carefully lifted his coffin out of the said Land Rover, and up the steps of Windsor’s St George’s Chapel, I could almost hear him cutting in.

“I say, you chaps, be careful not to damn well drop me!”

The little ensemble atop the coffin, which included his naval hat, a sword and a bouquet from his beloved Lillibet, seemed to sum up his life, encompassing the fact that he was a naval officer as well as the Queen’s husband, and in her words, ‘my strength and stay’.

In keeping with the pandemic, which offers immunity to none, Royals included, all the guests were masked up, including the Queen, who cut a heartbreaking figure, sitting alone, head bowed. Still dignified as always, but so sad and vulnerable.

Reigning monarch or not, she was, at the end of the day a heartbroken old lady who had just lost her husband.

Death is a great leveller and grief, like the pandemic, is universal and spares no one. The only way to get through it is to go through it, as I know all too well myself, having lost my mother just eight months ago. As I know that sense of pain all too well, my heart went out to the Queen.

The service and the music certainly did him proud. There was no eulogy, and, as Covid dictated, the only 30-strong congregation did not sing any hymns.

The choir consisted of just four people, all standing at least two metres apart from each other (as, of course, we’re the congregation), but they well and truly epitomised the expression ‘less is more” and were superb.

The lone piper, the one with the easiest job when it comes to social distancing, also added a touch of poignance as the Duke’s body was carried over to the vault, which was to be his final resting space.

The rendition of The Last Post from the buglers also provided the pageantry that no royal funeral would be complete without, Covid or no Covid.

As always, I had a few words with my mum throughout the service. Referring to the presence of his hat on top of the coffin, I asked her what she reckoned her flowery shower cap would look like on top of hers, at her funeral.

Irreverent? Bad taste? You bet it was, but anyone who knew my mum would’ve known that she had a wicked sense of humour and would have laughed so much at that one that she could’ve put a hyena to shame.

Of course, anyone’s funeral, Royal or not, is going to reignite memories, both good and bad, for someone who has lost a loved one and although my mum’s simple, quiet, basic Catholic funeral couldn’t have been more different to the Duke’s, they had something in common in that they both took place during the pandemic, with a restricted number of masked mourners standing well apart from each other.

After the Duke’s ceremony, as the royal party made their way out of the chapel, it was noticed by all that the recently estranged Princes William and Harry were actually conversing with each other in a cordial fashion.

Let’s hope that this was not just for the benefit of the cameras and that they had realised that life was too short for harbouring grudges.

At that point, the TV commentator cut in, and I could almost hear the Duke of Edinburgh’s resonant voice giving the BBC’s Huw Edwards a dressing down for talking just that bit too much and too enthusiastically.

“Oh tone it down, old boy!”

So now, the Queen’s new journey will begin, without her strength and stay, and negotiating the path of grief so well-trodden by many of her subjects. Her 95th birthday on April 21, would, of course, have been so sadly overshadowed.

So RIP, old boy. You certainly had a fitting send off. I think you can be proud of everyone involved in the whole proceedings.