In essence, Prince Philip’s funeral on Saturday at Windsor Castle is no more, and certainly no less, than what has always been intended: the farewell to an extraordinary man whose long life was full of accomplishments.
But unfortunately there are other factors that will turn this moving ceremony from a simple act of funeral into the most meticulously researched royal event in years, scrutinizing every expression and gesture on the mourners’ faces as never before.
The reason, of course, is the presence of Prince Harry and what this means for the future of the monarchy.
Could these most bitter family feuds, which rose to the public consciousness a month ago with Harry and Meghan’s explosive TV interview in which they accused an unnamed member of the royal family of nonchalant racism?
Prince Harry and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh attend the 2015 Rugby World Cup Final between New Zealand and Australia at Twickenham Stadium, London, 31 October 2015
If so, it is the apparent rift with Prince William that is central to any reconciliation.
Yesterday, the brothers released their own quirky heartfelt tribute to their beloved grandfather. Rarely have their words been polished and sharpened with more care than those they called out to describe the huge hole that Prince Philip’s death left in their lives.
At some level it was even possible to discover common ground unlocked through their shared memories of growing up with this remarkable figure. Both cited, for example, Philip’s oft-used maxim of “getting started” with things. And both were dutiful.
But although Willem’s offer was formal and sober, his brother caught some of his grandfather’s irreverence in colorful, if grammatically incorrect, remarks.
The fact that they did not make any joint statement like Philip’s grandsons, as they once would have done, sadly suggests that rapprochement is as far away as ever.
HRH The Duke of Edinburgh and HRH The Princess Anne prepare a barbecue on the estate in Balmoral Castle, Scotland during the Royal Family’s annual summer holiday, 22 August 1972
With Harry in strict quarantine at his Windsor home, Frogmore Cottage, after flying to London from Los Angeles, and William and Kate with their children in Anmer Hall, in Norfolk, for the Easter holidays, chances are the brothers will meet each other. meeting before the funeral service looks remote.
So the words they chose to commemorate the Duke of Edinburgh take on even greater meaning.
Both contain personal memories. William reminisced about his grandfather taking his children on horseback rides – his statement was issued with a photo of a two-year-old Prince George sitting next to Philip in his carriage in Sandringham – while Harry recalled him with a beer in hand. Both spoke with affection. Like the Queen, William is reluctant and unaccustomed to expressing emotions in public. Harry, on the other hand, seems to take pride in being open to some and even too emotional.
Thirty minutes between the brothers’ statements, but the way they were issued spoke volumes. William’s came first, in line with royal precedent, and was released by Kensington Palace.
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge attend the 2015 Rugby World Cup Final at Twickenham Stadium, 31 October 2015
Harry, meanwhile, chose not to use the Palace’s services – a mistake certainly – and instead gave it to his US-based Archewell Foundation to distribute it. This could explain the old-fashioned Americanism that stood out in its choice of words.
It wasn’t enough to describe his grandfather as ‘a man of service, honor and great humor’, but he added that Philip was ‘authentically himself’, a curiously modern expression for a 99-year-old man who made a virtue of his old man. – great bluntness and was anything but politically correct.
But the focus will inevitably be on Harry’s decision to include in his eulogy the Royal Marines’ official motto: ‘Per Mare, Per Terram’ – By Sea, By Land.
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At first glance, it was a fitting nod to Philip, Captain General of the Marines for 64 years, who had succeeded Harry. But by expelling himself from the service of the royal family, he should have given up that role after barely 30 months. And the Marines probably won’t forget his departure, even if they forgive it. Was this a cri de coeur over his grief over the loss of that honorary title or perhaps even a coded summons to don the marine uniform for the last time?
The Philip who remembered Harry was the ‘master of the barbecue’ and the ‘legend of banter’ who was’ cheeky ‘to the end, adding,’ I know he would say to all of us now, beer in hand , “Oh, do it.”
For William, his ‘mischievous’ grandfather had been a presence in his life, not only in the good times but also in ‘the hardest days’, a reference almost certainly to Diana’s death when Philip did so much to keep the 15-year-old to comfort. in his grief.
He was also grateful for the kindness his grandfather Kate had shown.
But was there an icy barb aimed at his brother in his comments? “Catherine and I,” he wrote, “will continue to do what he wanted and will support the Queen for years to come. I will miss my grandpa, but I know he would like us to get started. ‘
Harry, of course, cannot do such a thing because of his actions and his self-imposed absence from California. But he did include his pregnant wife and son in his greeting. “Meghan, Archie and I (as well as your future great-granddaughter) will always have a special place in our hearts for you.”
Two brothers, two very different ways of marking their grandfather’s life, but no sign of any healing remarks to mend a heartbreaking rift.
Funerals are often times when families have an opportunity to take stock and build a united front in public, which can pave the way in private. Can William and Harry turn back the clock?
It wasn’t that long ago when the two were rarely out of each other’s company, sharing each other’s homes and sharing everything. But the Oprah Winfrey interview changed everything.
It was not only the assault he and Meghan made on the royal family’s cold aloofness, but also the criticism of Kate and the saga in which the Duchess wept and even dragged flower girl Princess Charlotte into their story, forging fraternal ties to breaking point.
On Saturday, all eyes will be on the brothers – analyzing their expressions, their eye contact, their body language – looking for bridges to be built and disputes to be settled. Both know that, even now, it unites much more than it divides.