The man responsible for the Queen’s extraordinary state funeral yesterday is the Duke of Norfolk, a staunch Roman Catholic divorcee and former racing driver who can trace his roots back to Edward I – and who will be given the equally daunting task of preparing the funeral. of King Charles III. coronation next year.
Edward William Fitzalan-Howard, 65, became England’s oldest peer and 18th Duke upon the death of his father Miles in 2002.
For over 350 years, his ancestors passed on the ancient office of Earl Marshal – meaning they are responsible for overseeing funerals of members of the royal family, the coronations of kings and queens, and even state parliament openings.
As part of his duties, the Duke – who shares a distant relative with the late Monarch in her namesake, Elizabeth I, and was made a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order for services to the monarchy in honor of the honor announced for the Platinum Jubilee – also played an important part in the King’s proclamation at St James’s Palace, standing on the balcony overlooking the Friary Court while the main proclamation was read in public by the Garter King of Arms.
But ‘Eddie’, as he’s known to his friends, is also a large landowner reportedly worth more than £100 million, who ran a bottled gas company and carpentry shop and now throws game shoots from his 1,000-year-old ancestral home, Arundel Castle. in West Sussex – and had such a close relationship with Elizabeth II that she regularly invited him to shoot with her in her beloved Scotland.
Curiously, the Oxford-educated Duke is also the oldest lay member of the Roman Catholic Church in Britain – making him a Catholic in charge of the Protestant occasion of the Queen’s state funeral at Westminster Abbey and the engagement at Windsor castle.
And the peer – who is reportedly a private man – has now separated from his yoga-loving wife Georgina after two decades of marriage.
The Duke of Norfolk Edward William Fitzalan-Howard in his role as Earl Marshal
The Duke on the right of the image. The Queen signs the Proclamation of Accession of King Charles III, witnessed by the Prince of Wales, Prime Minister Liz Truss, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell and Lord Chancellor of the Privy Council Brandon Lewis at the Accession Council ceremony on Saint James Palace
Edward Fitzalan-Howard, on the right, at King Charles III’s proclamation in St James’s Palace
Charles, then Prince of Wales and his wife Camilla with the Duke of Norfolk at the opening of Parliament in 2015
Charles, then Prince of Wales, with the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk at Arundel Castle in 2008
Arundel Castle in West Sussex, the 1000-year-old ancestral home of the Duke of Norfolk
Edward William Fitzalan-Howard and Georgina at the Festival of Speed in Goodwood, Surrey in 2003. The couple married in 1987 and have five children, now aged between 24 and 33. They broke up in 2011, much to the chagrin of close friends and family, and the split is said to be so bitter that they missed William and Kate’s royal wedding to avoid being in the same room as each other. They are now divorced, the Duke told The Mail on Sunday
The Duke with his new partner, Chica Herbert
The couple married in 1987 and have five children, now aged between 24 and 33. They broke up in 2011, much to the chagrin of close friends and family, and the split would be so bitter that they missed Prince William’s royal wedding. and Kate Middleton to avoid being in the same room with each other.
They were back together in 2016, just before the wedding of their eldest son Henry, who will one day assume the prestigious title of 19th Duke of Norfolk.
The late Queen is said to be delighted with this reconciliation, while the Catholic Herald published an article praising their decision to stay together.
But last year, the Duke said the reunion was short-lived and he was now in a new relationship with Francesca Herbert, mother of socialite Frankie Herbert and ex-wife of Harry Herbert whose father, the 7th Earl of Carnavon, was the next of kin to the queen. confidant.
At the time, the couple claimed they had no plans to divorce and, in April this year, the Duke would only go so far as to say their future was “uncertain”.
But the Duke revealed last month that the divorce papers were signed in June, which says a lot: The Mail on Sunday: ‘By God, we tried. For the sake of the family, and because we’re Catholic, we’ve tried really, really everything. It turned out to be totally impossible and we had to move on. The last divorce was initiated a year ago and now it has finally come through. It’s just terribly sad, but we have to move on for the sake of the children – we can’t keep doing this to them.’
The Duke with his ex-wife the Duchess in London in 2016
Arundel Castle was built at the end of the 11th century. It is now the home of the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk
The funeral procession carrying the Queen’s casket from Westminster Abbey through The Mall to Wellington Arch
The ceremonial procession of Queen Elizabeth II’s casket travels the long walk to Windsor Castle for the solemn service at St George’s Chapel
Queen Elizabeth II’s casket with the Imperial State Crown on top is in St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle
Georgina, 60, has retained the couple’s Angmering Park House and 100 acres of the estate, which makes up a small portion of 16,000 acres owned by the Duke on the South Downs.
He lives less than two miles away at Peppering Farm, an estate once occupied and furnished by the Duchess during one of their trial separations.
Although his title would imply that he is ruler of Norwich, the traditional seat of the Duke of Norfolk is nearly 200 miles away at Arundel Castle in West Sussex.
This situation is not uncommon, with very few British dukes living near the origin of their title. Chatsworth House, the home of the Dukes of Devonshire, is located in Derbyshire. Likewise, Eaton Hall in Cheshire has been the traditional seat of the Duke of Westminster for centuries.
The reason for the absenteeism among the dukes is usually a history. Many owned their homes and land before taking their titles. In fact, they were usually given duchies precisely because they were rich enough to own a lot of land, so they tended to stay in their existing homes.
Arundel Castle was given to the ancestors of the present Duke of Norfolk shortly after the Norman Conquest in the 11th century, while the title was created several centuries later.
Traditional chairs are now often irrelevant, with many rights sold or lost. The Duke of Manchester, for example, lives in Las Vegas and has sometimes found his ducal seat in the High Desert Nevada State Prison – a long way from the 17th-century Kimbolton Castle, which is now a school.
The Duke of Norfolk also told The Mail on Sunday: “Since the divorce, to be fair, there has been no sharing. The castle is now mine, for family and weekends. Her area of influence is simply Angmering House.
‘The financial arrangement was agreed a long time ago, but we have since reconciled it – now it has been put into practice. The biggest difficulty is just the grief of the two of us failing to make it work. That’s the biggest sadness, honestly. There wasn’t one thing that broke us – we tried and tried and tried, for eight years.
“We really did our best, there’s no doubt about it. It’s completely friendly and terribly sad.’