Windsor, England (CNN) — Grief and loss have a way of bringing families together and that appeared to be the case yesterday.
What we are witnessing is a monarchy adapting and evolving in real time. It’s a tricky period for the United Kingdom, which frankly is not so united right now. Calls have not gone away in Scotland for independence, episodes of violent unrest have erupted in parts of Northern Ireland in recent weeks and England is facing something of an identity crisis post-Brexit.
Ceremonial departures can help steady the ship.
The Queen will undoubtedly carry on, as she has always has, due to her eternal commitment to duty and service. She will still define the monarchy as a symbol of unity and continuity. But we are also seeing senior royal family members rallying around her in Philip’s absence.
He will help manage situations as he did, alongside his eldest William, when Harry and wife Meghan revealed they wanted to step back from royal duties.
Seeing the brothers reunite despite current differences was enormously important. Harry doesn’t need to come back into his royal role, but they must repair their relationship and William needs someone to confide in. That person has to be Harry — the only person who truly understands William. Catherine may be William’s wife but Harry has gone through tough times with his brother. He understands royalty and the duties that come with it.
CNN royal historian Kate Williams, who joined us in Windsor, recalled that Harry’s life has been one of service and would likely have been moved by the numerous military references peppered throughout the funeral service.
The service would have touched the Duke of Sussex because of his two tours of duty in Afghanistan, and “everything he’s done for veterans with the Invictus Games. He’s always wanted to be in service,” Williams said. She added that Harry had hoped to create something of a flexi-royal function — a system that the European royals use — and perhaps that could be explored in the future. Regardless, Williams said, “Harry’s support is so important to the monarchy and he is so needed.”
The challenge is how the clan prepares for the next generation of monarchy. The Queen remains incredibly popular and the system is safe so long as she is on the throne. They must find a way for Charles’ reign to be held in equally high esteem, and that will require the assistance of both of his sons.
A Queen in mourning
How Meghan honored Philip from afar
Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, who is pregnant with the couple’s second child, had wanted to attend the Saturday service but was advised against traveling to England by her physician. However, she wanted to pay her respects and sent a wreath made up of locally sourced flowers and a handwritten note from the couple. A spokesperson for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex said Saturday that she was watching from home.
The UK’s Prime Minister couldn’t attend the funeral. He did this instead.
Boris Johnson watched the funeral from his country residence of Chequers, a Downing Street spokesperson confirmed Saturday. He was unable to attend the service — as he would have been expected to under normal circumstances — as a result of the pandemic. The number of mourners in attendance was limited to just 30 people to remain in compliance of current government coronavirus restrictions. In lieu of his attendance, he held a minute’s silence as the service got underway at the door of his property in memory of the duke and posted a photo of the moment’s tribute on Twitter.
IN PICTURES: PHILIP’S FAREWELL
Prince Philip was laid to rest in an intimate service at St. George’s Chapel, which lies within the grounds of Windsor Castle. By royal standards, the service was a relatively muted affair. The ceremony was limited to 30 people, in line with England’s current coronavirus restrictions.
It was preceded by a ceremonial procession that featured members of his family and several of his closest aides walking behind the coffin while the service was littered with references to the duke’s strong relationship to the military.
The Archbishop of Canterbury personalized a prayer for the Duke of Edinburgh, paying tribute to his enduring duty and service to the monarchy and beyond.