The death of any senior member of the British Royal Family marks a significant occasion for Canada, with its impact reaching far beyond Britain’s borders.
News that Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh and husband to Queen Elizabeth II, has died at the age of 99 now raises the question not only of how to observe the multitude of royal protocols involved in the death of a member of the Royal Family — but also of how to do so during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here is what we know so far.
Prince Philip’s death
Some of the protocols will have played out at the very earliest moments.
Tradition states that the Lord Chamberlain would likely have been the one to inform the Royal Family of Prince Philip’s death and that they would have done so after consultations with the Queen.
Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, dies at 99
Shortly after, the news was shared with the world.
The Royal Family announced his death via several channels, including their official social media accounts.
In a statement, officials said Prince Philip died Friday morning at Windsor Castle.
It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen has announced the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle. pic.twitter.com/XOIDQqlFPn
— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) April 9, 2021
The statement said the Royal Family is mourning his loss, and that more details will be shared “in due course.”
National mourning over Prince Philip’s death
News of Prince Philip’s death prompted the British Broadcasting Corporation — the U.K.’s national broadcaster — to break into regular programming with the national anthem, God Save The Queen.
The flag at Buckingham Palace was lowered to half-mast, as was the flag on Parliament Hill in Canada and other government buildings as a member of the Commonwealth.
The news of his death also triggered an eight-day period of mourning for the Queen during which all state affairs will be on hold, and which will be followed by a 30-day period of national mourning.
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The period will be observed by everyone, including national representatives serving outside the country.
While few details were offered on what the period of mourning would entail — particularly in the time of COVID-19 — the U.K. government’s website said it “will issue guidance for the public, organisations and businesses for observing the period of mourning.”
Concerns about the possibility of COVID-19 spread also led Buckingham Palace officials to remove the official notice of Prince Philip’s death that had been posted at the gate and which was attracting crowds.
Buckingham Palace asked people not to gather in crowds or at royal residences, and said on Friday that those wishing to express condolences “are asked to do so in the safest way possible.”
“During this time the Royal Family ask that members of the public consider making a donation to a charity instead of leaving floral tributes in memory of The Duke of Edinburgh,” the statement said.
Official engagements already scheduled by the Royal Family may still continue, but all social engagements — if any — must be cancelled in accordance with mourning protocols.
There will also be an online book of condolences made available.
Normally in the case of a death of a royal or state leader, condolence books are made available for the public to sign and share their thoughts for the family of the person who died.
The shift to online condolence books is a bid to limit the risk of people congregating and spreading the virus.
Prince Philip funeral plans
While palace officials have not yet announced formal plans, Prince Philip is not expected to have a state funeral as he had previously requested not to “make a fuss” over his death.
Instead, Buckingham Palace says it is working on plans for a “modified” smaller gathering that will likely have a highly restricted guest list.
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The British government has capped funerals at no more than 30 people amid the pandemic.
It is not yet clear whether the funeral of Prince Philip will receive special treatment, or whether foreign dignitaries will be permitted to attend given the restrictions on international travel in place.
Prince Philip is expected to be buried on Frogmore Estate, which is part of Windsor Home Park and nearby Windsor Castle, where he died.
The cemetery is used specifically for members of the Royal Family.
However, many consorts to monarchs are buried in Westminster Abbey or St. George’s Chapel, where it’s expected the Queen will lie upon her death.
With files from The Associated Press.
More to come …
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