Charles: Royal family 'deeply grateful' for world's support

·5 min read

LONDON — Britain’s Prince Charles says the royal family is “deeply grateful’’ for outpouring of support they’ve received following the death of his father, Prince Philip.

In a statement to the nation, the heir to the throne says he is touched by the number of people around the world who have shared the family’s loss and sorrow.

Charles says “my dear Papa was a very special person who I think, above all else, would have been amazed by the reaction and the touching things that have been said about him. And from that point of view we are, my family, deeply grateful for all that. It will sustain us in this particular loss and at this particularly sad time.’’ Philip, 99, died Friday. The palace says a private family funeral will take place on April 17 at Windsor Castle.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

Prince Philip’s royal ceremonial funeral will take place April 17 at Windsor Castle — a slimmed-down service amid the COVID-19 pandemic that will be entirely closed to the public.

Philip, also known as the Duke of Edinburgh, took part in planning his funeral and its focus on family was in accordance with his wishes. The 99-year-old duke, who died Friday, also took part in designing the modified Land Rover that will carry his coffin.

“Although the ceremonial arrangements are reduced, the occasion will still celebrate and recognize the duke’s life and his more than 70 years of service to the Queen, the UK and the Commonwealth,” a palace spokesman said Saturday while speaking on condition of anonymity in line with policy.

Prince Harry, Philip's grandson who stepped away from royal duties last year and now lives in California, will attend the service along with other members of the royal family. His wife, the duchess of Sussex, who is pregnant, has been advised by her doctor not to attend.

Palace officials said the ceremony would be conducted strictly in line with the British government's COVID-19 guidelines, which restrict the number of people attending funerals to 30. They declined to say whether the royal family would be required to wear masks.

The palace appealed to the public not to gather in Windsor, and for those who wished to pay their respects to Philips to stay at home instead.

“While there is sadness that the public will not be able to physically be part of events to commemorate the life of the duke, the royal family asks that anyone wishing to express their condolences do so in the safest way possible and not by visiting Windsor or any other royal palaces to pay their respects,'' the palace spokesman said. “The family’s wish is very much that people continue to follow the guidelines to keep themselves and others safe.''

The announcement comes after military teams across the U.K. and on ships at sea fired 41-gun salutes Saturday to mark the death of Philip, honouring the former naval officer and husband of Queen Elizabeth II whom they considered one of their own.

Batteries in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast — the capitals of the four nations that make up the United Kingdom — as well as other cities around the U.K. and the Mediterranean outpost of Gibraltar fired the volleys at one-minute intervals beginning at midday. Ships including the HMS Montrose, a frigate patrolling the Persian Gulf, offered their own salutes.

“The Duke of Edinburgh served among us during the Second World War, and he remained devoted to the Royal Navy and the Armed Forces as a whole,” Gen. Nick Carter, chief of the defence staff, said in a statement. “A life well-lived. His Royal Highness leaves us with a legacy of indomitable spirit, steadfastness and an unshakeable sense of duty.”

Members of the Commonwealth, a group of 54 countries headed by the monarch, were also invited to honour Philip. The Australian Defence Force began its salute at 5 p.m. local time outside Parliament House in Canberra, and New Zealand planned to offer its own tribute on Sunday.

Philip joined the Royal Navy as a cadet in 1939 and once had a promising military career. In 1941, he was honoured for his service during the battle of Cape Matapan off the coast of Greece, when his control of searchlights aboard the HMS Valiant allowed the battleship to pinpoint enemy vessels in the dark. Philip rose to the rank of commander before he retired from active duty.

Two years after the war ended, Philip married Elizabeth at Westminster Abbey when she was 21 and he was 26. Philip’s naval career came to an abrupt end when King George VI died in 1952 and his wife became queen.

At the queen’s coronation in 1953, Philip swore to be his wife’s “liege man of life and limb” and settled into a life supporting the monarch. The couple had four children — Charles, the heir to the throne, Anne, Andrew and Edward.

Before he retired from official duties in 2017, the prince carried out more than 22,000 solo public engagements and supported over 780 organizations, including the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award for young people.

Members of the public continued to honour Philip’s life of service on Saturday, leaving flowers outside Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle despite appeals from authorities and the royal family to refrain from gathering.

“I think everyone would like to pay their respects,” Maureen Field, 67, said outside Windsor Castle. “Because of the virus, a lot of people have to stay away. He didn’t want a big funeral. He wanted a very private time with his family to say their goodbyes. So, we’ve all got to respect that.”

Mike Williams, 50, travelled from his home in Surrey, southwest of London, to Buckingham Palace to honour the prince.

“He’s a massive loss to the country and to the world, I think, so we wanted to come and pay respects,” Williams said. “I don’t know what it achieves, but it just felt like the right thing to do.”

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Associated Press Writer James Brooks and Tom Rayner contributed.

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For AP’s full coverage of the death of Prince Philip go to https://apnews.com/hub/prince-philip

Danica Kirka, The Associated Press