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Prince Philip death: What does it mean for the UK to be in 8 days of national mourning?

Sophie Gallagher
·4-min read
 (Shutterstock)
(Shutterstock)

The news of Prince Philip’s death was shared with the nation on Friday just hours after his passing. The duke had been sent home from hospital to Windsor Castle just a few weeks prior.

Announcing the news to the world, a spokesperson from Buckingham Palace said: “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”. He was 99 years old.

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As with all royal deaths, there is a strict protocol that is now followed across the royal family, the media, government, and other national institutions that dictates the course of action over the following days and weeks.

This includes an official period of national mourning for the UK, which began upon the news of Philip’s death and will last up to and including his funeral, which has been announced for Saturday 17 April.

The prime minister, Boris Johnson, recommended this period of national mourning, which has been given the seal of approval by the Queen.

This is in addition to the private period of mourning the royal family will undertake, which will last for two weeks from his death. A royal source told PA that engagements will continue that are appropriate to the circumstances.

But what does the national mourning mean and are there any practical implications for the public? The government website lays out guidance for the period of mourning.

What does national mourning mean?

Ceremonial arrangements

Prince Philip will now lie in rest in Windsor Castle ahead of the funeral service on Saturday, but due to the coronavirus pandemic this is not open to members of the public to visit. People have been actively discouraged from laying tributes in any public spaces or attending gatherings to mark his death.

HRH will be at Windsor Castle until his funeral on 17 April at St George’s Chapel, the same location as the royal wedding of Meghan and Harry, and Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank, both in 2018.

Flags

According to guidance published on the government website: “Union flags flying from royal residences and government buildings were half-masted on 9 April and will remain half-masted until 8am on 18 April, the day after the funeral.”

Businesses or other organisations wishing to pay their respects by half-masting flags or holding silences should follow DCMS guidance.

National silence

A national one minute silence will take place at 3pm on the day of the funeral.

Laying tributes

Due to the coronavirus pandemic members of the public have been asked to not lay flowers or other memorial items in public spaces.

The advice states: “The government understands that this is a difficult and sad time for many, and that members of the public will wish to pay their respects. In order to protect each other and reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission we are asking the public not to visit royal residences or gather in public at this time.

“In particular, we respectfully ask that the public does not attempt to attend any events associated with the funeral of His Royal Highness.”

People have been asked instead to sign a book of condolences or to make a donation to one of HRH’s royal patronages, which can be found here.

Businesses

The government says that businesses may wish to make arrangements to mark the one minute of silence at 3pm on Saturday (the day of Philip’s funeral), but there is no expectation for businesses to close or change hours, unless they wish to.

Many businesses in England will be reopening on Monday after months of closure due to the third lockdown.

PA
PA

Social media

The royal family’s own official website has been changed to accommodate messages reflecting Philip’s death, as has the Sussexes’ Archewell website.

The government says “online communication channels may also choose to reflect the death of the Duke of Edinburgh and participate in the period of national mourning”.

It suggests that organisations which had the duke as a patron, could “modify the homepage of their site to feature a visual indication of mourning, for example the use of black edging or black banners”.

Public services

All public services and any services involved in the Covid response will continue as usual.

Sporting events

As with businesses closing, the rescheduling of sporting events is at the discretion of individual organisers, the official guidance states.

But it suggests that organisers might want to consider black armbands or a silence before matches begin.

Some sporting bodies are in discussions regarding plans for Saturday’s fixtures to avoid a clash with the funeral, says PA.

These included the Football League, the Football Association, Premier League and the England and Wales Cricket Board.

The British Horseracing Authority will also hold discussions, says PA.

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