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Prince Philip funeral: The meaning behind the music performed at the service

Roisin O'Connor
·2-min read
The Foot Guards Band are seen marching ahead of the funeral of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh at Windsor Castle (WPA Pool/Getty Images)
The Foot Guards Band are seen marching ahead of the funeral of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh at Windsor Castle (WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Prince Philip took great care in choosing the music that will be played today (17 April) at his funeral.

The ceremony, which is being held at Windsor Castle, was planned by the late royal himself for almost 18 years.

The service begins at 3pm and will last for 50 minutes.

A four-strong St George’s Chapel choir will perform the only hymn of the ceremony, William Whiting’s “Eternal Father, Strong to Save”, and three additional songs that were written at the behest of Prince Philip.

Written in 1860 by William Whiting, “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” was inspired by the dangers of the sea described in Psalm 107, and is also known by many as “For Those in Peril on the Sea”.

Philip, who served with distinction in the Navy during the Second World War, once described the sea as “an extraordinary master or mistress”.

“It has such extraordinary moods that sometimes you feel this is the only sort of life and 10 minutes later you’re praying for death,” he said.

He also made two round-the-world voyages in the Royal Yacht Britannia.

“The Jubliate”, which was written by English composer Benjamin Britten for the St George’s Choir at the Duke’s request, translates literally to “song of joy”, and includes a reference to entering God’s “gates with thanksgiving”.

It is believed that Prince Philip asked Britten to compose both the “Jubliate” and the “Te Deum” in 1958. Britten died in 1976.

A version of Psalm 104 will be performed by the quartet of singers in the chapel, conducted by James Vivian and set to music by guitarist and composer William Lovelady. The work was first performed at Prince Philip’s 75th birthday, in 1996.

It tells of “Lord of heaven, in majesty and honour clothed ... seas he made to be its robe” and waters rising above the highest mountain.

Action Stations, sounded on naval warships to signal all hands must go to battle stations, will also be played at Philip’s specific request.

Buglers of the Royal Marines will perform the wartime alert, a tradition sometimes associated with naval funerals, and the Last Post will be played to signify “a soldier has gone to his final rest”.

Also included in the service are Sir William Harris’s “Adagio Expressivo (Sonata in A Minor)”, Percy Whitlock’s “Salix (The Plymouth Suite)”, and French composer Louis Vierne’s “Berceuse (Op 31 No 19)”.

Bach’s choral prelude “Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele” (“Adorn Yourself, O Dear Soul”) and Vaughan Williams’s “Rhosymedre” will also be performed.

A Pipe Major from the Royal Regiment of Scotland will play a Lament as the duke's coffin is lowered into the royal vault.

As the funeral concludes, the choir will sing the National Anthem.

Follow the latest updates from the ceremony here.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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