All the major broadcast and cable networks carried the funeral of Prince Philip on Saturday, a mark of how significant the Royal Family is in the U.S.
But in the prelude of the service at St. George’s Chapel, there was a bit of a contrast between coverage on American outlets and those on the other side of the pond.
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As the procession started around Windsor Castle, with Prince Charles, Princess Anne and other members of the Royal Family following Philip’s casket, placed in the back of a specially fit Land Rover, the commentary largely continued on U.S. networks while BBC World Service went with uninterrupted audio and visuals of the ceremony itself.
The network anchors and royal watchers began to pause their remarks as the procession got closer to the chapel, and as Queen Elizabeth II entered to the national anthem “God Save the Queen,” occasionally sprinkling in remarks.
Naturally, there was anticipation and attention paid to the body language of Prince Harry and Prince William, who walked the procession separated by Peter Phillips, the son of Princess Anne.
“Keir, can we address the elephant in the room?” MSNBC’s Katy Tur asked one of their royal watchers, Keir Simmons, as the networks coverage began around 9 AM ET.
“Well we don’t know very much, and I think they wanted it that way…I suspect this is choreographed to prevent the gossip,” Simmons said.
Across the networks, there was time to fill in the hour or so before the chapel service. During the choreographed military processionals on the grounds of Windsor, anchors and commentators chatted about things such as the rift between Harry and William; the dress of the attendees; and even of whether the the smaller ceremony due to Covid was all the better for the Queen, now in mourning. There was a lot of talk about the Land Rover carrying Philip’s coffin and what it meant, as one commentator put it, “about the character of the man,” as the late prince had specially designed the vehicle.
All of the networks loaded up on royal watchers, authors and other journalists who have paid keen attention to the movements of the royal family. CBS News, for instance, featured Sally Bedell Smith and Tina Brown. On Fox News, Louisa James noted that the attention paid to the moment had changed perceptions of Philip. She said that “perhaps the media saw him as the caricature of the archetypical grumpy old man. We have learned a lot about him in the last week.”
On CNN, Anderson Cooper interviewed an actual royal, Crown Prince Pavlos of Greece, and the topic got to Philip’s boarding school, Gordonstoun. Cooper said that when he was in high school he considered applying but admitted that “the more I looked into it, the more I realized I would not survive.”
Later, as the procession began, Cooper took note of Harry and William and noted, “You can’t help but think back to the funeral of Princess of Diana, their mother.”
On CBS News, Gayle King observed afterward, “It really was striking to me when I saw the Queen sitting there alone. It reminds you of the nursery rhyme where it says ‘the queen stands alone.’ To see her, it was still very hard to understand why her daughter couldn’t have been with her. It all has do with Covid.”
After the short service, CNN showed coverage of William and Harry walking on the grounds together with Kate, as the network’s Max Foster noted that the rift between the two brothers was deep but that perhaps moments of crisis could bring them together. But he also noted the somberness of the ceremony and, certainly in contrast to past royal moments, how few people actually were there because of the pandemic. “This was an incredibly private family affair they invited us into,” he said.
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