Preparations for the Duke of Edinburgh’s carefully choreographed final send-off are swiftly being put in place behind the scenes.
With just five days to go until the royal family gather for Philip’s ceremonial royal funeral in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, the royal household and the military are working round the clock to ensure everything is ready for the historic occasion.
The Lord Chamberlain’s Office, led by the Queen’s Comptroller Lieutenant Colonel Michael Vernon, is tasked with the practical side of the day.
The department – usually based at Buckingham Palace which serves as monarchy HQ – will be issuing invitations to the 30 chosen guests, arranging the printing of the Order of Service and putting all the arrangements in place.
Everything is being planned in minute detail from the exact timings of arrivals of members of the royal family to their seated positions within the chapel and their movements throughout.
Officials also have the added complication of ensuring the Government’s coronavirus regulations – with two-metre social distancing and face masks worn inside places of worship – are adhered to before, during and after the funeral.
In overall charge is the new Lord Chamberlain, former MI5 spy chief Baron Parker of Minsmere.
The gothic 15th-century St George’s Chapel will have to be spotlessly cleaned, ready to be immaculate for when the service is broadcast around the globe.
Meanwhile, the BBC will be testing its cameras and technical equipment to ensure its televised feed goes smoothly.
Workers have been seen carrying a roll of matting through the castle’s Henry VIII Gate while a Waitrose delivery van also arrived at the royal residence in Berkshire.
The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Dean of Windsor are preparing for their roles while the military is practising for its key duties in the proceedings in honour of Philip’s own war service and his close links with the armed forces.
The Grenadier Guards and others from The Foot Guards, as well as the Royal Marines, the Household Cavalry, Royal Gurkha Rifles and a Royal Naval Piping Party of 1 Chief Petty Officer and 5 Ratings, are just some of those who will be taking part in the grounds of Windsor.
The modified Land Rover – which Philip helped to design – being used to transport the duke’s coffin will be serviced, tested and buffed, with the driver no doubt practising for the slow eight-minute procession, which will lead the Prince of Wales and other royals on foot to the west door of the chapel.
Angela Kelly, the Queen’s senior dresser, personal assistant and close confidante, will be preparing the monarch’s black mourning ensembles, as will other household staff for the rest of the royal family – along with their necessary black face masks.
The Queen is being cared for at Windsor by a reduced number of around 22 staff in what has been dubbed HMS Bubble.
The Master of the Household is Vice Admiral Sir Anthony Johnstone-Burt, who is in overall charge of all hospitality, catering and housekeeping arrangements for official and private entertaining at all royal residences.
He will be making sure things continue to run like clockwork for the Queen as she mourns the loss of the duke, and be in charge of looking after any guests who visit.
The Queen will also have to decide whether to deliver a televised message in tribute to her beloved husband.
When the Queen Mother died aged 101 in 2002, the monarch spoke to the nation on the eve of her funeral to thank the country for their support and the “love and honour” shown to her mother.
Dressed in black, the Queen said: “I count myself fortunate that my mother was blessed with a long and happy life.
“She had an infectious zest for living and this remained with her until the very end.”
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