This morning saw the British Royal Family turn out for a service of thanksgiving honoring the late Duke of Edinburgh. Held at Westminster Abbey, the event not only saw a full array of Windsors, but several visiting representatives of Europe’s royal families as well. With the ceremony lasting roughly 40 minutes, Queen Elizabeth then returned to Windsor Castle.
The Queen’s attendance was only confirmed about two hours prior to the event. In the weeks leading up to it, the Palace stated that it was the Queen’s “plan” to join her family. The lack of confirmation appears to stem from heightened mobility issues. On multiple occasions now we’ve seen the Queen use a cane to carry out public events, and there’s a rumor circulating that she’s leveraging a wheelchair to navigate Windsor Castle.
Indeed, Windsor Castle is now her permanent residence. Prior to this, pre-pandemic, the Queen split her weeks between Windsor and Buckingham Palace. Now, she is based solely at Windsor. I would imagine this still includes exceptions for the periods of the year she traditionally visits Balmoral and Sandringham, but it will be interesting to see if, for example, The Prince of Wales carries out the one-week annual stay at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh that usually marks the beginning of the summer season.
These mobility issues are an interesting situation for the Palace to navigate. Out of necessity they mean the Queen is missing high-profile royal events usually led by the monarch – the Remembrance Day service, for example. And, at this time, it’s unclear if she will be able to open Parliament in several weeks’ time. Some of these duties – as we’ve seen over the years – will transition to Charles, but nevertheless it remains a fact of life that after a two-year period that saw the departure of three senior royals, the Queen is also less in the public eye, putting even more pressure on the remaining working royals to carry on during a very fraught period.
Alongside a question of whether the Queen would turn up, there was uncertainty over whether The Duke of York would appear. As the photos show, he did. Not only that, he was there as his mother’s primary supporter and rode with her in the car back to Windsor. This was no accident and there is zero doubt that serious conversations took place behind-the-scenes leading up to this morning that involved both staff and – I think it’s a safe bet – Charles and The Duke of Cambridge. Both men are said to have been instrumental in the removal of Andrew from public life and there’s rampant speculation that Andrew’s presence this morning was a sign of the Queen’s resistance. More on that in a moment.
As for everyone else, it was about who you would expect, plus the addition of five great-grandchildren deemed old enough to attend the service. William and The Duchess of Cambridge brought with them Prince George and Princess Charlotte.
Charles was accompanied by The Duchess of Cornwall.
The Princess Royal was joined by her husband, Sir Timothy Laurence. The couple are due to carry out their own Commonwealth tour in a couple weeks to Papua New Guinea.
The Earl and Countess of Wessex attended with their children, Lady Louise and Viscount Severn.
Princess Anne’s son, Peter Phillips, brought with him his two daughters, Savannah and Isla. Due to his divorce, Autumn Phillips no longer attends public events.
Princess Anne’s daughter, Zara Tindall, was joined by husband, Mike, and their eldest daughter, Mia.
Andrew’s elder daughter, Princess Beatrice, attended with husband, Edo Mapelli Mozzi (whose name I will some day be able to spell without having to look it up).
Andrew’s younger daughter, Princess Eugenie, was accompanied by husband, Jack Brooksbank.
Minor royals also turned up, including The Duke of Kent. (The Duke is the Queen’s first cousin, both grandchildren of George V.) The Duchess of Kent, as far as I can tell, did not attend, which is pretty standard – she withdrew from public life many years ago and, in 2002, decided to stop using her HRH.
The Duke of Kent’s younger brother, Prince Michael, was there with his wife, Princess Michael.
The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester also appeared. (The Duke is another first cousin of the Queen.)
In terms of visiting royals, King Felipe VI of Spain and his wife, Queen Letizia, attended.
King Willem-Alexander of The Netherlands and his wife, Queen Maxima, joined.
The ceremony proved a moving one for members of the family. The Queen was clearly emotional at various points, while Beatrice at one point hid her face with the order of service while crying. It was a moment that underscored that this is still a very real family dealing with significant loss, a point that does get lost sometimes in the speculation over palace machinations regarding Andrew and the Sussexes.
(That said, the Sussexes did not attend. A spokesperson for the Duke confirmed that Harry wouldn’t be turning up, but does plan to visit his grandmother in a personal capacity soon. TBD on how that’s going work given his issues with public protection, a situation probably worth covering here separately at some point.)
Now, unfortunately, back to Andrew. His presence was a pointed choice. Whether you believe it stemmed from his elderly mother wanting the support of a beloved son during what was, at its heart, a family moment, or the Queen’s way of saying that she believes in her son’s innocence and a reminder that, given the settlement, he was never found guilty, it resulted in the event itself being overshadowed by how controversial his attendance was. I don’t necessarily have strong feelings on this issue, mainly because I’m not going to quibble with the decisions of a recently-widowed 96-year-old woman.
But if Charles and William took issue with this, then it’s easy to understand why. Over the past year, the Royal Family has been consistently accused of racism, arrogance, toxicity, and being woefully out of touch thanks in large part to media storms around Andrew, Harry, and Meghan. Following on the heels of what can only be called a controversial tour of the Caribbean by William and Kate, the appearance of tacit approval for Andrew, a man many believe to be guilty of sexual assault, isn’t a great look.
And unfortunately, that’s become the primary takeaway from today.
On a lighter note, here are a few images of the Royal Family interacting with one another today – personally that’s always my favorite part of these types of events.