United Kingdom

DAN WOOTTON on Prince Philip's funeral: Damn these ludicrous and cruel Covid rules

It's not how I hoped the Queen would emerge in public for the first time since the death of her beloved husband.

Obviously frail, with her shoulders slumped in deep grief, she walked into the chapel near her home at Windsor Castle bereft and seemingly completely alone.

All week we've been hearing how the indomitable monarch has been a tower of strength for her family and the country, making crucial and, at times, controversial decisions about Prince Philip's funeral while still conducting some crucial state business.

But as she waited in isolation in the pews for her Duke to arrive for the final time, it hit me that, at 94, this will be a defining moment in her life that may change her forever.

The Queen sits alone for the funeral of her husband the Duke of Edinburgh at St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle today

It was always going to unbearable to say her final goodbye, but the lack of humanity in forcing the fully-vaccinated Queen to do so in a dehumanising mask without anyone by her side as support was unnecessarily cruel.

Of course there should not be special treatment for the Royal Family – but putting any grieving widow through the cold hell of a Covid funeral shows a chilling lack of humanity that disgraces our nation.

Not one Brit saying their final farewell to a family member should be physically forced apart by law from the ones they love in their greatest moment of need.

Imagine how much a simple pat on the back from Prince Charles or a smile from Sophie Wessex could have meant to the Queen this afternoon.

Boris Johnson may have given up his seat at the funeral, but what his Government has done to grieving relatives will wreak emotional havoc for years to come.

It also makes no practical sense.

Hundreds of people enjoy the weather as they sit outdoors at restaurants in the Chinatown area of London this afternoon

Crowds of shoppers on Northumberland Street in Newcastle today on the first Saturday since non-essential shops reopened

Last week, there were 120 people inside Canterbury Cathedral for a memorial service to Prince Philip, so why only 30 at his funeral, especially given the size of and ventilation inside St George's Chapel?

Tomorrow, hundreds will pack into individual churches up and down the nation for services.

One hour from Windsor, on London's Oxford Street, a thousand shoppers at a time mingle inside bargain department store TK Maxx without any hint of social distancing.

There are similar joyful scenes at beer gardens and pedestrianised streets up and down the country.

By the way, there is absolutely nothing wrong with any of that – in fact, I celebrate it. Our Covid rates are plummeting and we have never needed normal life to resume more.

But I pray the cruelty of today's service for Prince Philip finally wakes the nation up to the nonsensical nature of Covid-limited funerals, which must be immediately banished. 

Prince William (centre) and Prince Harry (right) walk either side of their cousin Peter Phillips (left) at Windsor Castle today

Harry and William seemed locked in conversation as they left St George's Chapel following Philip's funeral service today

While millions of royal fans around the world were hoping for a unifying moment from the warring princes William and Harry, they wouldn't get it until after the funeral.

There may have only been four metres between them as they strode in procession behind their grandfather's coffin separated by Peter Phillips, but it felt like the Atlantic ocean.

It was clear that neither prince wanted their emotional sideshow to overshadow the farewell to their grandfather, the longest-serving consort in British history.

But immediately after the funeral came the first sign that their shattered brotherly bond, once so strong, may still be repairable.

As expected, Kate initially played peacemaker, chatting with Harry before gently guiding him to the side of her husband.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who gave up his seat at the funeral, observes a silence at Chequers today to pay his respects

She wisely stepped back to walk with Sophie Wessex, allowing the two Dukes an opportunity to talk face to face for the first time in 13 months.

Harry's pregnant wife Meghan was said to be watching the service in the couple's Californian mansion.

I hope she had a moment of realisation on this very sad day that rebuilding the brother's relationship means more than settling petty scores from the past, it's about helping to secure the future of the monarchy.

The Queen towers above her family – she has forever put duty first and this week the nation rightly grieved with her.

God bless the Queen. I just pray her family steps up for her.

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