United Kingdom

John Major says the Queen must be given 'time and space' to grieve

Sir John Major today said the Queen must be given 'time and space' to grieve following the death of Prince Philip. 

The former prime minister said the Duke of Edinburgh had been an 'astonishing support' to the monarch and his passing will leave an 'enormous hole' in her life. 

He also said he hopes the Duke's funeral will help to heal a royal family rift caused by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's exit.

Sir John said that 'the friction that we are told has arisen is a friction better ended as speedily as possible'.

The former Tory leader told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show that 'at times of difficulty' Prince Philip was the person to whom the Queen could 'unburden herself'.

The former prime minister said the Duke of Edinburgh had been an 'astonishing support' to the Queen and his passing will leave an 'enormous hole' in her life

He said: 'When you are facing a sea of problems, as she so often was, and sometimes when you are overwhelmed by what has to be done, someone who understands that, someone who can take part of the burden, someone who can share the decision making, someone who can metaphorically, or in the case of Prince Philip I think probably literally, put their arms around you and say it is not as bad as you think, this is what we have to do, this is how we can do it, this is what I think.

‘I think when you talk of him being a great support that was it... in every way I think he was an astonishing support.’

Asked how the Queen will manage without her husband, Sir John replied: ‘Well, it will be difficult. There are no doubt millions of people watching this programme who have lost a partner, a spouse, and it is a very lonely time.

‘The Queen and Prince Philip had 73 years of marriage together, that is extraordinary, I can think of no one else who has had a marriage of that length in my experience.

‘So it will be an enormous hole in her life that suddenly Prince Philip isn’t there. How will the Queen manage? I think there are several things to say about that.

‘Firstly, I hope she will be given some time and space. I know she is the monarch, I know she has responsibilities but she has earned the right to have a period of privacy in which to grieve with her family.

‘After that I think there are two things effectively to say. Firstly, Prince Philip may physically have gone but he will be in the Queen’s mind as clearly as if she was sitting opposite him.

‘She will hear his voice, metaphorically, in her ear, she will know what he will say in certain circumstances, he will still be there in her memory. The echo will be there and it always will be, it is with very close relationships.

‘I think after that the Queen is both a stoic and a remarkable public servant. She will return to her work but I do hope she is given a little space and a little time and a little freedom to grieve in the way anybody else would wish to do so after having lost their spouse.'

Prince Harry is due to fly back to the UK from the US to attend Prince Philip's funeral next Saturday. 

Prince Harry is due to fly back to the UK from the US to attend Prince Philip's funeral next Saturday

He will reunite with Prince William as they are expected to stand shoulder to shoulder as they form part of the royal procession at the service for the Duke of Edinburgh in Windsor. 

It will be the first time the pair will be seen together since Harry's bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey - in which he claimed his older brother was 'trapped' inside the Monarchy.  

However, the Duchess of Sussex, who is pregnant with the couple's second child at home in California, will not be attending following medical advice. 

Asked about suggestions that funerals can help families to mend broken relationships, Sir John said: ‘The friction that we are told has arisen is a friction better ended as speedily as possible and the shared emotion, the shared grief at the present time because of the death of their father, of their grandfather, I think is an ideal opportunity.

‘I hope very much that it is possible to mend any rifts that may exist.’

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