United Kingdom

Prince Philip funeral: Duchess of York won't be going to the service

The Duchess of York will not be going to Prince Philip's funeral on Saturday despite giving the Queen support by accompanying her on daily walks at Windsor while she mourns the loss of her husband.

Sarah Ferguson, more commonly known as Fergie, and her ex-husband Prince Andrew have both been by the 94-year-old monarch's side this week since the death of the Duke of Edinburgh.

Royal sources confirmed that they have been making the short drive from Royal Lodge to Windsor Castle, sometimes twice a day, to walk with Her Majesty and her new corgis.

However, the duchess has not been invited to Philip's funeral at St George's Chapel in Windsor. Though Fergie was not expecting to be among the 30 mourners attending the scaled-down service, she famously fell out with the Duke of Edinburgh after she was photographed having her toes sucked by her financial adviser in the south of France five months after splitting from Andrew.  

Philip, who died just two months shy of his 100th birthday, had described the duchess as 'odd' and 'pointless', and would even ask for her to leave Balmoral, the royal estate in Scotland, during holidays before he arrived.

Despite splitting from Andrew in 1992 and then divorcing him in 1996, Fergie - the mother of Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie - has been living with the Duke of York for the past 13 years.

Royal watchers now believe that the Queen, who has a soft spot for her former daughter-in-law, could be more receptive to the idea of her and Andrew returning to a more prominent role within the Firm. 

An insider told the Sun: 'They have been going on short walks around the gardens with the Queen and her corgis. Sarah's very much in the fold now that the Duke of Edinburgh has gone. The Queen has always had a soft spot for Sarah and regards her as an excellent mother.'

However, Andrew has been reportedly warned to forget plans to use his recent public appearances as a springboard back into royal duty after stepping down from duties following his 'car crash' Newsnight interview over his friendship interview with convicted paedophile financier Jeffrey Epstein. 

The Duke of York has allegedly told friends he is sure he will be cleared of all sex scandal claims, and sees his return to the limelight as a way to prove to his family he can come back to the frontline. 

It has also emerged that all senior members of the royal family will now wear mourning dress at the Duke of Edinburgh's funeral on Saturday, in an extraordinary about-turn that spares Prince Harry's and Andrew's blushes.  

The Duke and Duchess of York leave the Windsor Castle estate

Sarah, Duchess of York, with the Queen at the Windsor Horse Show in 1988

The Queen with Prince Andrew and Sarah Duchess of York at the Royal Windsor Horse Show

Prince Andrew leaving Windsor Castle yesterday, hours before it was reported that the Queen is being forced to decide which rank of military uniform the Duke of York can wear to his father's funeral after he demanded to go as an Admiral

Harry, 36, is understood to have wanted to wear the Blues and Royals dress uniform he wore on his wedding day in May 2018

 The Prince of Wales, Duke of Cambridge, Earl of Wessex and Princess Royal would have been, by convention for a royal ceremonial funeral, in full military uniform

Royals in military uniform: A brief history 

Royal Family members with a military rank have worn uniforms at state occasions since the 19th century.

At the Queen Mother’s funeral in 2002, the last funeral of a royal consort, Prince Philip, Prince Charles, Prince Andrew and Princess Anne all wore uniforms.

Prince Edward, who quit the Royal Marines after four months’ service, wore a black morning coat, as did his nephews William and Harry, who had yet to serve in the Armed Forces. Anne had not served in the military but held the honorary rank of Rear Admiral.

By contrast, at the funeral of Princess Diana royals wore dark suits and not military dress. The funeral was considered a ceremonial event rather than a full state occasion.

In 1952, at the funeral of the Queen’s father King George VI, his brothers the Duke of Windsor and the Duke of Gloucester wore military dress alongside Prince Philip. The Queen and Queen Mother wore mourning clothes, including heavy black veils.

The three dukes also wore military dress for Queen Mary’s funeral in 1953.

Illustrations from Queen Victoria’s 1901 funeral show her sons Edward VII and the Duke of Connaught in military dress on horseback in her funeral procession.

A last minute decision approved by the Queen has been made that no royals will wear military uniform in order to present a united family front, media including the Mail are reporting.

Behind the scenes, courtiers have been racked by concern that Harry, who was forced to give up his honorary military titles after he acrimoniously quit royal duties and moved to the US with Meghan Markle, would be the only senior royal not in uniform.

The Duke of Sussex is understood to have wanted to wear the Blues and Royals dress uniform he wore on his wedding day in May 2018. As a former captain with the Household Cavalry, however, he is entitled only to wear a suit, with any medals he has been awarded in the course of his duties or by the Queen.

By contrast the Prince of Wales, Duke of Cambridge, Earl of Wessex and Princess Royal would have been, by convention for a royal ceremonial funeral, in full military uniform.

The issue was compounded when Andrew demanded to wear the uniform of admiral, a position he had offered to defer taking up after stepping back from public duties in the wake of the Epstein scandal.

Crucially Andrew has not been stripped of his honorary military titles and remains a vice-admiral in the Royal Navy. 

It led to concerns within the Royal Household that if Andrew were denied his request to go in uniform, he and Harry would be the only ones in civilian dress who had seen active service in the military.  A source said: 'There was the risk of real embarrassment.'

The Queen has decided that, to retain family unity and spare Harry any public humiliation, everyone will dress the same - morning coats and black ties for the men, simple black outfits for the women.

It is believed to be only the second time in more than a century that members of the Royal Family have not worn uniform to the funeral of a monarch or their spouse.

It will, however, be seen as a significant public olive branch to Harry in the wake of his and Meghan's devastating interview with Oprah Winfrey last month, in which they criticised members of his immediate family and accused the institution of racism.

Buckingham Palace last night declined to comment, but the Mail understands the decision will be officially announced today.

It is believed that there is a genuine desire to try to start to repair stricken family relationships, particularly the rift between Harry and his older brother William, and the funeral of their beloved grandfather may be a good place to start.

Discussions on the issue went to the wire, with senior aides including the Master of the Household, Vice-Admiral Tony Johnstone-Burt, trying to negotiate a solution. The final decision rested with the widowed Queen.

A source close to Andrew said yesterday that he would 'do what is appropriate' and had no intention to distract from his father's funeral. He served 21 years in the Navy and is promoted in line with his peers who are still serving.

He became a rear admiral on his 50th birthday, a vice-admiral on his 55th and had been due to become an admiral on his 60th last year. But he requested to forgo the promotion until he is able to clear his name and fully resume royal duties.

The Daily Mail understands that, in an unprecedented about-turn, a last minute decision, approved by the Queen (pictured), has been made that no royals will wear military uniform in order to present a united family front

The Duke of Edinburgh (left) walks in procession with the Duke of Gloucester, Duke of Windsor (Edward VIII) and the Duke of Kent as the funeral cortege of King George VI made its way from Windsor Station to St George's Chapel in 1952

Sophie, Countess of Wessex stands with Prince Edward and Prince Andrew as the brothers wear ceremonial dress at a service of commemoration to mark the end of combat operations in Afghanistan, at St Paul's Cathedral in London in March 2015

Prince Charles and Prince William wear ceremonial uniform next to the Queen on the balcony at Buckingham Palace in 2015

Prince Andrew in ceremonial dress at a service to mark the centenary of the RAF in London on July 10, 2018 (left); and Prince Harry in a normal suit at the Commonwealth Day Service at Westminster Abbey on March 9, 2020 (right)

However it is understood that he still asked to go to his father's funeral as an admiral. Saturday's event is known as a royal ceremonial funeral - based on one held 19 years ago for the Queen Mother, wife of George VI - at Philip's specific request.

It is not as large or as grand as a state funeral, but many of the ceremonial elements are the same. All senior royals entitled to wear uniform, including the Duke of Edinburgh, did so in April 2002.

This was in contrast to the private funeral of the Queen's sister, Princess Margaret, weeks earlier, where mourning dress was worn, as well as five years earlier at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, by then a former royal.

Initially the plan was for senior royals to wear military uniform on Saturday in line with convention. But it quickly became clear this was a thorny issue given how vocal Harry, currently quarantining at Frogmore Cottage at Windsor after flying back from the US, has been over the loss of his military titles.

Sources close to Harry have revealed the depth of his anger, particularly given he had served 10 years in the military with two frontline tours of Afghanistan.

Last month he told Miss Winfrey that losing his official positions 'hurt' but added that he ultimately respected his grandmother's decision.

However, he pointedly attended - with Meghan - a military cemetery in Los Angeles wearing his lounge suit and medals, after the Queen denied his request to have a wreath laid at the Cenotaph on his behalf on Remembrance Sunday as he is no longer a working royal.  

Princess Anne and Timothy Laurence in military dress at a Jutland commemoration in South Queensferry on May 28, 2016

Soldier from the Royal Regiment of Scotland 4 Scots (the Highlanders) rehearsing for the Duke of Edinburgh's funeral on the Drill Square at the Army Training Centre Pirbright in Woking, Surrey, today

Soldiers from the Welsh Guards rehearsing for the Duke of Edinburgh's funeral on the Drill Square at the Army Training Centre Pirbright in Woking, Surrey, today

What military titles do Charles, William, Edward, Andrew and Anne hold?

Prince Charles, Prince William, Prince Edward, Prince Andrew and Princess Anne will all be in military dress because they hold honorary roles. These are as follows:

PRINCE CHARLES

PRINCE ANDREW

PRINCE EDWARD

PRINCESS ANNE

PRINCE WILLIAM

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