We've lost the 'grandfather of the nation', UK's Prince Andrew says


FILE PHOTO: Britain's Prince Philip waves to members of the media as he leaves the King Edward VII Hospital in London June 9, 2012. REUTERS/Paul Hackett/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) -The death of Prince Philip has left a huge void for his wife Queen Elizabeth and Britain has lost its "grandfather", his son Prince Andrew said on Sunday, as tributes poured in and the royals thanked the public for its support.

Andrew joined his siblings Charles, Anne and Edward in saying they had taken strength from the outpouring of affection and would rally around their mother in her time of grief.

"You know it's going to happen but you are never really ready," Anne said in a statement.

Andrew called his father a "remarkable man" after he left a private church service in Windsor, near where Philip died on Friday aged 99.

"It's a great loss," he said. "I think the way I would put it is we've lost almost the grandfather of the nation."

Prince Edward echoed that, saying: "He might have been our father, grandfather, father-in-law but he meant so much to so many other people".

Edward's wife, Sophie, told well-wishers of Philip's final moments.

"It was right for him. It was so gentle. It was just like somebody took him by the hand and off he went," she said. "Very, very peaceful. And that’s all you want for somebody isn't it?"

'HUGE VOID'

Andrew said of his 94-year-old mother that the queen was stoical in the face of a loss that she had described as "having left a huge void in her life".

Andrew has rarely been seen in public since he stepped down from official duties in 2019 over the controversy surrounding his association with the disgraced late U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein.

The prayers for Philip at the service in All Saints Chapel in Windsor Great Park west of London echoed church services across the country.

At Canterbury Cathedral, the Archbishop of Canterbury prayed for those who found that the death of the Duke of Edinburgh, as Philip was officially known, had left a "very great gap" in their lives.

As part of eight days of national mourning, people gathered outside Windsor Castle and other royal palaces to leave flowers, while religious and political leaders expressed support for the queen, the world's oldest and longest-reigning monarch.

A note attached to a Royal Navy peak cap left amongst flowers at Windsor, a tribute to Philip's service in the navy, read: "God bless you Sir, you were an example to us all."

STIRRING MUSIC

Edward Elgar's stirring Nimrod was played at the Canterbury Cathedral service, the piece of music that accompanies many British funerals and memorial services and is played annually at the Cenotaph in London to mark the National Service of Remembrance.

A Greek prince, Philip married Elizabeth in 1947, five years before she ascended to the throne. He helped the monarchy modernise in the post-World War Two period and supported the queen through numerous crises over the years.

His funeral will be held next Saturday, with long-established plans redrawn and scaled down because of COVID-19 restrictions.

The prince will be given a ceremonial royal funeral rather than a state funeral. There will be no public processions, and it will be held entirely within the grounds of Windsor Castle and limited to 30 mourners.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will not attend.

Former British Prime Minister John Major, who was in office from 1990 to 1997 and who was guardian to Princes William and Harry after their mother Diana died, said he hoped the funeral would help reunite the family after it was rocked last month by an interview given by Harry and his wife Meghan to Oprah Winfrey.

During the interview, Meghan said her pleas for help while she felt suicidal were ignored and that an unnamed member of the family had asked how dark their unborn child's skin might be.

Harry will return from the United States, where the couple now live, to attend the funeral while Meghan, who is pregnant with their second child, will not, on her doctor's advice.

"The friction that we are told has arisen is a friction better ended as speedily as possible," Major said.

(Reporting by Kate Holton and Paul SandleEditing by Frances Kerry)

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