WINDSOR, United Kingdom (AFP): Early risers flocked to support Queen Elizabeth II ahead of her husband Prince Philip's funeral on Saturday (April 17), taking advantage of cloudless skies to honour him with flowers and tributes.
Mourners marked the end of an era, laying flowers and paying tribute to Philip who died on April 9 at age 99.
Artist Kaya Mar paid his respects the best way he knew how.
He was up before dawn to take the first train from London to Windsor, the location of the Queen's historic castle where Saturday's funeral takes place.
The satirical artist had under his arm a large self-painted work of Philip – painted this time without a hint of mockery.
"When I learned the news, straight way I painted him, because I liked him, he was long-serving public servant. The country will miss him, the institution will miss him," 65-year-old Mar said.
"He was a good man."
The Duke of Edinburgh pub in Windsor – which had a blackboard reading "RIP Prince Philip" outside its door – was getting ready to welcome drinkers to watch the funeral.
In line with coronavirus regulations, guests sat outside in the beer garden to watch the ceremony on TV screens.
Public mourners had been asked not to come to the castle, where the duke lived his final days with the Queen as they isolated due to coronavirus restrictions.
But many made the journey anyway.
Farewell to a neighbour
Mourners holding bouquets mingled on Windsor high street with shoppers taking advantage of the bright spring sunshine and the reopening of stores.
"After the ceremony, I'll leave these flowers near the castle, even if I don't know where," said local resident Maggy Kalpar, 45.
"An amazing man is leaving us, and the whole country is so sad. But I think it's worst here in Windsor, because we feel that it's also, in a way, a farewell to one of our neighbours."
The local branch of high-end supermarket Waitrose showed its support by giving out bouquets due to expire on Saturday for free.
Many other shops windows displayed pictures of the prince, accompanied by a request to observe a minute of silence when the funeral begins.
Coronavirus restrictions have forced the royal family to scale back the funeral plans. Royal officials and the government have urged the public not to gather.
But Ieuan Jones, 37, made the 200km journey anyway from the Welsh capital, Cardiff.
"Prince Philip was a strong man, a true hero. He did so much for this country, and the royal family," he said.
"I still can't get over it. It's really a shame that because of the pandemic we can't pay a wider tribute to the exceptional man he was".
Back in London, 63-year-old computer analyst Roger Brackin praised the family for sticking to the rules.
"Other people who've lost their family have had to live within these constraints. So I'm pleased they've complied with that," he said.
Stewart Duncan, who had also come to Buckingham Palace to mark the moment, said Saturday was a collective expression of grief at the end of a tough year for the country, which has seen more than 127,000 people die from Covid-19.
"In the past year, we've realised the importance of being there for each other when times are difficult," said the 22-year-old railway worker.
Philip's death has turned thoughts towards the twilight of the ageing Queen's record-breaking reign, and what lies beyond when her son, Prince Charles, 72, takes over.
Chris Davies, 39, who served in the Royal Navy, said he feared for the family's future as he laid tulips outside Buckingham Palace with his 12-year-old son.
"I know he (Philip) was getting old but he has always been there," he said.
"I'm more worried about the monarchy when the Queen does go, like when Alex Ferguson left Manchester United," he added, in reference to the Premier League club's decline after its legendary manager retired.
"The respect the Queen gets round the world can't be replicated by anyone." – AFP