Gun salutes have been fired across UK to mark Duke of Edinburgh's death

Saturday, 10th April 2021, 1:08 pm

Gun salutes marking the death of the Duke of Edinburgh at age 99 have been fired across the UK, in Gibraltar and at sea.

Saluting batteries started to fire 41 rounds at one round every minute from midday in cities including London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, as well as Gibraltar and from Royal Navy warships.

Prince Philip died peacefully in his sleep at Windsor Castle on Friday, Buckingham Palace said – two months before his 100th birthday.

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The Queen and the Royal Family are “mourning his loss”.

Ships taking part in the gun salutes included MS Diamond, HMS Montrose and HMNB Portsmouth, while the Royal Gibraltar Regiment joined the salute from the British overseas territory, the Ministry of Defence said.

Public encouraged to observe gun salutes online

The public were encouraged to observe the salutes, which have been fired to mark significant national events since as early as at least the 18th century, on television or online, rather than gathering in crowds to watch outside.

Edward and the Countess of Wessex spent around an hour at the castle and Sophie told reporters “the Queen has been amazing” as they left Windsor in a Land Rover.

Two of his sons, the Duke of York and the Earl of Wessex, arrived at Windsor Castle on Saturday morning, while the Prince of Wales visited his mother there on Friday.

Details of the duke’s funeral, due to take place at St George’s Chapel, are also expected to be released this weekend – but the ongoing lockdown in England will affect plans.

Philip, famously described by the Queen as her “constant strength and guide”, was known to have wanted a minimum of fuss at his funeral.

Buckingham Palace said: “During the coronavirus pandemic, and in light of current Government advice and social distancing guidelines, modified funeral and ceremonial arrangements for His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh are being considered by Her Majesty The Queen. Details will be confirmed in due course.”

Philip’s life was an ‘astonishing achievement’

Speaking on a BBC tribute on Friday evening, all four of Philip’s children remembered him as someone who had encouraged and supported them.

Charles described his father’s life as an “astonishing achievement” while Edward said his father had a “challenging role” but carried it out with the most “extraordinary flare”, and had never tried to overshadow the Queen.

The Princess Royal said she would best remember her father as “always being there”, someone to help with a problem or bounce ideas off, and the Duke of York recalled Philip reading to the family in the evenings.

An online book of condolence was opened on the royal family’s official website for the public to post personal tributes, while a steady stream of mourners left flowers outside both Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle on Friday.

The Palace asked members of the public not to gather in crowds, saying: “Those wishing to express their condolences are asked to do so in the safest way possible, and not to gather at Royal Residences.”

The monarch may give a televised address in memory of her husband of more than 70 years – the longest-serving consort in British history – but details of any possible broadcast have yet to be confirmed.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Philip would be remembered for his Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme, that had “shaped and inspired the lives of countless young people”, as well as his “steadfast support” for the Queen.

‘Decades of devoted public service’

US President Joe Biden highlighted the duke’s “decades of devoted public service”, Second World War service and environmental efforts in remembering his legacy.

During coronavirus lockdowns, Philip stayed at Windsor Castle with the Queen for their safety, alongside a reduced household of staff dubbed HMS Bubble.

The couple are thought to have spent more time together during the past 12 months, shielding from the virus, then they would in a normal year – a throwback to the early years of their marriage.

Philip had returned to Windsor Castle on March 16 to be reunited with the Queen after spending a month in hospital – his longest ever stay.

He initially received care for an infection but then underwent heart surgery for a pre-existing condition.

Union flags were flown at half mast at all royal residences as a mark of respect and Westminster Abbey – where the Queen and Philip married in 1947 – tolled its tenor bell once every 60 seconds, 99 times, during Friday evening.

A period of mourning is expected and any planned official royal events that fall within this period are likely to be postponed.

The Cabinet met at 5pm on Friday to pay tribute to the duke, and Parliament will be recalled from its Easter recess on Monday, a day earlier than its scheduled return.

A distinguished naval career

Philip joined the Royal Navy after leaving school, beginning at the Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth in May 1939, and was singled out as best cadet.

During the Second World War, he served on several ships – firstly on HMS Ramillies – and saw active service against German, Italian and Japanese forces.

In March 1941, he was a searchlight control officer on the battleship HMS Valiant and was mentioned in despatches for his part in the battle of Matapan against the Italian fleet.

Shortly afterwards, he was awarded the Greek War Cross of Valour.

He rose rapidly through the ranks, earning promotion after promotion, with some believing he could have become First Sea Lord – the professional head of the Royal Navy.

But the Duke stepped down from his active role in the forces to fulfil his duty as the Queen’s consort.

In recognition of his long-standing connection with the Royal Navy, the Queen conferred the title of Lord High Admiral on the Duke to mark his 90th birthday in June 2011.