SERVICE OF THANKSGIVING FOR HRH THE LATE PRINCE PHILIP DUKE OF EDINBURGH 1921-2021 AT WESTMINSTER ABBEY TUESDAY 29 TH MARCH 2022
On Tuesday 29th March this year our Commodore Alex Charlton and myself had the great honour, and pleasure, of representing the BYC at the Service of Thanksgiving for HRH The Late Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh. Who was our Admiral for 67 years from 1954 until his death in 2021.
Alex had had an early conference so as to arrive at the Abbey at 10am. I joined him in an already long queue of smartly dressed attendees. Representing the many organisations in which the Duke of Edinburgh had been involved. Including a large number of serving officers and men and women from the armed forces. The queue moved quickly through the most friendly and efficient security checks I can remember. After passing through a Guard of Honour of young people from the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme, we were ushered to our seats in the Nave next to the Choir Screen. En route we were pleased to see James Holman already seated. There in his role as Commodore of the Royal Yacht Squadron. We were sitting with the representatives of the RNSA, their Commodore Vice Admiral Sir Chris Gardner, and a young woman who is a serving nurse in the Royal Navy as well as a recreational sailor. At the last minute we were joined by a very pleasant woman who turned out to be the Chief Executive of the World Wildlife Fund, who was late because she had just been interviewed by the BBC. To her amusement she was seated on top of Charles Darwin’s tomb, which somehow seemed appropriate!
Whilst we waited for the Royal Guests to arrive, we were treated to some truly wonderful music played by the Abbey organists, and the Band of the Royal Marines who were positioned in the Nave. The organ music included works by Vidor, Bach, Beethoven and Stamford. Sadly, it was not to be heard on the television recording of the event.
For the next hour it was a game of spot the Royals. In which Alex had a great advantage over me as his height came into play. I could only see heads and shoulders! Prince Philip’s Greek relations, the Foreign Royal Families, and then the British Royal Family processed in turn down the aisle of the Nave into the choir. Where they were seated. The Duchess of Cambridge looking absolutely exquisite to my mind.
There had been some doubt as to whether the Queen would be able to attend but at 11.30 sharp her presence was made known by the Heralds sounding a fanfare as she entered privately from the Poets Corner to take her seat with the rest of the Royal Family.
The Service itself was in accord with Prince Philip’s express wishes and plan, concise and to the point. The music and the hymns were glorious, and the two addresses short. The first was given by a young woman now in her twenties who was a gold award holder in the Duke’s scheme. She spoke incredibly well without any sign of nerves, about how the scheme had given her confidence and the ability to take up opportunities and succeed in life. Later the Dean of Westminster gave a short address, which, whilst it made clear reference to the Duke, his life and qualities, was in my opinion, a touch impersonal. However, perhaps the Duke would have wished that.
After prayers and a rousing rendition of Cwm Rhondda, in which I sang the chorus Bread of Heaven as robustly as I could, it being a favourite of mine, the Archbishop of Canterbury gave the blessing, and it was all over by 12.20, fifty minutes sharp, exactly as scheduled.
Alex and I retired from the Abbey elated and had a very good lunch.
Immediate Past Commodore 2021