POOL/AFP via Getty Images
Of all the poignant images taken today at Prince Philip’s funeral, there was one that pulled at the heartstrings more than most.
The picture in question captured Queen Elizabeth II completely alone in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, as she as she waited for the funeral procession carrying the Duke of Edinburgh’s coffin to arrive.
Even in normal circumstances, this image would stir emotions in the most stoic of folk. But the picture prompted an outpouring of grief as people were moved by the sight of the Monarch sitting solo in the empty wooden stalls of the quire which – were it not for coronavirus rules – would have been packed.
Although other family members were later seated nearby, the Queen had to say goodbye to her husband of 73 years while physically distanced from the handful of other guests at the ceremony. In accordance with Covid rules, Prince Andrew – who sat closest to her – was two seats to her left.
The stark image is a powerful reminder of the pain caused by the pandemic and highlights the extra suffering so many have endured as grief is compounded by separation from loved ones.
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Former Great Morning Britain presenter Piers Morgan was among those who shared the photograph, describing it as “devastating”.
Has there ever been a more heart-breaking picture of The Queen? The cruel separation and loneliness suffered by so… https://t.co/FBl1GUn6Y3— Piers Morgan (@Piers Morgan) 1618670850
Others echoed his sentiments as they shared their sadness – and admiration – for the Queen:
Truly heartbreaking to see a 94 year old woman say goodbye to her husband of 73 years, completely alone. This is th… https://t.co/8x2SlRphR5— Hannah (@Hannah) 1618670774
This has to be saddest picture on internet today #PrincePhilipfuneral https://t.co/f98vgB0w5J— MakaziKaManqindana (@MakaziKaManqindana) 1618670850
Seeing the Queen sat alone is a deeply upsetting sight - my heart goes out to her, but also to the many thousands o… https://t.co/lNqGrSFsFk— Eve Bennett (@Eve Bennett) 1618668781
There’s something about the image of a 94 year old lady waiting alone to say a final farewell to her husband of 73… https://t.co/6csZ6c8tNU— Alison Jones (@Alison Jones) 1618669548
What an unbelievably sad image. Never would anyone have imagined The Queen would have had to say her final goodbye… https://t.co/pi3HJHgusd— Nick Gullon (@Nick Gullon) 1618669069
Imagine not only bidding farewell to your partner of 70+yrs, but having to stand alone, and stoic throughout. Say w… https://t.co/Jcs2TZyVYo— Nan (@Nan) 1618669444
Have whatever opinions you want about the Royal Family. This picture is so sad. A woman on her own saying goodbye t… https://t.co/mbaKqmrrFi— Nicola Ralph (@Nicola Ralph) 1618670171
So heartbroken to see the Queen sitting alone. After all those years of accompaniment and now alone. That has to… https://t.co/GWDWhe1fxU— DenisseGreen (@DenisseGreen) 1618671451
The saddest photo. My heart is breaking for The Queen. #PrincePhilipfuneral #QueenElizabeth https://t.co/cjnMiCIDcC— Dalia Taylor Winslow (@Dalia Taylor Winslow) 1618669877
The Queen sat alone, socially distanced, at her husband’s funeral is going to be an enduring image. When she said,… https://t.co/8p9qKA8gDw— Omid Djalili (@Omid Djalili) 1618671748
During the event, which took place this afternoon, the duke was described as enriching the lives of all those he knew with his “kindness, humour and humanity”.
The funeral procession made its way through the precincts of the castle. Philip’s children – Prince of Wales, Princess Royal, Duke of York and Earl of Wessex – walked behind his coffin carried by a Land Rover Defender hearse the Queen’s consort helped design.
They were joined by the duke’s grandsons the Duke of Sussex, Duke of Cambridge and Peter Phillips and Vice Admiral Tim Lawrence, the Princess Royal’s husband, and the Queen’s nephew the Earl of Snowdon.
The royals walked in step as a military band played and all stared straight ahead into the sun as they made their way to duke’s final resting place.
Philip had followed the Queen throughout her reign as he supported her as head of state, but now she followed him, travelling for part of the procession at the rear of the cortege in a state Bentley.
As fitting an end as possible in the strangest of circumstances.
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