Army units throughout the United Kingdom and on navy ships shot 41-gun salutes on Saturday to commemorate the death of Prince Philip, a former naval officer and husband of Queen Elizabeth II. The volleys were fired at one-minute intervals starting at noon from batteries in London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, and Belfast, as well as other cities in the United Kingdom and the Mediterranean outpost of Gibraltar.
Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, died two months before his 100th birthday on Friday at Windsor Castle.
“The Duke of Edinburgh served among us during the Second World War, and he remained devoted to the Royal Navy and the Armed Forces as a whole,” the chief of the defense staff, Gen. Nick Carter, said in a statement. “A life well-lived. His Royal Highness leaves us with a legacy of indomitable spirit, steadfastness, and an unshakeable sense of duty.”
The Commonwealth members, a group of 54 countries, almost all of which are former territories of the British Empire, were also invited to pay tribute to Philip. The Australian Defense Force started its salute outside Parliament House in Canberra at 5 p.m. local time, and New Zealand paid its own tribute on Sunday.
Philip enlisted as a cadet in the Royal Navy in 1939 and had a successful military career. He was awarded in 1941 for his service during the battle of Cape Matapan off the coast of Greece, when his management of searchlights on the HMS Valiant allowed the battleship to detect enemy warships in the dark.
Philip married Elizabeth at Westminster Abbey two years after the war ended, when she was 21, and he was 26. When King George VI died in 1952 and his wife became queen, Philip’s naval career ended. Philip swore to be his wife’s “liege man of life and limb” at the Queen’s coronation in 1953, and he settled into a life of support for the monarch.
Before his retirement from official duties in 2017, the prince performed over 22,000 solo public appearances and helped over 780 organizations, including the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award for Young People.
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On Saturday, people continued to commemorate Philip’s life by leaving flowers outside Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, amid warnings from officials and the royal family not to crowd because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think everyone would like to pay their respects,” Maureen Field, 67, said outside Windsor Castle. “Because of the virus, a lot of people have to stay away. He didn’t want a big funeral. He wanted a very private time with his family to say their goodbyes. So, we’ve all got to respect that.”
“He’s a massive loss to the country and to the world so we wanted to come and pay respects,” Mike Williams, 50, said outside Buckingham Palace. “I don’t know what it achieves, but it just felt like the right thing to do.”