The Duke of Edinburgh was heavily involved in preparing his funeral and the music that will be played as Prince Philip is laid to rest contains some personal and poignant touches.
The main hymn at the service is one long associated with the Royal Navy with which the Prince served for so many years. ”Eternal Father, Strong to Save” has been called the Royal Navy hymn as well as the Armed Forces hymn because it has been so well used by all branches of the military, not just in the UK but in the US. It has been closely associated with the British Navy since the end of the 19th century. Written in 1860 by William Whiting, it takes as its inspiration Psalm 107. As well as its close association with the Armed Forces, it had another special resonance for the Duke of Edinburgh, In 1979, it was sung at the funeral of his beloved uncle, Lord Louis Mountbatten.
The service also features a piece of music commissioned by the Duke of Edinburgh. Between the readings, the choir will sing Jubilate in C by Benjamin Britten which Philip asked the famous composer to create to be sung specifically by the choir at St. George’s Chapel.
The choral group which performs it at his funeral will look very different from that celebrated by the Duke throughout his long life as just four voices will take part in the singing, owing to coronavirus restrictions. The congregation won’t sing during the service.
Instead, they will listen to more music that was special to Prince Philip. One of the most poignant moments will be when they perform Psalm 104 which the Duke asked to be set to music by William Lovelady and which was first performed at a special celebration to mark his 75th birthday.
There are further royal connections in the music that will play before the service. Among the melodies included is Rhosymedre by Ralph Vaughn Williams which was played at the weddings of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, as well as at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales. The other music selected the Duke of Edinburgh to be played before his funeral includes Louis Vierne’s Berceuse, Adagio Espressivo by Sir William Harris and Bach’s Schmucke dich, o liebe Seele. Percy Whitlock’s nautical inspired Salix from The Plymouth Suite will also feature before the funeral gets under way – Salix means ‘weeping willow’.
Just minutes before the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh is laid to rest in the Royal Vault, the congregation will stand as the choir sings the Anthem, set to the Kiev Melody by Sir William Parratt. After the interment, a lone piper will play a lament before the buglers of the Royal Marines sound the Last Post. The State Trumpeters of the Household Cavalry will then play Reveille before the Royal Marines signal ‘Action Stations’, a last call to arms for the Navy man who went on to become the longest serving consort in British history.
As the service draws to a close, the four lone voices of the choir will sing the National Anthem. Mourners, led by The Queen, will leave to the strains of Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in C Minor.
The Duke of Edinburgh died on April 9th 2021 at Windsor Castle. He was 99 years old. His funeral takes place on April 17th 2021 at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor.