When the many noble titles of Prince Philip were recited at the end of his funeral, one stood out from the rest of the polished and majestic orders and ranks: ‘Husband of her most Excellent Majesty Elizabeth the Second’.
This was his greatest work, the one for which we owe him most.
Together they had Majesty thrust upon them far earlier in their lives than they had expected or hoped.
From that moment they could not take a step that was not watched and judged.
In decade after decade of global turmoil and national reassessment, they were the still centre of the spinning world.
And together they found their way into the hearts and minds of their people, reassuring and steady when they must often have been full of doubt and diffidence.
And it was always ‘They’.
When the many noble titles of Prince Philip were recited at the end of his funeral, one stood out from the rest of the polished and majestic orders and ranks: ‘Husband of her most Excellent Majesty Elizabeth the Second’. This was his greatest work, the one for which we owe him most
Now the Queen must reign without her strength and stay, a sad fact brought home to millions of TV watchers by glimpses of her solitude at the Duke’s funeral, prevented by social distancing from receiving the immediate comfort of her family.
Never has she been more in need of the loyalty and prayers of her people, faced with doing alone what she has for most of her life done in company with a brave, funny, wise and experienced consort.
It might also be a good moment to suggest to some wayward members of the Royal House that they might now put aside their differences for a greater purpose.
For nearly 70 years we have needed our Queen. Now she needs us.
We should govern ourselves better, in civility, mutual kindness, patience, tolerance and wisdom, to lighten the burden on her.
Surely that was the thing we learned most from the muted ceremony at Windsor, which with its facemasks and empty seats was not really grand enough to mark such a significant loss, for all the service’s beauty and reverence.
Queen Elizabeth II (top right) and the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby watch as the Duke of Edinburgh’s coffin is carried into St George’s Chapel
The Queen and Prince Philip are seen together in 2007 in a photo which marked their diamond wedding anniversary
Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh are pictured last year in the quadrangle of Windsor Castle ahead of his 99th birthday
What we also learned was that the world that so many of us have known and perhaps thought permanent, is now passing away for good or ill.
This was a ceremony rich in the language, music and traditions of an older Britain, a country undivided by nationalisms, of lusty hymns, self-confidence, naval might, global importance, smooth lawns and sunlight on old stone.
But as Prince Philip realised long ago, there is no guarantee that such things will endure.
Nations that appear lucky only do so because they work hard at the things that bring good fortune.
Her Majesty stands alone, head bowed, in the chapel as her husband’s coffin was carried into the church to be laid to rest
Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, Prince Andrew, Duke of York, Princess Anne, Princess Royal, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Earl of Snowdon David Armstrong-Jones, Peter Phillips, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Vice-Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence prepare to set off from the castle behind the coffin
We must learn again in each new generation how to ensure that we remain peaceful, united, free, prosperous and well defended.
Likewise our luck in having a stable monarchy, which has held us together and lifted our spirits through many setbacks, came from our readiness to be loyal to it.
New times are coming.
One of the most moving moments of the service was when a lone piper, playing a lament, marched sadly out of St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, passing slowly out of sight and sound until he was heard and seen no more – as those who go ahead of us from life to death also do.
We must surely learn, as we say farewell to what we knew and loved, that the era we live in now will one day be a long time ago.
And that we have inherited a great treasure from our forebears, which it is our duty to hand on to those yet unborn, who will come after us.