Why Prince Philip's funeral had just one Aussie guest: 'Humbling'

Gillian Wolski
·Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer
·4-min read

The late Prince Philip had always desired a 'no fuss' funeral but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic meant the event at Windsor Castle had to be scaled back even more.

The carefully laid plans for 'Operation Forth Bridge' — the codename for the duke's funeral — were scrapped in favour of the smaller, shorter and socially distanced affair that took place on Saturday afternoon (UK time).

The coffin of Prince Philip is carried up the steps of St George's Chapel in Windsor by eight Pall Bearers
Commodore Guy Holthouse, second from right wearing the white hat, watches as Prince Philip's coffin is carried into St George's Chapel in Windsor. Photo: Getty Images.

Only Aussie invited

In keeping with current coronavirus guidelines, just 30 members of the royal family were permitted inside St George's Chapel for the 50-minute service.

The number of representatives from Prince Philip's life in the military — who played a significant role in the ceremonial proceedings on the day — was no doubt also condensed, making an invite hard to come by.

One man who received a request to attend was Commodore Guy Holthouse, the only Australian who made the guest list.

As the most senior member of the Australian Defence Force in London, Commodore Holthouse was 'proud' to attend on behalf of the nation.

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Prince Charles, Prince William, Prince Harry, Timothy Laurence, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew, Prince Edward, David, Earl of Snowdon, Peter Phillips walk behind a Land Rover carrying the coffin of Prince Philip at his funeral on April 17, 2021 in Windsor, England
The duke's coffin was followed on foot by several senior royals including Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry. Photo: Getty Images.

'Humbling'

"It was a very humbling experience," he told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age after the funeral.

"I was very proud to represent the ADF and Australian people at such an event and to be invited to honour the life of someone who, as a military man and then consort to the Queen, dedicated his entire life to service."

Commodore Holthouse said it was an "absolute honour" to stand alongside his Commonwealth counterparts from New Zealand, Canada and Trinidad and Tobago and watch the duke's coffin arrive at the chapel on the back of a customised Land Rover.

He was positioned along the route the Land Rover took, with the coffin draped in Philip's flag and bearing his Naval cap and sword, carried up the steps with Prince Charles and Princes Harry and William in tow.

The Duke of Edinburgh, who served in the Royal Navy in WWII, had strong ties with Australia's military stretching back to the early 1940s.

He served as Marshal of the Royal Australian Air Force, Field-Marshal of the Australian Army and Admiral of the Fleet of the Royal Australian Navy from 1954 until his death aged 99 on April 9.

Commodore Holthouse told SMH that the late prince would have been "decidedly OK" with the strong military focus at the heart of the funeral.

"It all suggests he was first and foremost a military officer and that never left him," he said.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II sits alone in St. George’s Chapel during the funeral of Prince Philip at Windsor Castle, Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021.
The Queen sat alone during the funeral for her late husband, Prince Philip due to COVID-19 restrictions. Photo: Getty Images.

Family affair

Commodore Holthouse did not follow Prince Philip's coffin inside St George's Chapel for the funeral service. Current COVID-19 restrictions permitted just 30 mourners which included the Queen, Philip's four children, eight grandchildren and their spouses.

The royal family was joined by just one non-royal, Penelope Bradbourne, Countess Mountbatten of Burma who was one of Prince Philip's closest friends later in life.

The 67-year-old was given the nickname "And Also" by royal aides as she was invited to so many events that Philip was due to appear at, according to the Daily Mail.

During the sombre service, Her Majesty, 94, was forced to 'sit alone' from her family due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Prince Harry, Prince William and Kate Middleton were spotted together after Prince Philip's funeral. Photo: BBC
Prince Harry, Prince William and Kate Middleton were spotted together after Prince Philip's funeral. Photo: BBC

Prince Harry, who returned to the UK from LA for the first time in a year just days after Prince Philip's passing, was also isolated to his own area of the pew.

After the service, however, the 36-year-old was seen talking with his older brother, Prince William as they made their way back to Windsor Castle.

Royal fans have welcomed this as a 'turning point' in the brothers' relationship which has been frosty ever since Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle stepped back as senior royals in January 2020.

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