'Really sad': Britain mourns Prince Philip

People leave floral tributes outside Buckingham Palace in London following the death of Prince...
People leave floral tributes outside Buckingham Palace in London following the death of Prince Philip. Photo: Reuters
Britain is mourning Prince Philip but people have been asked not to gather in crowds or to lay flowers at royal palaces due to distancing guidelines imposed to stem the spread of coronavirus.

Philip, Queen Elizabeth's husband who helped modernise the monarchy and steer the British royal family through repeated crises during seven decades of service, died on Friday (local time) at Windsor Castle. He was 99.

"It's just a really sad moment," London resident Victoria Hasler told Reuters. "We'd known he'd been ill for quite a long time and it's just really sad. And we're just really sorry to the royal family for their sad news."

As news broke of Philip's death, radio and television broadcasts were interrupted with the national anthem "God Save The Queen".

Union flags were half-masted at all royal residences and British government building. Tributes to Philip were flashed up at Piccadilly Circus and poured in from across the world for the World War 2 navy veteran.

"Very sad news. He's a lovely guy and very sad for the monarchy," Adam Carr, a London resident, told Reuters.

Philip's sharp wit and dedication to his duty earned him widespread popularity in Britain, but he was also criticised for off-the-cuff racist and sexist remarks.

Some people laid flowers beside a British flag outside Buckingham Palace and at the ancient walls of Windsor Castle, though the government urged people not to bring flowers to royal residences.

"With the safety and wellbeing of the public in mind, and in accordance with government guidelines, members of the public are asked not to gather in crowds," Buckingham Palace said.

"Those wishing to express their condolences are asked to do so in the safest way possible, and not to gather at Royal Residences."

A Cabinet Office spokesman requested that "floral tributes should not be laid at Royal Residences at this time."

The funeral arrangements for Philip, who always dismissed unnecessary pomp during his lifetime, are yet to be confirmed by Elizabeth who remains at Windsor Castle.

"Modified funeral and ceremonial arrangements for His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh are being considered by Her Majesty The Queen," the Palace said. "Details will be confirmed in due course."

Meanwhile, there is little chance that 94-year-old Queen Elizabeth will abdicate, royal watchers believe, after the death of her husband, the longest-serving consort in British history.

The love of her life, he married Elizabeth in 1947 and had been with her throughout her 69-year reign. He was the person who broke the news to her while they were in Kenya in 1952 that her father, George VI, had died and that she was now queen at the age of 25.

Despite the huge hole in her life that Philip's death leaves, aides and royal experts have long said it would not lead to the queen, the world's oldest and longest-reigning living monarch, relinquishing the throne in favour of her son and heir Prince Charles.

"I can assure you the queen will not abdicate," royal historian Hugo Vickers said. "There is every indication the queen is in extremely good health and with luck she will continue to be our queen for as long as possible."

Elizabeth continued to carry out her official duties, albeit remotely because of COVID-19 restrictions, even while Philip was in hospital for four weeks earlier this year.

Royal watchers say part of the reason why Elizabeth would avoid giving up the crown was the manner in which she became queen herself. When she was born in 1926, it was not expected she would ever become the monarch.

But her uncle Edward VIII abdicated because of his love for American divorcee Wallis Simpson, which the British establishment deemed an unacceptable union, prompting a constitutional crisis which saw the crown passed to her father George VI when she was 10 years old.

"It is a job for life," Elizabeth once said, echoing a promise she made on her 21st birthday in 1947.

Speaking to the nation then while on tour of South Africa she said: "I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong."

It was a commitment she repeated on the 60th anniversary of her accession, and when senior Buckingham Palace aides are asked whether abdication is possible, they have the same answer: "Life means life".

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