Over many years, the music used in Royal funerals has changed in tone and style. At the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997 for instance, traditional hymns were sung alongside a performance of 'Candle in the Wind' by Elton John.


When was the funeral of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh?

The funeral of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh took place on Saturday 17 April. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, only 30 people were in attendance, so the congregation was much smaller than other state and ceremonial funerals. The funeral was held at St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle, where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were married in 2018.

It was a ceremonial funeral rather than a state funeral, the plans of which have been approved by The Queen.

Which hymns were sung at Prince Philips funeral?

Because of the COVID-19 restrictions, the congregation wasn't allowed to sing the hymns. As a result, only one hymn was included as part of the order of service: 'Eternal Father, Strong to Save'.

Author and Royal commentator Eve Pollard told Jeremy Vine on his Channel 5 programme that Prince Philip was a fan of the Naval hymn 'Eternal Father, Strong to Save'. This hymn was sung by the choir in the funeral service in an arrangement by St George's Chapel's director of music James Vivian.

What music was included in Prince Philip's funeral?

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the congregation couldn't sing, but a reduced choir of four singers featured as part of the service. They were led by conductor James Vivian, accompanied by organist Luke Bond.

Because of the 30-person limit on funerals, additional performers, choristers and buglers weren't allowed to be incorporated into the service itself, but music was featured as part of the coffin's approach to St George's Chapel. This included 'Nimrod' from Elgar's Enigma Variations, as well as the national anthem, 'Jerusalem' and 'I Vow to Thee, My Country.'

Sergeant bugler Jamie Ritchie led the Last Post, along with four other buglers from the Royal Marines.

Before the service, a band from The Rifles received the Duke of Edinburgh's coffin with the National Anthem. Before the coffin was lifted into the chapel, a Royal Navy Piping Party piped the 'Still'. They then piped the 'Side' as the coffin proceeded up the West Steps, before a minute's silence was carried out at 3pm. As the doors to the chapel closed after the procession had entered, the Royal Naval Piping Party piped the 'Carry On'.

Before the service, the following pieces of music were played by organist Luke Bond, St George's Chapel's assistant director of music.

JS Bach: Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele BWV 65
Harris: Adagio espressivo (Sonata in A minor)
Whitlock: Salix (The Plymouth Suite)
Vierne: Berceuse Op. 31 No. 19
Vaughan Williams: Rhosymedre (Three Preludes founded on Welsh hymn tunes)

During the service, Britten's setting of Psalm 100 was sung by the choir at the request of the Duke of Edinburgh himself.

He also requested that Psalm 104, 'My soul give praise unto the Lord of Heaven', should be set to music by contemporary composer William Lovelady. It was originally composed as a cantata in three movements, first sung in honour of the Duke of Edinburgh's 75th birthday in 1996. Director of music James Vivian had abridged and arranged Lovelady's cantata setting with the composer's permission.

The Anthem, Russian Kontakion of the Departed, was sung by the choir in an arrangement by Sir Walter Parratt.

At the end of the service, the Pipe Major of the Royal Regiment of Scotland played the lament, the Buglers of the Royal Marines sounded The Last Post, the State Trumpeters of the Household Cavalry sounded the Reveille and the Buglers of the Royal Marines then sounded Action Stations. The Archbishop of Canterbury then pronounced the blessing before the choir sung the national anthem.

After the service, organist Luke Bond played JS Bach's Prelude and Fugue in C minor.

What do the pipers' calls represent?

The 'Still' is used to call everyone to attention as a mark of respect, to order silence or give instruction. After a brief interval, it is followed by the 'Carry On'. It involves the piper blowing as hard as they can for eight seconds on the highest note they can possibly play. It is a piercing high-pitched note, before coming to an abrupt end after the eight seconds is up.

The 'Carry On' follows the verbal order given after the piper has blown the 'Still'. It requires the piper to blow the same high note for one second before dropping to a low note for one second, finishing abruptly.

The 'Side' requires the piper to start low and work up to a high note gradually. They then hold the high note for four seconds before gradually returning to the low note again.

What are pipers used for in the Navy?

People used to be hoisted on board because of the high decks and unwieldy gangways. Orders were passed between the seamen manning the ropes and the boatswain. Nowadays, ships' gangways are much easier to use so the need for a hoist has ceased but the piping tradition is still used.

'The Side' would be used when people were being hoisted on board.

It is still customary for the body of a navy officer or sailor to be piped over the side of the ship when they leave it for the final time. This is likely to be why the pipers were incorporated into the funeral of Prince Philip, as he served in the Navy from the age of 18.

More like this

What hymns have been sung at previous Royal funerals?

The hymns sung at the funeral of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother in 2002 were 'Immortal, invisible, God only wise' and 'Guide me, O thou great Redeemer', the latter of which was also sung at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales.

Princess Diana's funeral featured a great deal of music throughout the service, with 'I vow to thee, my country', 'The king of love my shepherd is' and 'Make me a channel of your peace' also sung by the congregation, alongside music by the choir and even her friend Elton John.

At the Westminster Cathedral ceremonial funeral for Lord Mountbatten, Prince Philip's uncle, in 1979, the hymns featured included 'God of our fathers, known of old', 'Jerusalem', 'Eternal Father, strong to save' and, as is often the case at state and ceremonial funerals, 'I vow to thee, my country'.

You can find lyrics to many of these hymns, as well as other favourites, here

Was Prince Philip's funeral televised?

BBC One broadcasted the service live from 3pm on Saturday 17 April, with supporting coverage on BBC iPlayer. Members of public were not allowed to visit the grounds of Windsor Castle because of the ongoing coronavirus restrictions. A minute's silence was held across the UK at 3pm in memory of the Duke of Edinburgh.

How can you watch Prince Philip's funeral internationally?

The BBC has shared its live coverage of the event on its YouTube channel, which is available to watch worldwide.

What is the difference between a state funeral and a ceremonial funeral?

A state funeral is usually reserved for monarchs. The last time there was a state funeral in the UK for a monarch was in 1952 for King George VI. With the approval of Parliament and a monarch, however, a distinguished public figure may also be afforded a state funeral – the last of which in the UK was in 1965 for former Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Ceremonial figures have many of the same characteristics as a state funeral, and are given to senior members of the Royal Family who are in the 'second tier' of the family and hold high military rank, as well as high-ranking public figures. They also require the consent of the ruling monarch. The most recent ceremonial funeral in the UK was in 2013 for former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The funerals of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997 and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother in 2002 were also considered ceremonial funerals.


The primary difference between state and ceremonial funerals is that a ceremonial funeral only has to be agreed by the ruling monarch, whereas state funerals have to be debated and agreed in Parliament as well.


Freya ParrDigital Editor and Staff Writer, BBC Music Magazine

Freya Parr is BBC Music Magazine's Digital Editor and Staff Writer. She has also written for titles including the Guardian, Circus Journal, Frankie and Suitcase Magazine, and runs The Noiseletter, a fortnightly arts and culture publication. Freya's main areas of interest and research lie in 20th-century and contemporary music.