17 April 2021

Granny Marie would certainly have tuned into Prince Philip’s funeral. She’d have shed a tear for Lizzie as she sat alone at the top of St George’s Chapel, after 73 years of marriage, facing the aloneness of widowhood. I always admired Marie’s ability to see other’s sadness as greater than her own.
Philip was the guiding force behind the arrangement for his funeral. While the ceremony was scaled down due to Covid, there was still quite a spectacular military display with all the associated regalia, providing a moving tribute to a great man. Rather than the 800 mourners as had been planned, only 30 attended the ceremony due to coronavirus restrictions.

I was most impressed by the choice of music. Philip picked a wide range of music from Johann Sebastian Bach to Ralph Vaughan Williams for the service. During the service, a choir of four singers, three of whom are Lay Clerks of St George’s Chapel Choir, will be conducted by James Vivian and the organ will be played by Luke Bond

Here’s the music that featured…
Music before the service

Schmucke dich, o liebe Seele BWV 654 – Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Adagio espressivo (Sonata in A minor) – Sir William Harris (1883-1973)
Salix (The Plymouth Suite) – Percy Whitlock (1903-1946)
Berceuse (Op 31 No. 19) – Louis Vierne (1870-1937)
Rhosymedre (Three Preludes founded on Welsh Hymn Tunes) – Ralph Vaughan Williams – (1872-1958)

During the funeral
The Sentences, set to music by English composer William Croft, William Croft (1678-1727)
Eternal Father, Strong To Save (Melita), by J. B. Dykes (1823-76) William Whiting (1825-78), Arranged by James Vivian (b. 1974)5
The Jubilate, Benjamin Britten (1913-76), Written for St George’s Chapel, Windsor at the request of The Duke of Edinburgh
Psalm 104. The Duke of Edinburgh requested that Psalm 104 should be set to music by William Lovelady (b. 1945) abridged and arranged for choir and organ by James Vivian (b. 1974) with the composer’s permission. Words from Psalm 104, adapted by Sam Dyer (b. 1945)
The Lesser Litany, William Smith (1603-45), adapted by Roger Judd, MVO (b. 1944)
The Lord’s Prayer, Music by Robert Stone (1516-1613) from John Day’s Certaine Notes 1565
Russian Kontakion of the Departed. Translated William John Birkbeck (1859-1916). Kiev Melody, arranged by Sir Walter Parratt, KCVO (1841-1924)88

The Buglers of the Royal Marines then sounded A Lament and The Last Post. After a period of silence the State Trumpeters of the Household Cavalry sounded Reveille, before The Buglers of the Royal Marines sounded The National Anthem

Music after the service

Luke Bond, Assistant Director of Music, St George’s Chapel, played Prelude and Fugue in C minor BWV 546 by Johann Sebastian Bach

Why was the music been picked?

Eternal Father, Strong To Save is known as the hymn for the Royal Navy.

Philip was closely associated with the Navy for more than 80 years, having enrolled at Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth aged 17, served at sea during the Second World War and later held numerous honorary ranks.

The well-known Victorian hymn was sung by a choir of just four at St George’s Chapel due to Covid regulations.

It is strongly associated with the Navy in the UK but is also popular with the naval traditions of countries like the US and France.

The first verse of the hymn paints a dramatic picture of divine help needed for those who find themselves in trouble on the waters.

Eternal father, strong to save,
Whose arm doth bind the restless wave,
Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
O hear us when we cry to thee
For those in peril on the sea.”

The stirring lyrics and music were written by two English ministers – William Whiting provided the words and John B Dykes composed the music.

The Rhosymedre by Williams is a piece with strong royal connotations and was featured at the weddings of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and also played at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales.

Two pieces of music the duke commissioned from celebrated composers were featured during the 50-minute long service: The Jubilate was written by Benjamin Britten at the duke’s request around 1961 and has gone on to become a staple in cathedrals and churches across the country; Psalm 104 which was set to music by guitarist and composer William Lovelady. Originally composed as a cantata in three movements, it was first sung in honour of the duke’s 75th birthday in 1996.

Ecclesiastes (The book of the Preacher) 43:13-33
See the Rainbow
St John 11: 71-26

Back to Marie: Her interest in the Royals started when she was a little girl. Not long returned from Australia, she accompanied her parents to mass in the town of Wexford every Sunday. He parents, anxious to catch up with old friends, used to go for tea to a small restaurant before going home. While the grown-ups chatted in the back of the shop, Marie waited out front busying herself reading newspapers left out for diners. Many of the papers were English papers and carried stories of princes and princesses around Europe. Marie reveled in the stories of pomp and circumstance. The first ‘picture’ she brought me to see was Mayerling based on the story of the end of the Habsburg dynasty.

In the 1880s, Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria (Omar Sharif) clashed with his father, Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria (James Mason) and his mother Empress Elisabeth /Sissi (Ava Gardner), over implementing progressive policies for their country. Rudolf found refuge from a loveless marriage with Princess Stéphanie by taking a mistress, Baroness Maria Vetsera. Their untimely death at Mayerling, the imperial family’s hunting lodge, was cloaked in mystery, but the film’s ending suggested the two lovers made a suicide pact when they decided they could not live in a world without love or prospects for peace.