Prince Philip’s funeral service honours his love of life at sea

The perils of ocean storms, tales of huge sea monsters and prayers for those who go out in ships will be heard at the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral.

Friday, 16th April 2021, 10:31 pm
Updated Saturday, 17th April 2021, 10:34 am

Philip used his love of all things maritime and his lifelong association with the Royal Navy to inspire the detailed plans for Saturday’s ceremony inside St George’s Chapel.

Music chosen by the duke includes the hymn Eternal Father, Strong To Save – traditionally associated with seafarers and the naval services.

Written in 1860 by William Whiting, it was was inspired by the dangers of the sea described in Psalm 107.

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Handout image taken at Balmoral in 2018 and released on 14/04/21 of Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh with their great grandchildren. Pictured (left to right) Prince George, Prince Louis being held by Queen Elizabeth II, Savannah Phillips (standing at rear), Princess Charlotte, the Duke of Edinburgh, Isla Phillips holding Lena Tindall, and Mia Tindall. Issue date: Wednesday April 14, 2021.

It was also sung at the funeral of Philip’s beloved uncle, Earl Mountbatten of Burma, who was murdered by the IRA in 1979.

It includes the words “who walkedst on the foaming deep, And calm amid its rage didst sleep: O hear us when we cry to thee for those in peril on the sea”.

Philip, who served with distinction in the Navy during the Second World War, once described the sea as “an extraordinary master or mistress”.

“It has such extraordinary moods that sometimes you feel this is the only sort of life and 10 minutes later you’re praying for death,” he said.

He also made two round-the-world voyages in the Royal Yacht Britannia.

The First Lesson (Ecclesiasticus 43. 11–26), read by the Dean of Windsor, speaks of monsters and “wonderful creatures” seen by those exploring the oceans.

It reads: “Those who sail the sea tell stories of its dangers, which astonish all who hear them; in it are strange and wonderful creatures, all kinds of living things and huge sea-monsters.”

Among the prayers, the dean will ask for the duke to be granted the “ancient promise” that God will be with those who “go down to the sea in ships and occupy their business in great waters”.

The phrase also features in the original Psalm 107 – which the Church of England suggests can be used by the Royal Navy at sea as a form of thanksgiving prayer after a storm.

Philip also asked for “My soul give praise unto the Lord of heaven” – Psalm 104 – to be included in the ceremony.

He requested it be set to music by William Lovelady and it was first sung in honour of his 75th birthday.

It tells of “Lord of heaven, in majesty and honour clothed … seas he made to be its robe” and waters rising above the highest mountain.

Action Stations, sounded on naval warships to signal all hands must go to battle stations, will also be played at Philip’s specific request.

Buglers of the Royal Marines will perform the wartime alert, a tradition sometimes associated with naval funerals, and the Last Post will be played to signify “a soldier has gone to his final rest”.

Had the duke not married Princess Elizabeth, some believe he would have been First Sea Lord, the professional head of the Royal Navy.

He was mentioned in despatches for his service during the war

He was a midshipman aboard HMS Valiant off the southern coast of Greece when he earned his honourable citation.

A young naval officer, he was praised for his actions in the decisive Battle of Cape Matapan against the Italian fleet in March 1941.

Philip had been in control of the searchlights as the ship battled an Italian cruiser when he spotted an unexpected second enemy vessel nearby.

At the age of 21, Philip was one of the youngest officers in the Royal Navy to be made First Lieutenant and second-in-command of a ship, the destroyer escort HMS Wallace of the Rosyth Escort Force.

In July 1943, Wallace was dispatched to the Mediterranean and provided cover for the Canadian beachhead of the Allied landings in Sicily.

Philip also served as First Lieutenant on the destroyer HMS Whelp in the Pacific, where he helped to rescue two airmen in 1945.

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