Prince Philip was laid to rest Saturday in a somber and scaled-down funeral procession that honored his lifetime of service. But the image that everyone talked about was of his widow, Queen Elizabeth II, who sat alone inside St. George’s Chapel dressed in black while wearing a face mask. The striking image was the result of COVID-19 restrictions that require everyone not part of the same household to socially distance. The photograph of the queen sitting alone seemed to bring home the reality that the queen lost her partner of 73 years. It was an image that led many to sympathize with the queen, showing her as a lonely widow rather than a powerful leader.
Sitting alone in her husband’s funeral also served as a reminder of how many people had to grieve alone during the pandemic. “These pictures really bring home one of the horrible truths of the pandemic,” journalist Jane Merrick wrote on Twitter: “that there can be no tearful hugs with reunited family right at the time when you need it most.” So many wrote about the image on social media that the term “seeing the queen” trended in the United Kingdom.
Although there were 730 members of the armed forces at the funeral procession, only 30 mourners were allowed to attend the service for Philip, who died April 9, a little more than two months before his 100th birthday. Sitting a safe distance away were the queen’s four children and eight grandchildren, including Prince Harry and his brother William, who spoke in public for the first time since the explosive Oprah Winfrey interview last month. Although the Royal Family had asked people to watch the service from home to avoid a large gathering, hundreds of people lined the streets outside the castle to pay their respects.