Queen Elizabeth II made a touching appearance at the service of thanksgiving for her late husband, Prince Philip, on Tuesday.
There had been speculation as to whether the 95-year-old monarch would be able to attend due to mobility issues compounded by a series of health scares in recent months—including a period of sickness with COVID in February.
The service marks the most high profile event the Queen has attended since the G7 reception for world leaders in Cornwall last summer.
The monarch arrived at Westminster Abbey for the service at 11:30 a.m. and entered via a side door, so as not to walk the long length of the abbey nave in front of the guests and television cameras. She was seated among members of the royal family, next to Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.
The monarch’s decision to arrive at the abbey accompanied by Prince Andrew was a surprising turn of events.
The occasion marked the first public appearance that Andrew has made since the settling out of court of the sexual assault lawsuit brought against him by Virginia Giuffre in the United States. Giuffre claimed that Andrew assaulted her after they were introduced by Ghislaine Maxwell and notorious pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
Andrew retired fully from public life in January 2022, returning all of his military and charitable titles to the Queen and giving up using his HRH title in any official capacity. He attended the service supported by his daughters and their spouses—though his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson (with whom he has been living) was not included in the party.
Prince Philip and Ferguson had a well-documented acrimonious relationship following her divorce in 1996.
The Queen’s presence at the service marks the first in-person ceremonial visit that the monarch has paid this year and the biggest since she traveled to Scotland for the opening of parliament in October 2021.
Whether or not the Queen would attend the service couldn’t be confirmed prior to the event, with a royal source telling Newsweek that the monarch was hoping to be able to make it.
The Queen’s mobility issues have been widely discussed in recent months, with the monarch starting to use a walking stick since October 2021. In February, when asked how she was doing at Windsor Castle she was recorded gesturing to her stick, previously used by Philip, saying, “As you can see, I can’t move.”
At the service of thanksgiving the Queen looked regal and dignified in a green coat with burgundy velvet accents, a matching dress and hat, with her trademark pearls and wearing an important brooch with links to her late husband.
In a touching gesture, included in the floral arrangements inside the abbey were orchids that had formed part of the Queen’s bridal bouquet in 1947.
Prince Philip’s death at the age of 99, just weeks before his birthday, occurred during the pandemic, and in accordance with U.K government public safety measures, only 30 mourners could be present at his funeral.
The service of thanksgiving, to which representatives of his wider family, his friends, staff members and foreign royalty were invited, was planned for nearly a year to take place at Westminster Abbey, where the prince married the Queen.
Almost the entire British royal family attended the service to pay their respects to Philip as a father, father-in-law, grandfather, great-grandfather, uncle and cousin. A notable absentee, however, was Prince Harry. He and his wife, Meghan Markle, stayed away amid Harry’s lawsuit against the U.K. Home Office over providing security.
Kate Middleton was present with Prince William and their children, Prince George, eight, and Princess Charlotte, six. She was wearing a black spotted dress and an elegant wide-brimmed hat with diamond and pearl earrings loaned to her by the Queen.
The service was attended by all of the major European royal houses to which Philip was related through Queen Victoria, and his father’s family as descendants of the royal house of Denmark. The King and Queen of Norway had to cancel their trip to the U.K after the King tested positive for COVID.
Philip and Elizabeth II had been married for 73 years at the time of his death in April 2021. Since then, the Queen has adopted a hybrid working model of video conference engagements mixed with in-person audiences undertaken from Windsor Castle. It was reported in March that this new model may see the Queen never return to live at Buckingham Palace.
The monarch’s appearance at the service of thanksgiving amid her health and mobility concerns is a touching tribute to the man of whom she famously said:
“He is someone who doesn’t take easily to compliments but he has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years, and I, and his whole family, and this and many other countries, owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim, or we shall ever know.”