WINDSOR, England — Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, thanked the public Saturday for their heartfelt condolences and messages of support following the death of his “dear papa,” Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.
Charles, 72, who visited his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, at Windsor Castle on Friday after news of his father’s death broke, said the family missed him “enormously” in a brief, televised speech outside his home, Highgrove House.
Thanking those who “share our loss and our sorrow,” he said, “My dear papa was a very special person, who I think, above all else, would have been amazed by the reaction and the touching things that have been said about him, and from that point of view, we are, my family, deeply grateful.”
Philip died Friday at 99, just two months before his 100th birthday.
Last month, he spent weeks in the hospital being treated for an unspecified infection and undergoing a medical procedure for a pre-existing heart condition.
Shortly before Charles’ message aired, Buckingham Palace said Philip’s ceremonial funeral would take place April 17 at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle — in line with coronavirus restrictions. The scaled-back event will be televised and marked by a national minute of silence.
Royal commentator Camilla Tominey told NBC News that the queen’s children would help the monarch cope during a moment of enormous grief and sorrow.
“We can’t underestimate the profound emotional effect this will have on the queen. She has been married to Prince Phillip for 73 years, and he’s been the constant fixture in her stalwart reign,” Tominey said.
She added that Philip would have been “secretly delighted” at the scaled-down funeral plans.
“At the end of the day in life, he was somebody who didn’t want a fuss to be made, and he would be the same in death,” she said, adding that Charles would likely undertake more royal engagements following his father’s death.
Despite lockdown measures remaining in place, people of all ages flocked to lay flowers and pay their respects outside the 11th-century Windsor Castle, where Philip died and the queen is in residence. Similar scenes unfolded in front of Buckingham Palace in central London some 30 miles away.
Earlier on Saturday, Charles’ younger brother Prince Edward and his wife, Sophie, the Countess of Wessex, were briefly seen leaving Windsor Castle after visiting the queen. With tears in her eyes, Sophie told the crowd the monarch had been “amazing.”
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The queen has yet to comment publicly on her husband’s death, but official royal family social media accounts on Saturday shared a quote from a 1997 speech she gave to mark her golden wedding anniversary, where she called Philip “my strength and stay all these years.”
Her grandson Prince Harry and his American wife, Meghan, paid their respects in a message Friday posted on the couple’s Archewell website, which thanked the Duke of Edinburgh for his service and said he’d be “greatly missed.”
While Harry is expected to attend the funeral, Meghan, who is pregnant, will not make the trip, Buckingham Palace said.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex rocked the royal boat last month after giving a personal interview on life behind palace walls to media mogul Oprah Winfrey. In a separate interview with British TV host James Corden, Harry also revealed his grandparents often made Zoom calls to keep in touch from across the Atlantic.
The U.K.’s national broadcaster, the BBC, aired previous footage of interviews with Philip’s children in a documentary over the weekend. Charles joked that his irascible father “didn’t suffer fools gladly” but noted that his “energy was astonishing in supporting my mama.”
“I think he’d probably want to be remembered as an individual in his own right,” he added.
Michael Fiorentino and Mo Abbas contributed.