Gun have been fired across the UK, the Commonwealth and at sea in honour of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, who has died at the age of 99.
To mark the death of the Queen’s husband, saluting batteries began firing 41 rounds at one round every minute from 12 noon on Saturday in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Belfast and Commonwealth cities.
The public was encouraged to observe the gun salutes online or on television, rather than gather to watch outside, in line with plans for a pared-back funeral due to Covid restrictions.
Paying tribute, the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nick Carter, said the duke had been “devoted” to the armed forces after his own years of service in the Royal Navy.
Sir Nick said: “His Royal Highness has been a great friend, inspiration and role model for the armed forces and he will be sorely missed.
“A life well lived, His Royal Highness leaves us with a legacy of indomitable spirit, steadfastness and an unshakeable sense of duty. From all of us who serve today and who have served, thank you.”
Gun salutes have been fired to mark significant national events since as early the 18th century, and were used to mark the deaths of Queen Victoria in 1901 and Winston Churchill in 1965.
In London, the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery are riding out from their base at Napier Lines, Woolwich Barracks, onto the Parade Ground.
The artillery will be firing field guns dating from the First World War – the same guns fired for Philip’s wedding to the Queen in 1947 and at her Coronation six years later in 1953.
The Australian Defence Force offered its salute at 5pm local time outside Parliament House in Canberra, and New Zealand planned to give an artillery tribute celebrate on Sunday.
“His Royal Highness Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh was a constant supporter and ambassador of the armed forces,” said defence secretary Ben Wallace on the midday tribute.
“We celebrate his life of service and offer our condolences to Her Majesty the Queen and the royal family,” the minister added.
Philip joined the Royal Navy after leaving school, beginning at the Britannia Royal Naval College in 1939. He served on several ships during WWII and saw active service against German, Italian and Japanese forces.
He rose rapidly through the ranks, with some believing he could have become First Sea Lord – the professional head of the Royal Navy. But the Duke stepped down from his active role in the forces to fulfil his duty as the Queen’s consort.
Ships taking part in the 41-gun salute included HMS Diamond, HMS Montrose and HMNB Portsmouth – while the Royal Gibraltar Regiment joined the salute from the British overseas territory, the Ministry of Defence said.
Details of the duke’s funeral, due to take place at St George’s Chapel, are also expected to be released this weekend – but the ongoing lockdown in England will affect plans.
Two of his sons, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward, arrived at Windsor Castle on Saturday morning, while the Prince Charles visited his mother there on Friday.
Edward and Sophie, the Countess of Wessex, spent around an hour at the castle. Sophie told reporters “the Queen has been amazing” as they left Windsor in a Land Rover.