Bouquet-bearing public honors Philip, ignoring COVID warning

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A couple under an umbrella look at the Union flag at half-staff over Buckingham Palace in London, a day after the death of Britain's Prince Philip, Saturday, April 10, 2021. Britain's Prince Philip, the irascible and tough-minded husband of Queen Elizabeth II who spent more than seven decades supporting his wife in a role that mostly defined his life, died on Friday. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

LONDON – British authorities have implored people to stay away from royal palaces as they mourn the death of Prince Philip in this time of COVID-19, but they keep coming. Not just to honor him, but to support Queen Elizabeth II, who lost her husband of 73 years.

The mix included children, seniors, Sikhs and the children of African immigrants. A cross-section of British society and admirers from abroad descended on Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle on Saturday. They laid bouquets at the gates, offered prayers or just paused for a moment of reflection as they remembered a man who dedicated much of his life to public service.

Mourners talked about Philip’s work with some 780 charities and organizations, particularly his Duke of Edinburgh Award, which seeks to build confidence and resilience in young people. But they also recalled his role as the consummate royal consort, supporting the queen at thousands of public engagements and state visits.

“We had a really hard year all of us and there’s people uniting in a very special moment,'' said Carolina Przeniewska, originally from Poland, who came to Buckingham Place with her 5-year-old daughter Grace. “So I wanted her to see it and I wanted to pay respect.”

At Buckingham Palace, the queen’s London residence, well-wishers braved a chilly, gray day to line up and snake their way past the black iron gates, where tourists normally wait to watch the changing of the guard. People were allowed to approach the gates one at a time to lay their tributes as police tried to control the crowd amid Britain's coronavirus restrictions.

The crowd was smaller at Windsor Castle, west of the capital, where a steady stream of mourners quietly approached the gates to leave bright spring bouquets on a strip of lawn.

People want to show their respect for both Philip and the queen, who turns 95 this month and will celebrate 70 years on the throne next year, said Nick Bullen, the co-founder and editor-in-chief of True Royalty TV.

“If the queen wasn’t already loved enough, this is just going to move it to another level now,’’ Bullen said. “This is a woman who’s going to bury her husband and then in a matter of days later be celebrating her birthday and stepping into her platinum jubilee year. … So I think people will just be rallying around the queen as much as they will the Duke of Edinburgh.”