Gun salutes fired in UK to mark Prince Philip’s death

LONDON (AFP) – Gun salutes echoed around the United Kingdom (UK) yesterday as the military paid solemn tribute to Queen Elizabeth II’s husband Prince Philip after his death aged 99.

Coordinated 41-round salutes to the former Royal Navy commander were fired at one round per minute from noon in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, as well as at naval bases, from ships at sea, and in the British territory Gibraltar.

The number of shots fired – the longest salute used according to military protocol – has been fired in the past to mark the deaths of queen Victoria and wartime prime minister Winston Churchill.

Similar salutes were also held in Canberra and Wellington, as the queen is head of state in Australia and New Zealand.

Sporting events, including Premier League football matches and at English county championship cricket, held moments of silence as part of worldwide tributes to mark the death of the Duke of Edinburgh, during a period of national mourning.

The death of the duke, the longest serving royal consort in British history, on Friday is a profound loss for the 94-year-old monarch, who once described her husband of 73 years as her “strength and stay” throughout her long reign.

The Death Gun Salute is fired by the Honourable Artillery Company to mark the passing of Britain’s Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, at the The Tower of London. PHOTO: AFP

Flags are flying at half-mast on government buildings and will do so until the morning after his funeral, the date of which has yet to be announced.

A two-minute silence was held ahead of yesterday’s Grand National, the country’s showpiece horse race.

The well-rehearsed protocol for the duke’s death – codenamed “Forth Bridge” – includes the recall of Parliament tomorrow.

British television stations cleared their schedules for special broadcasts looking back on his life, although the BBC said it had received complaints about the blanket coverage.

Westminster Abbey, where the couple married in 1947, tolled its tenor bell 99 times on Friday, once for each year of the prince’s life.

Political campaigning for May local elections stopped, and loyalist leaders in Northern Ireland, who have been rioting for days amid heightening political tensions in the British province, urged a pause in violence on Friday.

The call – “as a mark of respect to the Queen” – was largely heeded.

Marches that had been planned by members of the pro-UK unionist community in Belfast were cancelled yesterday.

But despite the calls for calm, some lower-level disorder continued overnight.

Philip – who would have celebrated his 100th birthday in June – had been ill for some time, and spent more than a month in hospital from February 16 being treated for a pre-existing heart condition and an infection.

Despite looking frail on his release from hospital on March 16, hopes were raised for his recovery.

But the queen announced Philip’s passing “with deep sorrow” after he died peacefully on Friday morning at Windsor Castle, west of London.