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Senior royals gather to honour Prince Philip at memorial

LONDON (AP) – Queen Elizabeth II walked into Westminster Abbey through a side door yesterday, making good on her wish to attend a service of thanksgiving for her beloved husband Prince Philip.

The monarch entered the church on the arm of her second son Prince Andrew then separated from him to walk to her seat alone, easing concerns about her health that raised questions about whether she would attend. It was her first major public event in months, since unspecified mobility issues hampered her ability to get around.

Elizabeth, who recently recovered from COVID-19, didn’t go to a Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey earlier this month, but she continued with other scheduled engagements, including in-person audiences.

The 95-year-old monarch was deeply involved in planning the service, which included hymns and tributes from his charities. Such touches weren’t possible during his funeral last year because of strictures surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some 1,800 family members and guests attended the memorial. Only 30 people attended last year’s funeral, conducted under the strict COVID-19 lockdown rules then in place that forced the queen to sit alone wearing a black mask as she mourned the loss of her husband, who she called her rock.

Queen Elizabeth II is driven in to attend a Service of Thanksgiving for the life of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh at Westminster Abbey in London. PHOTO: AP

Philip died on April 9 at age 99.

Young people participating in programmes run by the prince’s Duke of Edinburgh charity and youth cadet associations lined the steps of the abbey to greet guests for the service.

Britain’s royal family attended, together with some 30 foreign royals, including Prince Albert of Monaco, Denmark’s Queen Margrethe II, King Harald V and Queen Sonja of Norway, and King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of Spain.

Philip’s wider family and friends were also there, along with 500 representatives charities and other groups he supported.

Andrew stepped back from royal duties, but his presence at his father’s memorial had been widely expected after he settled a lawsuit connected to his association with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.