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Queen will mark her 95th on Wednesday with a tiny coterie

The Queen faces her loneliest birthday this week, her first without Philip in seven decades.

The widowed monarch will turn 95 on Wednesday, surrounded only by the tiny coterie of staff that make up her Windsor ‘bubble’.

Plans to mark the day with a new portrait of her are set to be shelved because she is still in the official period of royal mourning for her beloved husband. 

The glaring absence of Prince Philip will be impossible to ignore and the run-up to what should have been a joyous day is set to be overshadowed by speculation about the major rift in her family.

While onlookers were heartened by the sight of William and Harry in conversation as they left their grandfather’s funeral on Saturday, sources said a meaningful reconciliation between the brothers was still some way off. 

Harry was yesterday said to be flying back to Los Angeles very soon after being seen with his brother and sister-in-law Kate for the first time in more than a year. 

The Queen, 94, bowed her head as she attended Prince Philip’s funeral in St George’s Chapel, Windsor, yesterday

Her Majesty, who was married to the Duke of Edinburgh for 73 years, was forced to sit alone during the Covid-secure ceremony

Her Majesty, who was married to the Duke of Edinburgh for 73 years, was forced to sit alone during the Covid-secure ceremony

The monarch was photographed leaving her Windsor home behind the wheel of a green Jaguar earlier today

The monarch was photographed leaving her Windsor home behind the wheel of a green Jaguar earlier today 

That gives little time to heal open wounds and it is not known whether the 36-year-old saw his father Prince Charles outside of Saturday’s emotional proceedings.

Kate seemingly broke the ice outside St George’s Chapel by speaking to Harry, with whom she had once been so close.

As the family group walked back from the ceremony – an impromptu decision, as a fleet of state cars had been laid on for the mourners – she hung back slightly so the brothers, driven apart by Harry and Meghan’s acrimonious decision to quit royal duties and move to the US, could talk.

The body language was stilted and the exchange appeared to be little more than polite chit chat, but it was a start.

Senior royals, including the Queen, Charles, William and Harry, spent more than an hour together outside in the castle grounds before going their separate ways by 6pm.

It was unlikely they had any serious discussions but it was the most time they had spent together as a family since Harry and Meghan quit the UK more than a year ago.

Royal sources however last night warned that ‘one swallow does not a summer make’ and the rift between the two men, particularly after the string of hurtful and highly damaging allegations made by the Sussexes in their bombshell Oprah interview last month, remained deep.

One insider went so far as to suggest that the acrimony between the brothers could take years to heal, if ever.

And they stressed there was still widespread anger in the Royal Family and the household at large at the accusations levelled against them by the couple – in particularly the claims of racism and that Meghan was left suicidal through lack of support.

Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew, Prince Edward, Prince William, Peter Phillips, Prince Harry, Earl of Snowdon and Timothy Laurence follow the coffin in the ceremonial procession

Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew, Prince Edward, Prince William, Peter Phillips, Prince Harry, Earl of Snowdon and Timothy Laurence follow the coffin in the ceremonial procession

Prince Charles walks behind the Duke of Edinburgh's coffin at it makes its way to St George's Chapel

Prince Charles walks behind the Duke of Edinburgh’s coffin at it makes its way to St George’s Chapel

The Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke of Cambridge look towards Philip's coffin before it was lowered into the Royal Vault

The Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke of Cambridge look towards Philip’s coffin before it was lowered into the Royal Vault

Prince Harry was sat directly across from his older brother and his wife Kate having flown in without his wife Meghan

Prince Harry was sat directly across from his older brother and his wife Kate having flown in without his wife Meghan

Philip's coffin had his standard, navy cap and a sword given to him by the Queen's father when they married 73 years ago

Philip’s coffin had his standard, navy cap and a sword given to him by the Queen’s father when they married 73 years ago

The allegations are strongly contested by the family privately, who believe Harry and Meghan have behaved ‘appallingly’, although they are attempting to put on a conciliatory public face.

It is unlikely that the two brothers would spend much time together before Harry flies back to the US, but it is hoped that a dialogue has now been started.

The scenes at Windsor Castle played out as the eyes of the nation saw the Queen forced by coronavirus rules to sit alone to say goodbye to her beloved husband at St George’s.

The farewell note from his dear Elizabeth

Wreath of white blooms on top of Prince Philip's funeral

Wreath of white blooms on top of Prince Philip’s funeral

Perched amid the wreath of white blooms on top of her husband’s coffin, the card – edged in black – was handwritten.

There has been much speculation that the Queen used her childhood nickname, Lilibet, in her last message to Philip.

It was a surprise to some, it has to be said. 

As a 13-year-old girl, she was besotted with her future husband from the moment she laid eyes on him.

But, even so, the now 94-year-old monarch has never been known for highly public expressions of emotion.

In fact, the message, pictured, read simply: ‘In loving memory, Elizabeth.’

 

Sources say she is likely to spend her birthday as she has done most other days this year – driving herself to Frogmore, one of her favourite parts of the estate, to walk her new puppies, Fergus, a dorgi, and corgi Muick. 

That is where she was yesterday, taking solace in the familiar as she comes to terms with the rest of her life without Philip.

The monarch drove herself alone from the castle for some quiet contemplation at Frogmore, where the cherry trees are still in bloom and spring flowers adorn the banks of the ornamental lakes.

It is this kind of routine which, sources say, is helping to keep life on an even keel. 

It is just a few minutes from Frogmore Cottage, where Harry has been staying.

When he lived there with Meghan, the Queen would sometimes walk or ride down to say hello.

While official national mourning ended at 8am yesterday, with the Union flag being returned to full mast on government buildings, the Queen and her family will remain in mourning until Thursday, the day after the landmark birthday.

There will be no gun salute to mark the occasion with the traditional 41-gun and 21-gun salutes in Hyde Park and the Tower of London both cancelled, the Ministry of Defence said last night.

It is understood the Queen will at most receive visits from Prince Andrew and Prince Edward, probably along with his wife Sophie. There will be calls from the Prince of Wales, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and others.

The Queen is expected to be back working the following day as normal, dealing with her boxes of red papers.

Aides are already quietly working behind the scenes on a series of low-key engagements from Windsor, most probably via video call. Sources said last night that the Queen had shown ‘remarkable’ resilience and fortitude last week and had ‘led by example’.

They have also confirmed her first public engagement outside of the castle will be when she attends the state opening of Parliament on May 11, with her son and heir, Prince Charles.

Last week the Mail revealed that the monarch will never be allowed to ‘walk alone’ by her family following the death of her beloved husband of 73 years.

Those who will be seen at her side are the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Earl and Countess of Wessex and Princess Anne. 

Sources stressed that the elderly monarch, who says Prince Philip’s death has left a ‘huge void’ in her life, will continue to meet as many commitments as possible once the two weeks of mourning end.

They point out that the Queen has always undertaken solo engagements, both before and after her husband officially retired in 2017. But there is a concerted effort under way to ensure she has more support in the future, should she need it.

(Top row, left to right) Zara and Mike Tindall, Jack Brooksbank, Princess Eugenie, Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi and Princess Eugenie, (front row, left to right) the Duchess of Cambridge, the Duke of Cambridge, the Earl of Wessex, James Viscount Severn, the Countess of Wessex, Lady Louise Windsor, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Prince of Wales during the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh

(Top row, left to right) Zara and Mike Tindall, Jack Brooksbank, Princess Eugenie, Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi and Princess Eugenie, (front row, left to right) the Duchess of Cambridge, the Duke of Cambridge, the Earl of Wessex, James Viscount Severn, the Countess of Wessex, Lady Louise Windsor, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Prince of Wales during the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh

Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of York during the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh in St George's Chapel

Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of York during the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh in St George’s Chapel 

Princess Eugenie of York (R) and her husband Jack Brooksbank sit quietly together with their hands clasped

Princess Eugenie of York (R) and her husband Jack Brooksbank sit quietly together with their hands clasped

Members of the Royal family march behind the coffin during the ceremonial funeral procession of Prince Philip

Members of the Royal family march behind the coffin during the ceremonial funeral procession of Prince Philip

The Duke of Cambridge, the Duke of Sussex and Peter Phillip walk up the West Steps outside St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle

The Duke of Cambridge, the Duke of Sussex and Peter Phillip walk up the West Steps outside St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle

Princess Anne (right) and Prince Edward (left) walk together during the funeral of Britain's Prince Philip

Princess Anne (right) and Prince Edward (left) walk together during the funeral of Britain’s Prince Philip

In California, Meghan issued a press release to announce that she was watching the funeral from home. 

It was sent out by her and Harry’s ‘Global Press Secretary’ and read: ‘I can confirm that The Duchess will be watching from home as she was hopeful to be able to attend, but was not cleared for travel by her physician at this stage in her pregnancy.’

It raised eyebrows in royal circles after it made great play of describing how Harry and his grandfather ‘hold a unique connection in their shared active service – including in combat – as part of the British Armed Forces’.

It went on to list Harry’s achievements in his ten-year military career, including two tours of duty on the front line in Afghanistan.

However Prince Andrew also enjoyed a 21-year military career and fought in the Falklands War.

The announcement struck another slightly jarring note by noting the wreath the Sussexes laid for Philip in St George’s Chapel – and including a heavy plug for its maker.

Buckingham Palace had declined to discuss floral tributes from members of the Royal Family, saying they were ‘personal and private’.    

Princes Charles and William ‘will lead summit within weeks to decide the entire Royal Family’s future including how many members it will have and who will do what after Prince Philip’s death and Megxit’ 

By James Gant for MailOnline

Princes Charles and William will meet to discuss the future of the monarchy after the death of Prince Philip, reports say.

The two heirs will reportedly plan with the Queen which members of ‘The Firm’ will be working Royals and what they should do.

It comes after the Duke of Edinburgh‘s death on April 9 raised questions over if his hundreds of patronages should be passed down.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle‘s departure complicated matters by reducing the number of people available to help the monarch in high-profile roles.

Princes Charles (pictured at his father's funeral on Saturday) and William will meet to discuss the future of the monarchy after the death of Prince Philip, reports say

Princes Charles (pictured at his father’s funeral on Saturday) and William will meet to discuss the future of the monarchy after the death of Prince Philip, reports say

The two heirs (pictured, William at his grandfather's funeral on Saturday) will reportedly plan with the Queen which members of 'The Firm' will be working Royals and what they should do

The two heirs (pictured, William at his grandfather’s funeral on Saturday) will reportedly plan with the Queen which members of ‘The Firm’ will be working Royals and what they should do

Senior royals including Princes Charles and William gather to walk behind Prince Philip's coffin during Saturday's funeral in Windsor

Senior royals including Princes Charles and William gather to walk behind Prince Philip’s coffin during Saturday’s funeral in Windsor 

Duke of Edinburgh's death (pictured, his funeral on Saturday) on April 9 raised questions over if his hundreds of patronages should be passed down

Duke of Edinburgh’s death (pictured, his funeral on Saturday) on April 9 raised questions over if his hundreds of patronages should be passed down

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's (pictured during their Oprah chat) departure complicated matters by reducing the number of people available to help the monarch in high-profile roles

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s (pictured during their Oprah chat) departure complicated matters by reducing the number of people available to help the monarch in high-profile roles

Sources told the Telegraph official and personal duties cannot be decided separately because they are too closely linked.

Prince Charles is said to be taking the lead in the talks due to him becoming king first and because any immediate decisions will impact his reign.

But he is understood to have wanted his son the Duke of Cambridge involved every step of the way for major policies that affect him when he inherits the throne.

Meanwhile Prince Edward and Sophie, Countess of Wessex are believed to be stepping into the void left by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s exit.

They are expected to take on bigger roles despite already fulfilling 544 duties as of the last year before the coronavirus lockdown.

Harry and Meghan did 558 jobs between them in 2019, meaning the Royals have to review how these will be redistributed.

Prince Andrew, who stepped back from duties after his Newsnight interview over his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein, also has roles that may need to be dished out.

The Duke of York, Prince Philip and Prince Harry have hundreds of patronages and military titles that now need to be taken on.

Prince Edward and Sophie, Countess of Wessex (pictured with their children on Saturday) are believed to be stepping into the void left by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's exit

Prince Edward and Sophie, Countess of Wessex (pictured with their children on Saturday) are believed to be stepping into the void left by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s exit

Prince Andrew (pictured on Saturday), who stepped back from duties after his Newsnight interview over his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein, also has roles that may need to be dished out

Prince Andrew (pictured on Saturday), who stepped back from duties after his Newsnight interview over his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein, also has roles that may need to be dished out

The Prince of Wales and Duke of Cambridge are expected to decide over the next few weeks and months how they will tackle the issues.

They are said to have rocketed in importance for the Queen and Charles after Harry and Meghan’s review period ended last month.

But the decline in the Duke of Edinburgh’s health followed by his death just over a week ago shifted the focus.

Prince Charles had wanted a smaller monarchy made up of the Queen, Prince Philip, himself, his wife the Duchess of Cornwall, the Cambridges and Prince Harry.

In these plans the Duke of Sussex was expected to help out until William and Kate’s children George, Charlotte and Louis grew up and took on roles.

The Prince of Wales and Duke of Cambridge (pictured with the other royals on Saturday) are expected to decide over the next few weeks and months how they will tackle the issues

The Prince of Wales and Duke of Cambridge (pictured with the other royals on Saturday) are expected to decide over the next few weeks and months how they will tackle the issues

Insiders revealed Charles, William and the Queen (pictured on Saturday) will need to discuss whether to continue with thousands of engagements annually or cut them down

Insiders revealed Charles, William and the Queen (pictured on Saturday) will need to discuss whether to continue with thousands of engagements annually or cut them down

Insiders revealed Charles, William and the Queen will need to discuss whether to continue with thousands of engagements annually or cut them down.

A source said: ‘The question is whether you start off by deciding how many patronages and engagements there should be, and then work out how many people are needed to achieve them, or whether you decide how many people there should be, which will dictate how many engagements and patronages they can take on.’

Prince Charles took part in 550 Royal duties in 2019 while the Duke of Cambridge focused on 220.

Prince William is believed to prefer a targeted approach so he can lend more support to each cause.

Currently around 15 members of the Royal Family take part in more than 3,000 duties per year.

RICHARD KAY: A funeral masterstroke by Charles that may just reunite his warring sons

On a day of meticulous planning, it was the one and only off-the-cuff decision. And it turned out to be a masterstroke.

As the limousines drew up to take mourners from the Galilee porch of St George’s Chapel back to Windsor Castle‘s private quarters, Prince Charles used the briefest of gestures to send them, empty of their royal passengers, away.

Impromptu perhaps, common sense even, but it was a signal every bit as eloquent as the spine-tingling music that accompanied the coffin containing the earthly remains of his ‘dear papa’ to its resting place in the royal vault.

For instead of hiding behind the bulletproof glass of their chauffeur-driven cars, the family walked side by side together, ripped off their face masks and talked.

This could have been a moment of risk, instead it allowed us the first glimpse of the possibility that somehow William and Harry can put their bitter split behind them and rebuild that once whisper-close bond.

Prince Charles takes out his handkerchief as he follows Prince Andrew

Prince Charles takes out his handkerchief as he follows Prince Andrew

It is hard to read too much into this encounter, for it was all too brief, but if there is to be reconciliation between the brothers, this was surely the moment of its inception.

More than a year has passed since they were last seen in public together, a year in which so many assumptions about their relationship have been torn asunder.

The fall-out from Harry and Meghan’s Oprah Winfrey interview is still raw and its issues, not least the claims that a member of the Royal Family had made racist comments about the colour of their son Archie’s skin, remain unresolved.

That it should be Kate playing the role of peacemaker was significant too.

Her sister-in-law had discourteously referred to Kate’s pre-marriage ‘Waity Katie’ nickname during the interview and claimed that it was the Duchess of Cambridge who had made her cry over the bridesmaids dresses for her wedding – a claim that was met with deafening silence.

For Charles, who needs both his sons now as never before, this was the first sign of his new role as head of the family.

In the past week his life has changed utterly and he now must, above all, ensure that his own difficult and often misunderstood relationship with his father is not repeated with his sons.

Kate Middleton, Prince Harry and Prince William talk as they walk away from the service

Kate Middleton, Prince Harry and Prince William talk as they walk away from the service

Was this what was going through his mind as he led the sombre line of mourners out of the chapel into the sunshine?

By sending his car away he was laying down his first act as the Royal Family’s new paterfamilias. The others had to follow and did.

What it demonstrated was that, for all the military precision and formality of the funeral behind which bereavement could seek refuge, there was a willingness to show that the Windsors were as bereft as any family losing a loved one.

Clambering into cars to travel silently back to the castle might have preserved royal dignity, but going by foot allowed us to see them in all their vulnerability.

Crucially it also provided a chance to build bridges between William and Harry and it was Kate who seized the opportunity.

As they emerged into the castle precincts she was already chatting animatedly with Harry. With no cars to collect them there was no alternative but to walk.

Soon William, who had exchanged pleasantries with the Dean of Windsor, the Right Reverend David Conner, had joined them. 

And just as she had arrived at Harry’s side, Kate then melted away.  

By now both brothers had removed their Covid masks and there was just a flicker that the frost between them might be thawing as they began the walk up Chapel Hill.

‘Make no mistake, this was as much for the benefit of the cameras as anything substantial’, says a royal figure. ‘Don’t read too much into it. Baby steps maybe.’

All the same the fact that they were talking at all seemed anything but likely when they had emerged from the castle an hour or so earlier.

The distance between them then looked unbridgeable with the impassive Peter Phillips, their former rugby-playing cousin, sturdily between them.

Kate Middleton, Prince Harry, Prince William thank the Dean of Windsor after the funeral service

Kate Middleton, Prince Harry, Prince William thank the Dean of Windsor after the funeral service

Prince William was as inscrutable as on that September day almost 24 years ago when he walked behind his mother’s coffin. He looked neither left nor right, keeping his gaze steadily ahead.

For his part Harry seemed to be taking in the pageantry of the occasion, perhaps in the knowledge that it no longer plays any part in his life now he has stepped back from royal duties.

At the steps to the chapel’s west door the cortege paused for the national minute’s silence and Peter appeared to pull back as if to allow the brothers a chance to move together.

They did not and William proceeded to his seat along with Peter while Harry walked to his with their other cousin David (the Earl of) Snowdon.

Once inside the chapel they sat apart too. William and Kate on one side of the quire, Harry facing them directly opposite, but alone. If they did make eye contact, the television cameras did not record it.

If there had been hope that their grandfather’s death and funeral might mean some kind of royal reconciliation, the hopes at that moment looked to have been dashed.

Since his return to Britain a week ago, Harry had been isolating at Frogmore Cottage, the house given to him and Meghan as a wedding present by the Queen.

But his presence had brought about one change to Saturday’s proceedings: the royals’ decision not to wear military uniform. 

This was to spare Harry, who was no longer entitled to ceremonial dress since being obliged to give up all his military patronages.

There were reports that the brothers had exchanged texts but nothing more.

After the service as they walked back to the castle the two continued to talk and this time Kate was with them. 

For a moment it was just like turning back the clock to the years before Meghan came into his life when Harry shared everything – on and off duty – with William and Kate. 

But with no formal wake because of social distancing the funeral party broke up quickly.

‘Everyone stood around in the quadrangle chatting for a little while and then left,’ says one insider.

It is understood that Prince Edward and his family did stay for tea with the Queen.

For Prince Charles, his is a future of dizzying and perplexing family problems, not eased by his father’s passing but deepened by it.

He must be a rock for the Queen who will depend on him more than ever, but also find the will to restore the unity of the Royal Family by bringing his sons together. 


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