Prince Philip Funeral Will See Royals Follow Numerous Peculiar Rules

As the U.K. mourns the death of Prince Philip—Queen Elizabeth II's husband—the royal family and other public figures are expected to follow certain strict protocols in the days leading up to his funeral, not least the Queen herself. She is expected to pause her state affairs as she enters an official period of mourning that will last eight days.

Here we look at some other rules relating to royal deaths.

Always carry a black outfit

The royal family has been prepared for the latest death for their entire lives, at least in terms of their attire. All royal family members are expected to carry a black mourning outfit with them whenever they travel overseas in case a family member dies while they are away.

In the event that a death occurs while they're abroad, royal family members must return wearing their black outfit as they must be seen to be mourning on arrival.

The black outfit rule was introduced after Elizabeth was without any black mourning clothes when her father, King George VI, died on February 6, 1952 as she was visiting Kenya when she heard the news. She and Philip were en route to Australia by ship at the time but had made a stop at the Treetops Hotel in the coastal Kenyan city of Mombasa.

Upon hearing of the death of her father, Elizabeth headed to Entebbe in Uganda where she would get a plane back to the U.K. A black outfit was sent from the ship to Entebbe so that she would be dressed appropriately upon landing in the U.K.

Newsreaders are also traditionally expected to wear black as a mark of respect when announcing the death of a royal family member.

Back in 2002, BBC came under fire as presenter Peter Sissons wore a burgundy tie and grey suit to deliver the news of the Queen Mother's death.

In a statement at the time, the BBC said: "The guidance to presenters was that they should wear sombre clothes for the announcement of the Queen Mother's death and black ties for the funeral."

Wear a hat and suit

At the funeral, royal family women will be expected to follow the traditional protocol of wearing a hat or a fascinator, while men will be suited up.

...and a long skirt

Royal family women should also be wearing a black dress or skirt falling just on the knee or below it, as reportedly preferred by Elizabeth.

...and tights

Royal family women are also required to wear tights, which is reportedly "the only hard, steadfast rule in terms of what the Queen requires," according to royal expert Victoria Arbiter.

Lower flags

Other protocols include the lowering of flags. They must be flown at half-mast for the funerals of royal family members, "subject to special commands from Her Majesty in each case," according to the National Association of Civic Officers in the U.K.

According to a document from the Hertford Town Council Constitution of Hertfordshire, England outlining the "protocol to mark the death of a senior member of the royal family," upon the formal announcement of death, "flags are flown at half-mast until 08.00 on the morning following the state funeral. If the death or period of mourning falls on St George's Day, the English flag should be replaced by the Union flag."

Hold the funeral eight days following death

According to a document from the Hertford Town Council Constitution, funerals of senior royal members take place eight days after the day of the death, while "for the Sovereign, the funeral will take place 10 days after the day of death."

Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, funerals are limited to 30 people and no public viewing of Philip's body will be held. The funeral will likely be attended by family members, friends and heads of state from Commonwealth countries.

Details around the funeral have not been released by the royal family. Officially announcing Philip's death, the royal family tweeted on Friday: "Further announcements will be made in due course."

State vs. ceremonial funerals

According to a 2013 House of Commons document distributed to members of U.K. parliament, there are two types of royal funerals—state and ceremonial.

"A state funeral is defined by the Royal Encyclopedia as 'generally limited to Sovereigns, but may, by order of the reigning monarch and by a vote of Parliament providing the fund, be extended to exceptionally distinguished persons.'"

A ceremonial funeral is held "for those members of the Royal Family who hold high military rank, for the consort of the Sovereign and heir to the throne," according to the document. The Queen Mother and Princess Diana were both given a ceremonial funeral.

Both types of funerals will entail "a military procession carrying the coffin to Westminster Hall, a period of lying in state, and a service at Westminster Abbey or St Paul's Cathedral.

"A state funeral is commonly held to differ from a ceremonial funeral in two respects: a parliamentary motion authorises it, and the gun carriage bearing the coffin to the lying in state has, since the funeral of Queen Victoria, been drawn by Royal Navy sailors rather than by horses.

"The process for deciding when a state funeral should be held for a person other than the Sovereign is relatively unclear, not least since it happens so rarely and at long historical intervals. There is no official process set out in public," the document says.

Prince Philip July 2020
Prince Philip attending a ceremony at Windsor Castle on July 22, 2020 in Windsor, England in the U.K. Pool/Max Mumby/Getty Images