Queen Elizabeth opens up about 'period of great sadness' as she mourns Philip, marks 95th birthday

KATIE KINDELAN
·6 min read

Queen Elizabeth is celebrating her 95th birthday Wednesday, her first birthday in more than 70 years without her husband Prince Philip by her side.

The queen, who is spending her birthday at Windsor Castle, issued a very personal statement on her birthday, describing a "period of great sadness" for her family.

"I have, on the occasion of my 95th birthday today, received many messages of good wishes, which I very much appreciate, Queen Elizabeth said in the statement. "While as a family we are in a period of great sadness, it has been a comfort to us all to see and to hear the tributes paid to my husband, from those within the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and around the world."

"My family and I would like to thank you all for the support and kindness shown to us in recent days," she said. "We have been deeply touched, and continue to be reminded that Philip had such an extraordinary impact on countless people throughout his life."

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Philip's death at the age of 99, and his funeral on Saturday, mark the end of an era for the royal institution and a new normal moving forward for Queen Elizabeth and her family.

The queen had described Philip, her husband of 73 years, as her "strength and stay."

He was by her side at thousands of royal engagements and overseas tours until his retirement from official royal duties in 2017.

Queen Elizabeth has been attending royal engagements solo since 2017, and is expected to continue to do so after Philip's death.

PHOTO: Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh attend an event at Buckingham Palace on March 13, 2017, in London. (Samir Hussein/WireImage via Getty Images, FILE)
PHOTO: Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh attend an event at Buckingham Palace on March 13, 2017, in London. (Samir Hussein/WireImage via Getty Images, FILE)

"She’s always understood that this day will come," said ABC News royalty consultant Alistair Bruce. "She’s got on with her work, and in fact, straight after the funeral, she went back to her official papers and got them done."

But Queen Elizabeth is also expected to be supported by her family even more in the weeks and months ahead, both due to Philip's death and her own age.

MORE: Prince Philip dies: 8 things to know about Queen Elizabeth's husband

"I think for the queen, she’s got to change with the way in which her family supports her, but she’ll just get on as the heartbeat of the nation," said Bruce. "She’s got a wonderful family around her that will support and help with the work."

"It will just be a different way, but the same way," he said, noting how the British monarchy has continued for 1,000 years through deaths, divorces and births.

PHOTO: Britain's Queen Elizabeth II takes her seat for the funeral of Britain's Prince Philip, who died at the age of 99, at St George's Chapel, in Windsor, Britain, April 17, 2021. (Victoria Jones/Pool via Reuters)
PHOTO: Britain's Queen Elizabeth II takes her seat for the funeral of Britain's Prince Philip, who died at the age of 99, at St George's Chapel, in Windsor, Britain, April 17, 2021. (Victoria Jones/Pool via Reuters)

One item now on the royal family's agenda will be to divide the more than 800 patronages that Philip held, some of which he kept even after his retirement.

The queen and Philip's children are expected to step in to help, primarily Prince Charles, the oldest child and heir to the throne, Princess Anne, the couple's only daughter, and Prince Edward, their youngest child.

The couple's fourth child, Prince Andrew, stepped back from his royal public duties in 2019 due to heavy criticism over his relationship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who died in prison from an apparent suicide.

PHOTO: Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, and other members of the royal family follow Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh's coffin during the Ceremonial Procession at Windsor Castle on April 17, 2021, in Windsor, England. (Alastair Grant/WPA Pool via Getty Images)
PHOTO: Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, and other members of the royal family follow Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh's coffin during the Ceremonial Procession at Windsor Castle on April 17, 2021, in Windsor, England. (Alastair Grant/WPA Pool via Getty Images)

As the heir to the throne, Prince Charles is expected to be seen more frequently at Queen Elizabeth's side and in her place at royal engagements.

At age 72, Charles remains the longest heir apparent in British history. Queen Elizabeth ascended to the throne in 1952 at the age of 25.

MORE: Inside Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip's more than 7-decade marriage

Queen Elizabeth and Philip's grandchildren, most notably Prince William and Duchess Kate, will also be looked upon to support the queen at official engagements. William, at age 38, is second in line to the throne after Charles, his father.

William and Kate, along with Charles and his wife, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, had already increased their royal duties in the past year in the absence of Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan.

PHOTO: Members of the Royal Family stand on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to watch a fly-past of aircraft by the Royal Air Force during Trooping The Colour, the Queen's annual birthday parade, on June 8, 2019, in London. (Chris Jackson/Getty Images, FILE)
PHOTO: Members of the Royal Family stand on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to watch a fly-past of aircraft by the Royal Air Force during Trooping The Colour, the Queen's annual birthday parade, on June 8, 2019, in London. (Chris Jackson/Getty Images, FILE)

Harry and Meghan, the son and daughter-in-law, respectively, of Prince Charles, stepped down last year from their roles as senior, working members of the royal family. The couple publicly revealed their tensions with the royal family in an explosive tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey last month.

Philip's funeral marked the first time in over one year that Harry, who now lives in California with Meghan and their son Archie, had seen his family in person. Meghan, who is pregnant with the couple's second child, did not travel to the U.K. for the funeral at the advice of her doctor.

While Harry and Meghan have confirmed they will not be returning to their working royal roles, it was hoped by royal observers that Philip's funeral would at least mark a time for Harry to reunite with his family.

Harry and William, the only children of Charles and the late Princess Diana, walked in the same row during Philip's funeral procession and were photographed walking together back to Windsor Castle after the service at St. George's Chapel.

PHOTO: Vice-Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence, Peter Phillips, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex walk during the Ceremonial Procession at Windsor Castle on April 17, 2021, in Windsor, England. (Alastair Grant/WPA Pool via Getty Images)
PHOTO: Vice-Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence, Peter Phillips, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex walk during the Ceremonial Procession at Windsor Castle on April 17, 2021, in Windsor, England. (Alastair Grant/WPA Pool via Getty Images)

The brothers were also understood to have spoken more once they were back at Windsor Castle, according to ABC News royal contributor Victoria Murphy.

PHOTO: Prince Harry and Prince William leave the ceremony together after Prince Philip's funeral in Windsor, England, April 17, 2021. (Berzane Nasser/Abaca via Sipa USA via Newscom)
PHOTO: Prince Harry and Prince William leave the ceremony together after Prince Philip's funeral in Windsor, England, April 17, 2021. (Berzane Nasser/Abaca via Sipa USA via Newscom)

Harry reportedly returned to California on Tuesday, one day before the birthday of his grandmother, the queen. Harry told Winfrey that he has stayed in close touch with Queen Elizabeth even amid his conflicts with other family members.

ABC News understands that Harry met privately with Queen Elizabeth twice while he was in the U.K. for Philip's funeral.

"I've spoken more to my grandmother in the last year than I have done for many, many years," he told Winfrey. "My grandmother and I have a really good relationship and an understanding, and I have a deep respect for her. She's my commander-in-chief, right? She always will be."

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A repaired relationship between Harry and his family is seen by many as being beneficial not only personally for the family but also institutionally for the monarchy, which will see upheaval once again when Queen Elizabeth dies and Charles becomes king.

And it would be fitting if a reconciliation was started at a gathering for Philip, who was very protective of both his family and the family business into which he married, and was close with his grandsons William and Harry.

"I think when a family gets together, the love that’s there and the capacity for reconciliation, which should be in every family, is always very important," said Bruce. "After all, they had joined together to mark Prince Philip, their grandfather, and I think for both of them, he was such a tower of strength."

Queen Elizabeth opens up about 'period of great sadness' as she mourns Philip, marks 95th birthday originally appeared on goodmorningamerica.com