Prince Andrew takes centre stage as King and Prince William miss memorial service

Prince Andrew leads the family to the memorial at St George's Chapel
Duke of York leads senior members of the family to the memorial at St George's Chapel - Andrew Matthews/WPA Pool/Getty Images

With 23 members of the extended British Royal family and 37 European, it was the largest gathering of royalty on British shores since the Coronation.

But the memorial service for King Constantine of Greece, held at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, in recognition of his close relationship with the British royals, was missing both King and Prince – and saw Prince Andrew take a central position.

King Charles III, always expected to be absent as he undergoes treatment for cancer, was represented by the Queen, who led the congregation alongside Constantine’s widow, Queen Anne-Marie.

The Queen arrives for the service
The Queen arrives for the service - Heathcliff O'Malley for The Telegraph
King Charles was represented at the service by the Queen
King Charles was represented at the memorial by the Queen - Jonathan Brady/PA

The Prince of Wales pulled out at the last minute citing personal reasons. As the late king’s godson, he had been expected to give a reading, and was named as such in the printed order of service.

His missing status did not relate to any change in the condition of the Princess of Wales,who was “doing well”, it was said. Aides were quick to point out that there was no reason to panic, but would not elaborate on the “personal matter” in hand.

However, it did serve to highlight the remaining members of the Royal family and gave the unfortunate impression of the officially not-working Duke of York leading the family.

Photographs of the senior members of the family walking to the Windsor chapel showed the Duke in front, smiling confidently as he stepped out next to his ex-wife Sarah, Duchess of York, and their daughter Princess Beatrice. Zara and Mike Tindall arrived at the chapel by coach.

In the chapel, Prince Andrew was literally front and centre: placed in a seat in the front row with the Queen and Princess Royal to his left, and Princess Alexandra to his right.

The Duke of York (third from right) in the front row in at St George's Chapel
The Duke of York (third from left) in the front row in at St George's Chapel - Jonathan Brady/PA

Sources insisted that the order of precedence was in reverse - that the most junior members of the family walked first, with the Prince of Wales supposed to walk behind and the Queen taking the most senior position last. Prince Andrew was there in a private capacity, in what is classed as a family occasion.

But the images did not go unnoticed among royal watchers, who commented on the seeming fragility of an ageing Royal family in which the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, Princess Alexandra in a wheelchair, and the Duke of Kent represented the British side with their customary dedication to duty.

They were joined by a grieving Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, who were later revealed to be processing the news of the sudden death of their son-in-law Thomas Kingston, who was married to their daughter Lady Gabriella Windsor, at the age of 45 on Sunday.

The Prince of Wales’s absence was not related to Mr Kingston, it was confirmed.

The Prince is expected to attend two planned engagements later this week, including a visit to a synagogue, where he will discuss the rise of anti-Semitism with young campaigners.

Due to give a reading at the service at St George’s Chapel, he called the Greek royal family on Tuesday morning to inform them he would no longer be attending.

Crown Prince Pavlos of Greece arrives at St George's Chapel
Crown Prince Pavlos of Greece arrives at St George's Chapel - Heathcliff O'Malley for The Telegraph

The decision was so late that a eulogy from Lord Soames, published in its entirety online by the Greek royal family, showed that he had planned to mention how “touched and proud” King Constantine would have been that his godson, Prince William, was giving the second reading.

The bible reading, Revelation 21. 1–7, that Prince William was due to give was instead given by the late king’s elder son, Crown Prince Pavlos.

King Charles, a great friend and second cousin of King Constantine, had been staying at Windsor Castle but left by helicopter before the service began. He was not expected to meet any members of the Greek royal family privately as he continues his cancer treatment.

Zara Tindall, right, greets Penelope Knatchbull, Countess Mountbatten of Burma
Zara Tindall, right, greets Penelope Knatchbull, Countess Mountbatten of Burma - Jonathan Brady/PA

Dozens of foreign royals travelled to Windsor to attend the service, flying in from Spain, Jordan, Denmark, Bulgaria, Serbia and the Netherlands. They included King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of Spain.

The Princess Royal, 73, who has just returned from Namibia where she attended a memorial for late president Hage Geingob on behalf of the King, was also present with her husband, Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence.

Other guests at the hour-long service included Sir Jackie Stewart, the former Formula One world champion, and Penny Knatchbull, Countess Mountbatten of Burma, both close friends of the Royal family, as well as Dame Susan Hussey, Sir John Major and US politician John Kerry.

The Queen, 76, smiled as she arrived at the entrance to the chapel shortly before 11am in a navy wide-brimmed hat, a matching pinstripe blazer and skirt.

As she took her seat inside, she had a brief conversation with Princess Anne, who was sitting next to her.

Princess Royal and the Queen looked sombre as they took their seats
The Princess Royal and the Queen take their seats - JONATHAN BRADY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The Dean, who gave the bidding, said King Constantine, who was forced into exile following a military coup, had “lived through times of great change and challenge”.

He added: “We give thanks for his unwavering commitment to the good of his people, his steadfast love of his wife and family, his ability to face the future with hope and faith even in the face of adversity.”

The first reading, Ithaka by C P Cavafy, was read by King Constantine’s children: Princess Theodora, Prince Nikolaos, Princess Alexía and Prince Philippos.

The service ended with the Russian Orthodox chant known as the Kontakion of the Departed, which was also sung at the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral in April 2021.

The Royal family in 1997 on the day of Prince William's confirmation
King Constantine, back left, with members of the Royal family in 1997 on the day of Prince William's confirmation - Anwar Hussein/WireImage
King Constantine and Queen Elizabeth II
King Constantine of Greece, seen with the late Queen Elizabeth II, reigned from 1964 until 1973 - Kirsty Wigglesworth/Getty Images

The Queen later hosted a private reception for guests including Queen Anne-Marie, former Queen of the Hellenes, at Windsor Castle, just a stone’s throw from Adelaide Cottage, home to the Prince and Princess of Wales and their children.

King Constantine, Greece’s final king, who reigned from 1964 until 1973, died on January 10 last year, aged 82.

He was godfather to both Prince William and Lady Gabriella Windsor.

He was a first cousin once removed and sailing partner of the late Duke of Edinburgh and enjoyed a close friendship with the King.

It was at his 60th birthday party at Highgrove in 2000 that the then Prince Charles finally introduced Camilla Parker Bowles to his mother, Queen Elizabeth II.