Racing Pigeons Will Say Goodbye to Prince Philip on His Funeral

Racing pigeons will be released in Windsor, Sandringham and 65 other cities and towns across the UK for Prince Phillip’s funeral on Saturday.

The Duke of Edinburgh, a fan of the sport, died on April 9 and a low-key funeral is set to be held at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, on April 17.

The birds will be released from the Queen’s lofts in Sandringham and at Windsor on the day of the funeral, with the Royal Pigeon Racing Association (RPRA) aiming to have ten pigeons – one for each decade of the prince’s life – released across the UK at midday, reported The Times.

The royal family has been associated with pigeon racing since 1886 when King Leopold II of the Belgians gifted them a breeding stock for the Sandringham estate.

There are currently 170 birds in the Queen’s royal loft in the Norfolk village of Wolferton, one mile away from Sandringham.

Richard Chambers, development officer for the RPRA, said the ‘duke paid a particular interest’ to the lofts.

Mr Chambers, who will be releasing his own birds at the National Memorial Arboretum near Lichfield, Staffordshire, said the royal loft manager told him Prince Philip had lots of questions about the sport.

‘The Queen has always paid an interest and visited the lofts and the duke himself paid particular interest, to the point that when it was time for the royal party to move on during a visit he would spend extra time asking questions,’ he said.

An outbreak of bird flu has prevented pigeon racing but they can still be released for training flights.

Mr Chambers revealed 28 cities signed up to release pigeons in the first 48 hours after a call was put out. He hopes more will join ahead of the funeral in two days’ time.

Royal loft manager Peter Farrow previously revealed every time a Royal pigeon wins a race, he has the pleasure of informing the Queen.

Winnings vary from about £10 to a few hundred pounds, with a handful of £1,000 top prizes.

The Queen has been enthusiastic about pigeon racing throughout her reign and her birds have numbers not names, though each of their leg rings is specially marked with the insignia ER.

Before the bird flu outbreak the Royal pigeons competed regularly during the April to September racing season and won national and regional competitions.

In June 2015, one of them, number 1258, came first in a Kings’ Lynn club race, taking five hours 55 minutes to fly 254 miles from Carentan, near Cherbourg, France.

There are two million racing pigeons and 26,000 pigeon fanciers in Britain.

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