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Princess Anne pays tribute to her father, Prince Philip, as Harry reportedly flies to U.K.

The royal family's reunion will be closely watched after Harry and Meghan's explosive interview with Oprah Winfrey last month.
Image: Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Harry and Princess Anne look on from the balcony during The Queen's Birthday Parade and Trooping The Colour at Buckingham Palace.
Prince Philip, Prince Harry and Princess Anne look on from the balcony during the queen's birthday parade at Buckingham Palace in June 2006.Anwar Hussein / Getty Images file

LONDON — Britain's Princess Anne paid tribute to her father, Prince Philip, as the royal family grieved his death ahead of the funeral this weekend.

“My father has been my teacher, my supporter and my critic, but mostly it is his example of a life well lived and service freely given that I most wanted to emulate,” Anne, Queen Elizabeth II and Philip’s only daughter, said in a statement released by Buckingham Palace on Sunday.

“You know it’s going to happen but you are never really ready,” she said of her father's death Friday.

Along with Anne's tribute, the royal family shared a black-and-white photo of the princess and her father laughing at the 2012 London Olympic. The two were known to have had an especially close relationship.

Anne's statement was released as members of the public continued to leave flowers and condolence messages outside royal residences in London and Windsor, where Philip died, even though both palace and government officials have urged people not to come in person to pay their respects due to Covid-19 restrictions.

On Monday, The Sun, a British tabloid, reported that Prince Harry had already arrived back in the United Kingdom. ahead of the funeral, but his spokesperson has declined to comment. Buckingham Palace has not responded to NBC News' request for comment on the prince's arrival.

All eyes will be on Harry, and his reunion and interactions with his family, after an interview he and his wife, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, gave to the media mogul Oprah Winfrey last month that exposed a raft of allegations about their lives before and after they split with the royal family.

The interview plunged the British monarchy into its biggest crisis in decades, leading to accusations of racism within the royal family.

Harry, one of Philip's eight grandchildren, and Meghan moved to the United States after stepping back from royal duties. Harry is planning to attend the funeral, a Buckingham Palace spokesperson said over the weekend. Meghan, who is pregnant with the couple's second child, has been advised by her physician not to travel, the palace said.

Former British Prime Minister John Major said the funeral and shared grief was an “ideal opportunity” to mend any rifts that may exist between the royal family and Harry.

Harry will have to quarantine in accordance with Covid-19 guidelines upon his arrival. Under current U.K. regulations, travelers arriving from the U.S. have to quarantine for 10 days, but they have an option of taking a private Covid-19 test after five days of isolation and can end their quarantine early if the test is negative. They can also leave their place of self-isolation in limited circumstances, the rules say, including on compassionate grounds — like attending a funeral of a close family member.

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Also Sunday, Anne's brother, Prince Andrew, the third of Philip and the queen’s four children, said his father’s death has “left a huge void” in the queen’s life.

Philip, who died just several months shy of his 100th birthday, was the queen’s consort and support through more than seven decades of marriage.

“We’ve lost, almost, the grandfather of the nation,” he said.

A ceremonial funeral for Philip will take place at Windsor Castle on Saturday, with no public access due to coronavirus restrictions.