HE was the refugee whose parents made the United Kingdom their home, the conservationist long before society recognised the need to look after the world around us and the rock on which Her Majesty the Queen and so many senior royals depended on.
Observer editor Rob George reflects on the life of HRH the Duke of Edinburgh and what his death could mean for the monarchy.
“HOW are you sir?”, I shouted as Prince Phillip emerged from a Guildhall reception in the summer of 2012 for the traditional Royal walkabout during a visit to Worcester which took place weeks after he’d again been in hospital.
“Fine, thank you” came the reply, together with a facial expression which suggested my ‘audience’ with His Royal Highness was at an end. The firm politeness wasn’t matched by the look I received from a somewhat disgruntled Buckingham Palace press officer!
Worcester’s glorious summer of 2012 was one of my first thoughts on Friday when Buckingham Palace announced the death of the HRH the Duke of Edinburgh at the age of 99.
From the joy of the Olympic torch relay to the magic sprinkled on the city by Her Majesty the Queen and Prince Phillip, it was a summer like no other. I will always remember speaking to people in the crowds afterwards, faces aglow at seeing the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.
For seven decades, the Duke of Edinburgh has been Her Majesty’s ‘strength and stay’, her husband, her travel partner, her best friend. As he said himself he was ‘the world’s best plaque unveiler’.
A King without the title but the constant source of support to our monarch, the longest serving in our history. It’s perhaps fitting her reign began with her husband breaking the awful news her father had passed and that she was now Queen.
It’s been staggering to learn so much about his life, how his family fled from Greece and eventually found a home in the UK, how the young Phillip was smuggled out of the country in an orange container.
His passion for the world around us was another issue I was unaware of, clearly something which will live on through his eldest son Prince Charles.
Of course he had his faults and made faux pas and comments which were ignorant and hurtful. He was part of a generation not as informed as we are now and I hope history reflects as such.
While the Faithful City will always defend Queen and country, the Duke of Edinburgh’s passing does focus the mind on our soon to be 95-year-old monarch and end of the Elizabethan era.
Speaking on her 21st birthday, she said: “I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”
The death of her beloved husband will present her foremost personal challenge of her reign, can she face the challenge faced by so many widows of ‘carrying on’ after losing a loved one.
I suspect she will, spurred on not only by the support of a nation but with the words of her husband in her ears day in, day out.
As the sun sets on a life well-lived and on that sunny July day at the Hive, the Guildhall and High Street and later at the Cathedral we should give thanks for a lifetime of service.
Rest in Peace Sir.