Prince Philip, the longest serving royal consort in British history who was a constant presence at Queen Elizabeth II’s side for decades, died yesterday aged 99, Buckingham Palace announced.
The death of the Duke of Edinburgh is a profound loss for the 94-year-old monarch, who once described him as her “strength and stay all these years”.
“It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen announces the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh,” the palace said in a statement. “His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle. The Royal Family join with people around the world in mourning his loss.”
Flags were lowered to half-mast on public buildings as part of a well-rehearsed protocol that included the pealing of bells, planned gun salutes today and the recall of parliament on Monday.
As a mark of respect, political campaigning for May local elections was suspended.
An image of the prince was projected in lights at London’s Piccadilly Circus landmark.
Philip, an outspoken former navy commander, devoted much of his life as the Queen’s husband to charity work.
Famed at one point for gaffes, some caused offence but supporters said they were simply icebreakers when meeting people in awkward situations.
He was admitted to hospital on February 16, and went home after a month during which he was treated for a pre-existing heart condition and an infection.
Announcing his death, BBC television played the national anthem over a picture of Philip in his prime, dressed in military dress uniform.
“We give thanks, as a nation and a kingdom, for the extraordinary life and work of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson, dressed in mourning black, said outside 10 Downing Street.
He said Philip had helped to steer the royal family and the monarchy so they remained “indisputably vital to the balance and happiness of our national life”.
“It is to Her Majesty, and her family, that our nation’s thoughts must turn today,” Johnson said. “Because they have lost not just a much-loved and highly respected public figure, but a devoted husband and a proud and loving father, grandfather and, in recent years, great-grandfather.”
The prime minister said that Philip had “earned the affection of generations” at home, in the Commonwealth and across the world after first serving in the Royal Navy and then over nearly eight decades beside the Queen.
Tributes poured in from political and faith leaders in Britain, and from the United States, Europe and Commonwealth countries including Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, and Pakistan.
Condolences were also expressed by leaders in Ireland, where in 2011 the Queen and Philip paid the first royal state visit for a century following generations of enmity with Britain.
Buckingham Palace said modified funeral and ceremonial arrangements were being considered by the Queen in light of Covid-19 restrictions in England which puts a limit of 30 on the number of mourners.
“With the safety and wellbeing of the public in mind, and in accordance with government guidelines, members of the public are asked not to gather in crowds,” the palace said. “Those wishing to express their condolences are asked to do so in the safest way possible, and not to gather at Royal residences.”
An online Book of Condolence has been set up on the royal family’s website.
The College of Arms, Britain’s heraldic authority, said there would be no state funeral or lying-in-state, and Philip’s body would lie at rest at Windsor before a funeral in the castle’s St George’s Chapel.
However, its statement was later taken down from its website and arrangements have yet to be officially confirmed.
Philip’s grandson, Prince Harry, is likely to make his first return to Britain since his shock move to the United States last year, British media reported.
He and his American wife, Meghan, wrote on the website of their Archewell charitable foundation: “Thank you for your service ... you will be greatly missed.”
Before this year’s crisis over relations with Harry and Meghan, which saw them accuse the monarchy of racism, the royals had to weather the 1997 death in a car crash of Harry’s mother Princess Diana.
Tony Blair, who was prime minister at the time, lauded Philip “as a man of foresight, determination and courage” who was ahead of his time in the cause of environmental protection and setting up initiatives for young people.
Chris Green, a 57-year-old local government officer, told AFP outside Buckingham Palace: “I came here when the Queen Mother (in 2002) and Diana died, so I came here for a quiet thought and to pay my respects.”
“With his age and his recent health problems, it hasn’t come as a massive shock, but it is one of those moments we will look back on and say it was a significant event,” he said.
However, police at the palace and other royal sites discouraged well-wishers from lingering, owing to Britain’s Covid-19 restrictions on mass gatherings.
Philip retired from public duties in 2017 at the age of 96 and died just before his 100th birthday in June – a milestone that for Britons is typically marked with a congratulatory message from the Queen, who is Britain’s longest-serving monarch.
The couple, who celebrated their 73rd wedding anniversary in November, had been living largely in isolation at Windsor Castle, because their age put them at heightened risk from Covid-19.
Philip and the Queen – isolated in what they called “HMS Bubble” – received their first vaccinations against the virus in January.
Philip was no stranger to health issues.
He was previously fitted with a stent in 2011 after suffering from a blocked artery.
He also had a hip operation in 2018 and in January 2019, he emerged unscathed after his vehicle was involved in a traffic accident that injured two people near the monarch’s Sandringham estate in eastern England.
The prince then spent four nights in hospital in December that year, receiving treatment for what was described as a “pre-existing condition”.
He was discharged on Christmas Eve 2019, in time to rejoin the rest of the royal family for the festive period.
He was last seen at a staged appearance at a military ceremony at Windsor Castle last July, days after attending the wedding ceremony of his granddaughter Princess Beatrice.
The Queen had four children with Philip – heir to the throne Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward – eight grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
Philip was born on the island of Corfu with Danish and Greek royal titles.
He fled the country when he was just 18 months old with his parents and four sisters, after his uncle, king Constantine of Greece, was forced to abdicate.
The family initially settled in France.
Philip was formally introduced to the then-Princess Elizabeth, in July 1939 and they kept in touch during the war, meeting on several occasions.
The pair married in Westminster Abbey in London in 1947.
A rising star in the British navy, Philip had reached the rank of commander by the time Elizabeth ascended to the throne in 1952.
He eventually shelved his personal ambitions to support his wife in the role.
He played a key role helping the monarchy to adapt to a changing world in the post-World War II period, and behind the walls of Buckingham Palace was the one key figure the Queen could trust and turn to, knowing he could tell her exactly what he thought.
“He has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years,” Elizabeth, 94, said in a rare personal tribute to Philip in a speech marking their 50th wedding anniversary in 1997. “I, and his whole family, and this and many other countries, owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim, or we shall ever know.”
Over the ensuing decades he was involved in numerous charities, including the World Wide Fund For Nature and the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme for young people.
World leaders pay tribute to Prince Philip
Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth and a leading figure in the British royal family for almost seven decades, has died aged 99, Buckingham Palace said yesterday. Here are reactions from major public figures in Britain and around the world.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson
“We remember the Duke ... above all for his steadfast support for Her Majesty the Queen, not just as her consort, by her side, every day of her reign, but as her husband, has strength and stay of more than 70 years.
“And it is to Her Majesty, and her family, that our nation’s thoughts must turn today.
“Like the expert carriage driver that he was he helped to steer the royal family and the monarchy so that it remains an institution indisputably vital to the balance and happiness of our national life.”
US President Joe Biden
“Over the course of his 99-year life, he saw our world change dramatically and repeatedly. From his service during World War II, to his 73 years alongside the Queen, and his entire life in the public eye – Prince Philip gladly dedicated himself to the people of the UK, the Commonwealth, and to his family.
“The impact of his decades of devoted public service is evident in the worthy causes he lifted up as patron, in the environmental efforts he championed, in the members of the Armed Forces that he supported, in the young people he inspired, and so much more.
“His legacy will live on not only through his family, but in all the charitable endeavours he shaped.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel
“The death of Prince Philip fills me with great sorrow. His friendship to Germany, his straightforwardness and his sense of duty will not be forgotten.”
World leaders pay tribute to Prince Philip
French President Emmanuel Macron
Prince Philip “lived an exemplary life defined by bravery, a sense of duty and commitment to the youth and the environment”.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi
“He had a distinguished career in the military and was at the forefront of many community service initiatives. May his soul rest in peace.”
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan
“Britain has lost a wise elder who was imbued with a unique spirit of public service. His role in promoting Pakistan-UK relations will always be remembered.”
King Felipe and Queen Letizia of Spain
“We shall never forget the moments that we shared with him and the legacy of service and dedication to the crown and the United Kingdom by your side.”
Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin
“Saddened to hear of the death of HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Our thoughts and prayers are with Queen Elizabeth and the people of the United Kingdom at this time.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
“Prince Philip was a man of great purpose and conviction, who was motivated by a sense of duty to others.”
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
“Prince Philip will be fondly remembered for the encouragement he gave to so many young New Zealanders through The Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award.
“In over fifty years of The Award in New Zealand, thousands of young people have completed life-changing challenges through the programme.”
King Harald of Norway
“Our thoughts are with Queen Elizabeth and the rest of her family. We also send our condolences to the British people.”
King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden
“Prince Philip has been a great friend of our family for many years, a relation which we have deeply valued. His service to his country will remain an inspiration to us all.”
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari
“The death of the Duke of Edinburgh is the end of an era. Prince Philip was one of the greatest and publicly recognisable international figures whose contributions to the Commonwealth will be remembered for generations to come.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres
“He was known for his dedication to charitable causes as a patron of some 800 organisations, in particular those focused on the environment, industry, sport and education.”
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison
Philip “embodied a generation that we will never see again. The Commonwealth family joins together in sorrow and thanksgiving for the loss and life of Prince Philip.” said the leader of the Commonwealth nation. – AFP/Reuters
Last updated: April 10 2021 01:02 AM
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