Prince Philip: 'The Duke of Edinburgh was more than just the Queen’s biggest support'

The death of the Duke of Edinburgh marks the end of an extraordinary life.

Monday, 12th April 2021, 8:22 am

As the longest-serving royal consort, he was, as the Queen said at the time of their golden wedding celebrations in 1997, he had been her ‘strength and stay’ during the years of their marriage and her reign as our queen.

Their marriage was an exceptionally long one – 73 years since their wedding at Westminster Abbey in November 1947.

Having seen them together at several occasions over the years, the lasting memory I have is of the enjoyment they seemed to find in each other’s company right into old age. Prince Philip would always have a smile and a joke for her, pointing things out in the crowd that he thought would amuse her.

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Prince Philip accompanies the Queen during a visit to Mansfield in 1977.

Born in June 1921 as Prince Philip of Greece, his family were forced to leave Greece due to political unrest when he was only a few months old.

In his teens his parents separated with his father retiring to the French Riviera and his mother suffering a mental breakdown and admitted to an asylum.

He also lost his sister Princess Cecile, who died in an air crash when he was only 16, something which I’m sure will have been fresh in his mind when supporting his grandsons William and Harry on the sudden and unexpected death of their mother in 1997.

It was appropriate that he found his home in the United Kingdom given that his mother, Princess Alice, was born at Windsor Castle, where he died.

She was a great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria and born in the presence of the old queen.

Although they may have met at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Kent in 1934, we know Prince Philip first came to the attention of Princess Elizabeth in 1939, just before the outbreak of war, with her parents and younger sister.

With his blond, Viking looks, he attracted the 13-year-old princess with how high he could jump and how many potted shrimps he ate at tea.

After a distinguished war service, where he was mentioned in dispatches, their engagement was announced in July 1947.

Their marriage was a real partnership: she promised to obey him at their wedding and he promised to be her liege man of life and limb at her coronation in 1953.

He was always at her side and in the last few years since his retirement, it has been strange to see the Queen alone at public occasions.

The Duke was, though, more than just the Queen’s biggest support.

He will also be remembered for his achievements in setting up the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme and also for his work in promoting playing fields for working class and inner-city children through the Playing Fields Association as well as in science, the environment and nature conservation.

With a highly-developed and well-publicised sense of humour, he will also be remembered for his great wit which sometimes got him into trouble. One thing is for certain, we won’t see another consort quite like him.

- James Taylor is a royal commentator from Shirebrook.

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