‘I’d much rather have stayed in the Navy, frankly.’
HRH Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, when asked what he felt about his life in 1992.
I, for one, am so thankful he did not as, today, we mourn his loss.
One never knows what lies ahead … In hindsight, he did. Leaving hospital three weeks ago, I suspect it was his wish to return to Windsor to die at ‘home’. Still, the news at lunchtime came as a shock. Standing in the kitchen, the television was on in the background as the news team cut in with an important announcement. The sombre tone riveted me to the spot, reminiscent of that in the early hours of 31st August, 1997. Then, the great sadness I felt at the death of Princess Diana took me by surprise but she was so young and the circumstances so tragic. Prince Philip was approaching his 100th birthday and had, recently, been in hospital for a month. His death was, surely, expected. That fact does little to assuage the depth of feeling at his loss and the end of an era.
The mood of the country was already extremely low. A year in lockdown – or, more literally, locked up – and subjected to relentless scaremongering and figures of doom will do that. The promise of a return to normality, held aloft in exchange for the unquestioning acceptance of an experimental vaccine, is dimming rapidly with the increasing mention of a third wave and various mutations. There seems no end, today’s sad news only serving to compound the gloom.
Why is it that the death of a well-known figure, someone one didn’t know, affects one so? The news made me tearful, even as Manny phoned – he, who has adopted the mantle of bearer of such sad demises – to check that I had heard. Of course, I have been a fan of The Duke for as long as I can remember, loving his sense of humour – particularly his penchant for sarcasm – and his sense of the individual. Nobody’s fool, he embodied the description, ‘a real character’. Outspoken and very much his own person, he had his own opinions and would make up his own mind. Deserving, therefore, of ever more respect in the sacrifice of his burgeoning naval career for a life of public service and duty in support of the woman he loved.
We shall not see his like again. The end of an era, his era and one which no longer exists. I have been unable to move from the television as the impact of his loss unfolds. The ready-prepared tributes occupy every channel detailing his life and his legacy. As I have mentioned here, previously, I recently read Ingrid Seward’s biography of this remarkable man, Prince Philip Revealed. A Man of His Century and, thus, was familiar with his story. Requiring of great strength and courage, his childhood was anything but stable. Following the exile of his family from Greece, they fled to Paris but that was to be his last home as his parents separated. His father lived out his days in Monaco while his deeply religious mother, the great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, was sectioned and spent years in a sanitarium before becoming a nun! No wonder the young Philip relished his years at Gordonstoun while holidays were spent with his married sisters in Germany or at the homes of various relatives. As a young boy, he travelled alone, a positively nomadic existence shaping the character and resilience of the man who was to become the much-loved patriarch of our Royal Family.
Not one for pomp and circumstance, he had no desire to live to one hundred and was adamant that he wished no fuss in the event that he did! He shunned the idea of a state funeral and will lie in rest in St George’s Chapel, Windsor where he, too, will be buried. Poignantly, his mother Princess Alice was born at Windsor Castle and, so, completes the circle … The old footage continues on television, a reminder of what we have lost in more ways than one. Just to listen to the well-spoken voices of the erstwhile commentators is a joy; to note the inherent elegance of a bygone era – the clothes, the manners, the style, when chivalry existed; when men were gentlemen and women were ladies. All gone and Prince Philip was one of the last of his kind. Like Captain Tom, a man of courage and great pride, possessing of values now so rare, who would, unquestioningly, fight for his country. What have we become?
He died, peacefully, ‘at home’. Our sadness belies the blessing. This world is no longer his. Black Lives Matter, ‘woke’, multiple genders, the loss of freedom in every sense, global warming and the destruction of a planet peopled by those who have lost their way … Everyone is a victim; everyone has a grievance. Get a grip! He has gone to a better place.
I dreaded the death of Prince Philip, the last of Pop’s generation, I knew it would touch a nerve. The world I once knew is all but gone and I suppose one is faced with one’s own mortality. Life, today? I struggle to find the positive; the ‘Seriously Good!’. Regardless, ‘We fight on!’ in the spirit of those who have gone before.
I am missing the evening’s coverage, as I write, glass of wine to hand. Such a sad day and I can only imagine how The Queen must be feeling. My heart goes out to her – and to the rest of the family, particularly Harry whose grief must be all the greater for the regret. Without question, he let his grandfather down and that is something he must live with for the rest of his life.
Things I wanted to say before I finish … I am so glad I had the chance to ‘meet’ Prince Philip! Remember, while at university, I was rushing into Teviot Row, late for lunch, when I was met by HRH in the foyer. Uttering the words, ‘ Oh, Hi!’, my recollection is of him laughing at my lack of respect and returning the compliment as I carried on, dying of embarrassment!
The Queen? Prince Philip? Always Prince Philip! He was intelligent, funny – and kind. I was not surprised to learn of his letters to Princess Diana, offering support when she needed it most; nor of the numerous stories in evidence of his rapport with the younger generation. Not a fan of The Crown, nevertheless, it would seem to correctly portray a father who was very much hands-on with his own children, unlike The Queen. The perfect man? Worthy of bottling!
I miss him already – and everything he stood for. The Queen’s ‘strength and stay’, I think, ultimately, she basked in his glory. A remarkable man, history will, surely, afford him the honour he deserves. The unsung hero, forever steadfast in his wisdom, courage and strength, the world – my world – seems more vulnerable for his loss.
Once described by his former mentor and headmaster, Kurt Hahn, as ‘often naughty but never nasty’, I think it is the words of The Queen, herself, in a rare tribute to her husband, which are the most fitting of all – and, today, the most poignant …
‘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.’
Somehow, I think we already do.
This is Trish, signing off.