Goodnight, The Iron Duke
Prince Philip defined an era of monarchy which will continue to thread its way through future generations. His loss is an overwhelming one. The end of an era.
APRIL 10th, 2021
wo paces behind Her Majesty The Queen. It was where you would always find Prince Philip. A consummate shadow of support, a pillar of strength, and a compass of tradition and confidence. It was said that whilst the Queen was the public matriarch, Philip was the private patriarch - one who never suffered fools, though was willing to act foolish to make his dear Lilibet smile.
He was the enduring fire which ignited The Royal Family for over seven decades, embracing the triumphs and calming the tribulations. His presence was one which seemed immortal, untouchable and unrivalled, earning him the nickname - The Iron Duke. But now his reign as Britain's longest royal consort has come to an end, and our nation and The Royal Family enters a new era.
The chasm which has been left by the Duke of Edinburgh’s death will be felt far and wide, and although in recent years he has shied away from the public spotlight, the news of his death still sent shockwaves across the entire UK and around the world. Those shockwaves will be felt most potently by his family, and in particular, his wife The Queen.
Their partnership was legendary. Seventy-three years of marriage, founded by undying love, and symbolised by their unmitigating duty to each other and their roles within the Institution of monarchy. Many claim that Philip was her rock, though on reflection perhaps it would be better to claim he was her diamond, for diamonds are renowned for their strength and stability; elements the Prince brought to the reign of his beloved Queen.
Her Majesty will now enter eight days of mourning, and along with her people, she will reflect on the life of the man she once described as her “strength and stay”. That reflection will remind us all of a Prince Philip embattled by a brutal childhood; a handsome, charming, and if not somewhat naughty, young man who captured the heart of a Princess. A dedicated Navy sailor who had bravely fought in the Second World War and had been present for the surrender of Japan in Tokyo Bay. And ultimately, a consort who willingly and diligently stood alongside his wife as she pledged her entire life to duty.
For the Queen, the loss of Prince Philip will stretch beyond the fabric of her constitutional role. She has lost more than just her consort, but her closest confidante. The Duke of Edinburgh was perhaps the one person who knew her the best, the longest and the deepest. Their private thoughts, concerns and joys will have been shared freely. Now Her Majesty must grieve for these losses too.
As a nation, we grieve for a Prince who reminded us all of the enduring commitment to the beliefs which are bigger than ourselves. For him, it was Queen and country; ensuring that if she may trip, it would be his duty to catch her. It is this attitude which earned him great respect from millions around the world. This approach was also found through his Duke of Edinburgh Awards, a charitable legacy which will continue to benefit generations to come.
Whilst royal life may have not been plain sailing, with scandal and upset forging obstacles along the way, Prince Philip attempted to lead with both tough love and compassion. Deemed an outsider himself, it didn’t always work, but in times of crisis Philip would fearlessly take the lead. The death of Princess Diana was such a moment.
At a time when public anger was aimed at the monarchy, particularly the Queen, for what critics claimed was her “aloof” response to the nation's outpouring of grief, it was Prince Philip who took control, as well as lead the fierce defense of his wife. As we look back at his life, his example reminds us all that beneath the titles were real people with real emotions. That was no more on show than when he walked at the procession for Diana’s funeral alongside his grandsons, Princes William and Harry.
The image of the Iron Duke, showing his compassion and empathy to his grandson Prince William by placing his arm around his shoulders as they walked beneath the archway of Horse Guards Parade, reminded that away from the titles, Philip was a caring grandfather first and foremost. Though before the congregation had even begun to walk behind Diana’s coffin, Prince William was unsure on whether he wanted to do it. With the world’s lens honed on him, dissecting every emotion etched across his sorrowful face, it was the Duke of Edinburgh who stepped in.
“If I walk William, will you walk with me?” It was a simple question, yet it was one which provided support and comfort to a lost, heartbroken and grief-stricken fifteen-year-old on what remains the hardest day of his life.
In reflection of Prince Philip’s life, it is an apt anecdote to end on – walking. For that is what the Duke of Edinburgh has done all his life. Through almost every facet of this great nation's journey he has been there; good and bad. Ever present. He has walked alongside the country, his comrades in the Navy, his patronages, the public, his great-grandchildren, grandchildren and children. And, most crucially, his Lilibet – The Queen. With an arm placed around us all he has championed us, fought for us, humoured us and steadied us.
He served his public with distinction and unapologetic wit. He defined an era of monarchy which will continue to thread its way through future generations. His loss is an overwhelming one. The end of an era. And now Prince Philip is finally at rest, and as the Queen herself once stated: “Grief is the price we pay for love.”
Goodnight, The Iron Duke.
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