Royal Corner

The True People's Prince

Tomorrow Prince Philip will be laid to rest, and whilst the unnecessary dramas ensue, we look at three stories from ordinary people who met Philip, and how they best remember a true 'People's Prince'.

APRIL 16th, 2021

© Getty Images


For over seventy years, Prince Philip was a staple of British life. In whatever uniform he manifested - Duke, Prince, Consort, Veteran, campaigner, philanthropist, or the Queen’s husband who was unapologetically politically incorrect, Philip touched many lives around the world. In fact, 22% of the UK’s population at some point in their lives interacted with ‘The Iron Duke’, so what did they make of the Queen’s “strength and stay”?

Speaking to people across the world, they sent their best Prince Philip stories. So, on the eve of the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral, when the nation and wider world say a final goodbye to one of Britain’s most indelible figures, allow me to bring you a glimpse into the prince who very much was of the people.

The Duke of Edinburgh. - © Getty Images

“Formidable”, was the word used to describe Prince Philip by Angela Campbell, who at the age of 15 had achieved her Gold Award from the Duke of Edinburgh Awards. “My mother had forced me to enrol. At first I wasn’t really bothered by it, being the typical teenager, but eventually, as the programme developed, I loved it.”

Angela would go on to achieve her gold award from the charity, an accomplishment she remains proud of. She was also one of the lucky teenagers picked to receive her Gold Award from the Duke of Edinburgh himself.

The ceremony took place at Buckingham Palace in 1968, and unfortunately for Angela, the event didn’t start off great. “I remember being so nervous,” she says. “I’d never met royalty before and wasn't really sure how to behave. Those nerves faded slightly when one of the Queen’s staff quickly recited the protocols. I remember not having much time to practice my curtsy, but almost everyone else in the lineup was pretty much in the same boat.

“We had been told that the Duke was going to start from the left of the lineup, seeing as I was at the opposite end I felt relief that it gave me some extra time to calm my nerves. As the group waited, I had positioned myself so I would be able to see the Duke arrive and see how close he was to me, but time began to pass by and there was no Prince Philip in sight.”

The Duke of Edinburgh meeting Gold Award recipients at Buckingham Palace in 1968. - © Buckingham Palace

Unbeknown to Angela, Prince Philip had been given a different briefing. He wasn’t starting the line-up left to right, but right to left. “I remember the group slowly looking at me, which at first I thought was odd. It wasn’t until I heard a small cough behind me that I turned around and saw the Duke of Edinburgh standing there smiling at me. ‘Well, please let me know when you’re ready to start?’ he said to me with a giggle.”

Angela was horrified, but the Duke took it in his stride. “He just laughed it off, shook my hand as I curtseyed and asked what I had enjoyed most about the award,” she explains. “Although when we finished our chat, and before moving onto the next person in the lineup, he did turn back to me and say, ‘next time, you don’t need to curtsey that low, you’ll split your skirt!’ He laughed again and then moved on.”

On reflection of their meeting Angela remembers Prince Philip fondly: “He was a wonderful man - very kind eyes and a lovely smile. It’s so sad that he’s passed away and I really feel for the Queen, but I hope that in sharing my short story it can bring some comfort to her and his family on what a phenomenal man he was.”

Away from what was arguably Prince Philip’s greatest charitable achievement, his life was full of differing passions. Perhaps two of his finest were his esteemed military career and carriage driving. In 2005, Mark Wright-Smith met the Duke of Edinburgh at the annual Sandringham Country Show Horse Driving Trials and discovered how passionate Philip truly was.

“My father, Charlie Wright-Smith, had served alongside him in the Royal Navy and met him briefly in 1943. The Duke had just saved HMS Wallace, so was something of a hero to most of the sailors at the time,” explains Mark. “We were watching him in the carriage driving event and he was firing through the course. You could hear the occasional yell from the Duke if the horses weren’t responding - and the often swear word too!”

Prince Philip visits one of the stalls at the Sandringham Horse Trails in 2006. - © Getty Images

Once the Duke of Edinburgh had finished the course he would more than often mingle with the public, visit the shopping stalls and strike up conversations with spectators. Mark happened to be one of those lucky spectators.

“He was incredibly easy to talk to and an attentive listener. I had told him that my daughter Molly was training to compete in Equestrian, which he thought was fantastic,” says Mark. “As I was speaking to him, I felt I had to tell him about my father, who passed away in January that same year. I told him about how they had briefly met and that he had served in the Royal Navy too.”

The Duke was sorry to hear that Mark’s father Charlie had died, but noted how his generation was shrinking in numbers. “‘There’s less and less of us it seems, which is the reality of life, isn’t it?’” he had commented.

“We shared a few moments of small talk where he had asked where we had travelled from. I told him Liverpool and then he smiled and walked away.” The brief interaction with the Duke had a lasting impact on Mark, though not solely for that day in 2005. “Around two-weeks later there was a knock on the door, back home. There was this huge parcel waiting for us which we had no idea where it had come from.

“Upon opening it, there was a picnic hamper from Windsor Castle, a pair of child riding gloves and a card from Prince Philip,” says Mark. “How he had found out our address, god knows, but we were extremely touched by the gesture.”

Prince Philip competing in the Carriage driving at Sandringham, 2006 - © Getty Images

When asked what was written in the card, Mark is hesitant to answer. “I feel that should remain private between my family and the Duke, although he did hope that Molly would like the gloves and that they would fit, and he expressed his condolences for my father’s death again.”

“He didn’t have to send us anything,” says Mark when asked how he felt about the Duke’s death. “But he did, and you could tell he had thought about it too.

“We go to the horse trials every year and it’s a shame he won’t be there anymore, but I’m sure in spirit he will be.”

Throughout his over seventy years of service to the Monarchy, Prince Philip travelled across every stretch of the globe. He is, in fact, the most travelled royal consort in British history, and therefore people throughout the Commonwealth have their own stories of meeting the Duke of Edinburgh.

2011 marked the final royal visit to Australia by the Duke of Edinburgh and the Queen, who were 90 and 85-years-old respectively. The 11-day tour was dubbed the couples “Last Hurrah” in the country and saw them visit Canberra, Brisbane, Melbourne, and finally Perth to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. Due to their age, The Queen and Prince Philip mostly spent time in Canberra, though attended “away days” throughout the country. Whilst in the Capital city the couple stayed at Yarralumla, Government House - the official residence of the Head of State. Amelia Williams worked as a Gardner, managing the stunning lawns and flower beds in 2011.

“He was a fascinating character,” she recalls. “Very particular about what he wanted and certainly unafraid to say it, but he was also extremely receptive to the staff too. Any demands always came with a cheeky grin. After meeting him in 2011, I can see why the Royal Household called him their ‘favourite’.”

Prince Philip alongside former Governor-General of Australia, Quentin Bryce in 2011 - © Getty Images

Amelia first met the Duke whilst out in the gardens of Yarralumla. “He was very knowledgeable about the gardens, specifically the ‘English Garden’ near the lake. One evening, he invited the gardening team for Drinks with himself, the Queen, the Governor-General Dame Quentin Bryce and her husband Michael. It was wonderful to see him in such a relaxed environment,” describes Amelia. “He was drinking a beer and was genuinely enthralled with our work and our plans for the garden in the future.

“The funniest part was when speaking to the Queen, who quipped to me that her husband had already been looking at redesigning the same area of the gardens at Sandringham, which he had just finished in 2006. ‘I really should try much harder to keep him away from gardeners, then maybe he’ll start to slow down,’ she admitted to me.”

On the loss of the Duke of Edinburgh, Amelia’s thoughts turn to the Queen. “It’s hard not to think of them as a couple. They’ve been together for so long and when I had the opportunity to meet them, they were still very much in love, still very flirtatious with one another. I think he lightened many of Her Majesty’s engagements up for her, and in some cases made them bearable. I’ll certainly miss him.”

Across the world there are many stories of the Duke of Edinburgh’s interaction with the public. Tomorrow, he will finally be laid to rest in a funeral, which for those who knew him, perfectly defines his nature - understated, without fuss and family orientated. Whilst the drama around who stands next to who, or who wears what uniform or who doesn’t ensues, I hope these three small, but personal stories remind you of a man, a Duke and a Prince who understood the importance of his role, the impact that he could have, and truly lived up to the title of ‘The People’s Prince’.

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