Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh and husband to Queen Elizabeth II, died on Friday at Windsor Castle. He was 99.
Philip was a pivotal figure in the British Royal Family. He was the longest-serving consort to a monarch in British history, having been in the role for more than 60 years. The Queen — a deeply private person — once called him “her rock” in public.
Buckingham Palace announced his death in a statement Friday:
“It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen has announced the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle.”
In recent years, Philip suffered from heart disease and other ailments, including a bladder infection, and had stepped out of the public eye since he announced his retirement from royal duties in 2017.
In early March 2021, the 99-year-old underwent a successful procedure for a pre-existing heart condition at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London. He spent more than a month in the hospital “resting” and recuperating and returned to Windsor later that month.
He died just two months before he was to celebrate his 100th birthday.
While played a key role in modernizing the monarchy after the Second World War — being a key figure the Queen could turn to and trust — Philip’s early life was difficult.
Born in Corfu, Greece, on June 10, 1921, Philip was a member of the Danish and Greek royal families, as the son of Prince Andrew of Greece and Princess Alice of Battenberg. He had four sisters: Cecilie, Sophie, Margarita and Theodora.
King Constantine I of Greece, his uncle, was forced to abdicate the throne, and the country’s military government arrested Philip’s father in 1922 when Philip was just one year old. Constantine was later banished from Greece, and the family fled to France.
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Philip attended school in France, England, Germany and Scotland before he entered the Royal Naval College in 1939, according to a Royal Family biography. The college, at Dartmouth in western England, trains future naval officers.
It was at that time that King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, toured the college along with their daughters Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret. There, young Elizabeth, who was 13 at the time, grew fond of Philip and they started exchanging letters.
They were distant cousins, both being descended from Queen Victoria and, separately, a 19th-century king of Denmark.
During the Second World War, Philip served as a midshipman for six months aboard the battleship HMS Ramillies in 1940, and was later promoted to sub-lieutenant and eventually first lieutenant aboard the destroyer HMS Wallace in 1942, when he was 21.
Philip and Elizabeth were engaged in 1946, and married the following year in Westminster Abbey.
He had to renounce his Greek title from his family in order to marry Elizabeth — an allegedly difficult struggle for the duke, as recently dramatized and showcased on Netflix series The Crown.
He assumed the titles of Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich.
Princess Elizabeth would become Queen Elizabeth II in 1952, ending Philip’s naval career — to his regret, he told the Independent in 1992. In private, Philip called his wife Lilibet; but he referred to her in conversation with others as “The Queen.”
Together, they would have four children: Prince Charles (b. 1948), Princess Anne (b. 1950), Prince Andrew (b. 1960) and Prince Edward (b. 1964). He is survived, as well, by eight grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
Philip took on many roles and tasks after the Queen ascended the throne. They included creating the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in 1956.
The award, open to people aged 14 to 24, is considered the “world’s youth achievement award.” Its four elements are “Service, Skills, Physical Recreation and Adventurous Journey.”
As Duke of Edinburgh, Philip also served as president or patron to hundreds of organizations including the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
Philip became Britain’s longest-serving consort to a monarch in 2009. He has been at the Queen’s side through her many Commonwealth tours and state visits, though he also travelled on his own.
Philip retired from public life in 2017 at age 96.
Over the years, his words and gaffes have also created controversy.
Once, during a WWF meeting, he said, “if it has got four legs and it’s not a chair, if it has got two wings and flies but is not an aeroplane and if it swims and it is not a submarine, the Cantonese will eat it.”
And on an official visit to China, he told British exchange students that they would “be all slitty-eyed” if they stayed there much longer, The Telegraph reported.
Philip also maintained a strong interest in issues related to environmental conservation. He started raising awareness of humanity’s relationship with the environment after a visit to Antarctica and the South Atlantic between 1956 and 1957.
In June 2020, just ahead of his 99th birthday, a photo of Philip with the Queen was released as the pair isolated at Windsor Castle during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the death of any senior member of the Royal Family is a significant occasion for the British nation and the Commonwealth, things will be a little different for Philip.
He will not have a state funeral nor will he lie in state to allow the public to pay their respects, the College of Arms confirmed.
Buckingham Palace has said “modified funeral and ceremonial arrangements” are still being considered by the Queen and “will be confirmed in due course.”
While he is entitled to a ceremonial funeral, Philip reportedly did not want to make a “fuss” over his death, so the plans are in line with his wishes.
As funeral arrangements have been “revised” due to the COVID-19 pandemic, members of the public will be asked not to attend or participate, the college said. The Royal Family has asked the public to consider making a donation to a charity in the duke’s honour instead.
Flags at Buckingham Palace and at government buildings across Britain were lowered to half-mast upon news of his passing. Flags were lowered in Ottawa in the duke’s honour as well.
Though the British government has asked the public not to gather or lay flowers at royal residences due to the pandemic, many mourners flocked to the gates of Windsor Palace regardless, leaving bouquets and cards.
Some of the cards are addressed to the Queen, offering deep condolences.
The announcement of his death was posted on the gates of the palace. The Royal Family’s website was also shut down, replaced by a photo of Philip and the announcement of his death.
Members of the British Royal Family did not immediately issue individual memorials for Philip — seemingly letting Buckingham Palace’s statement speak for itself. However, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s charity Archewell posted a tribute to the duke on its website, saying: “Thank you for all your service… you will be greatly missed.”
Reaction to Philip’s death poured in quickly from around the world Friday.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke of Philip’s deep history with the U.K., his time serving in the Second World War, and his ability 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.”
He said Philip “earned the affection of generations here in the United Kingdom, across the Commonwealth and around the world.”
“And it is to Her Majesty, and her family, that our nation’s thoughts must turn today,” he said from Downing Street.
“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.”
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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also offered his condolences.
In a formal statement, Trudeau described Philip as “a man of great purpose and conviction, who was motivated by a sense of duty to others.” He touched on Philip’s leadership in “community engagement and philanthropy” and described Philip as a “man of great service to others,” acknowledging Philip’s patronage with “more than 40 organizations in Canada.”
At an unrelated press conference Friday, Trudeau was more personal, recalling when he was just a kid, meeting Philip in Ottawa for the first time. He described him as a “fascinating man.”
“In Malta a few years ago, a few months after becoming prime minister for the first time, I was able to have a number of wonderful conversations with him,” Trudeau said.
“He is going to be sorely missed, not just by his family, but obviously by all of us as well.”
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U.S. President Joe Biden nodded to Philip’s “decades of devoted public service.”
“His legacy will live on not only through his family, but in all the charitable endeavours he shaped,” Biden said in a statement.
Former U.S. presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama also issued their own statements about Philip’s passing.
Trump said Philip’s death is “an irreplaceable loss for Great Britain” who was “admired by his fellow citizens, and respected by everyone around the world.”
Obama said Philip showed “steady leadership and guiding wisdom” through the decades.
“Prince Philip in particular was kind and warm, with a sharp wit and unfailing good humor,” Obama wrote.
“Through his extraordinary example, he proved that true partnership has room for both ambition and selflessness — all in service of something greater.”
— With files from Global News’ Chris Jancelewicz, the Associated Press and Reuters
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