“The Royal Family of England has announced that the funeral of His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh will take place at St. George’s Chapel, Winsor, the place of worship for The Queen and the Royal Family on Saturday, April 17 at 3 PM London time.”
This one-page notice, framed in black and hung on the gate of Buckingham Palace, was how the world was alerted to the death of Prince Philip of England. St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle favored home of Queen Elizabeth II, began construction in 1475 by King Edward IV, and was completed in 1528 by King Henry VIII. It is considered one of the finest examples of Perpendicular Gothic style in England. Here many Royal marriages from the reign of Queen Victoria onwards have taken place—the most recent, of Princess Eugenie, The Queen and Prince Philip’s granddaughter, and Jack Brooksbank in October 2019, who recently welcomed their first child.
Here, too, many royal funerals have been held, including those of ten former Sovereigns, one of whom was The Queen’s beloved father, the late King George VI who, with his wife The Queen Mother Elizabeth (1900-2002), led Great Britain and the Commonwealth with enduring courage and strength throughout World War II. Asked during the London Blitz after the Royal Family’s London home, Buckingham Palace was bombed, whether she would remove her two young daughters and flee from danger to safer grounds, the Queen Mother replied, “The girls will not leave unless I do. I will not leave unless the King does. And the King will not leave under any circumstances whatsoever.” This sacrifice was unprecedented by the monarchy and garnered the devotion of a nation.
As The Queen lay her father and mother to their final rest at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor, here, too, on Saturday, April 17, she bid a final farewell to her husband of 74 years, who died peacefully, surrounded by his wife and family, on April 9th. The coffin, borne on the Land Rover that Prince Philip himself had a hand in designing, was flanked by Pall Bearers drawn from His Royal Highness’s Special Relationships—the Royal Marines, Regiments, Corps, and Air Stations. The procession was led by The Band of the Grenadier Guards, of which The Duke of Edinburgh was Colonel for 42 years. The funeral service began with a national minute’s silence in memory of the Duke. The service was televised.
Why should it matter to you? Is it because we watched Downton Abbey? Are you a self-confessed Anglophile? Was your great-great-grandmother born in England? Why, then, do we care? Why, even, does the world outside of Great Britain and her Commonwealth mourn the passing of this man?
In 1821, the Caledonian Mercury wrote of the British Empire, “On her dominions the sun never sets; before his evening rays leave the spires of Quebec, his morning beams have shone three hours on Port Jackson, and while sinking from the waters of Lake Superior, his eye opens upon the Mouth of the Ganges.” And it is this Empire that Prince Philip committed his life with courage, devotion, and dedication to family, the crown, and country. His story is well-published—the lonely son scorned by his father and abandoned by a mother who was institutionalized before becoming a Catholic nun, raised by his Uncle Louie, Lord Mountbatten, The Queen’s cousin, who was assassinated by the IRA while taking his grandsons fishing off the shores of Mullaghmore in northwest Ireland in August 1979. And yet, he became consort to The Queen—the longest-serving consort in modern history.
Prince Philip never hesitated to speak out, to and voice his opinion, even at the risk of being unpopular or brash, and always ever the mainstay of his wife, The Queen. In 2012, in her Diamond Jubilee speech, Queen Elizabeth paid rare public homage to her husband. “During these years as your Queen, the support of my family has, across the generations, been beyond measure. Prince Philip is, I believe, well-known for declining compliments of any kind. But throughout he has been a constant strength and guide.”
Throughout their amazing marriage, The Queen and Prince Philip delighted in their four children, eight grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren, with two more on the way. How many of you can say your husband held you above all other women for three-quarters of a century? To be blessed with such love over so many years…so rare and wondrous!
When asked, on their 25th wedding anniversary, for a statement, The Queen said, “If I am asked what I think about family life after 25 years of marriage, I can answer with equal simplicity and conviction, I am for it.”
And when asked about her husband’s effect on her reign, she replied, “He has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years, and 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.”
So again, why does—why should—Prince Philip’s death at the exalted age of 99 matter? The answer is clear and simple: Because he left this world having made a difference. Would that this would be said of us all.