PM and Speaker lead tributes to Philip, the ‘father of the nation’

David Hughes and Richard Wheeler, PA
·3-min read

The Duke of Edinburgh “made this country a better place”, Boris Johnson said as he led tributes in Parliament following the death of Philip.

The Prime Minister said Philip, through his achievements including the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme, had touched the lives of millions of people.

He said that “in due course” the House of Commons and the country would consider a “suitable memorial” to Philip, who died aged 99 on Friday.

Mr Johnson told MPs, recalled from their Easter recess a day early to pay tribute to the duke: “He gave us, and he gives us all, a model of selflessness and of putting others before ourselves.”

The Prime Minister, whose usually unruly hair had been trimmed ahead of the Commons session, said although the duke might have been “embarrassed or even faintly exasperated” to receive the tributes, he “made this country a better place and for that he will be remembered with gratitude and with fondness for generations to come”.

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said the duke “never let the Queen down”.

Philip was “without doubt the father of the nation, and will sorely be missed and impossible to replace”, the Speaker said.

Mr Johnson highlighted the duke’s service in the Royal Navy during the Second World War, his interest in the environment and his passion for invention and innovation.

The Prime Minister said it was fitting that the duke “will be conveyed to his final resting place in a Land Rover which Prince Philip designed himself”, customised with a long wheel base and “capacious rear cabin”.

“That vehicle’s unique and idiosyncratic silhouette reminds the world that he was above all a practical man, who could take something very traditional, whether a machine or, indeed, a great national institution, and find a way by his own ingenuity to improve it, to adapt it for the 20th and 21st century,” the Prime Minister said.

Duke of Edinburgh death
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said Britain will not be the same without the Duke of Edinburgh (House of Commons/PA)

Mr Johnson said successive prime ministers had been catered for by the duke at Balmoral, with Philip cooking the meat on a barbecue of his own design.

The Prime Minister, no stranger to controversial comments himself, acknowledged the duke “occasionally drove a coach and horses through the finer points of diplomatic protocol, and he coined a new word, dontopedalogy, for the experience of putting your foot in your mouth”.

Amongst his “more parliamentary expressions” he “commented adversely on the French concept of breakfast,” Mr Johnson said.

“He told a British student in Papua New Guinea that he was lucky not to be eaten, and the people of the Cayman Islands that they were descended from pirates, and that he would like to go to Russia except that, as he put it, ‘the bastards murdered half my family’.”

But “the world did not hold it against him” and understood that he was “trying to break the ice, to get things moving, to get people laughing, and to forget their nerves”.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “Britain will not be the same in his absence.

“For most of us, there’s never been a time when the Duke of Edinburgh was not present.

“At every stage of our national story for the last seven decades, he has been there.

“A symbol of the nation we hope to be at our best.

“A source of stability.

“A rock.

“Her Majesty once said that ‘grief is the price we pay for love’.

“The duke loved this country.

“And Britain loved him in return.

“That’s why we grieve today.”

Sir Keir, who participated in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme, said: “My final activity was wandering around Dartmoor in a small team, with a compass and a map in the pouring rain, frantically trying to find our way – if that doesn’t prepare you for coming into politics, nothing will.”