Prince Philip death: Duke of Edinburgh dies aged 99

Duke of Edinburgh death (PA Wire)
Duke of Edinburgh death (PA Wire)

Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, has died at the age of 99, Buckingham Palace has announced.

“It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen announces the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh,” the palace said in a statement on Friday.

“His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle. The Royal Family join with people around the world in mourning his loss.”

Boris Johnson led tributes to Prince Philip, who was married to the Queen for 73 years, saying: “He helped 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.”

Mourners gathered outside Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace to lay flowers in tribute on Friday, while flags at the palace and all government buildings were lowered to half mast.

Gun salutes marking his death will take place across the UK and at sea on Saturday. Saluting batteries will fire 41 rounds at one round every minute from 12 noon in cities including London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has announced.

All election campaigning across the UK has been suspended following the death. Parliament will be recalled from recess on Monday, a day earlier than scheduled, to allow for further tributes.

A period of mourning will see planned government announcements cancelled. The government is advising the public not to gather or leave flowers at royal residences, and to continue following lockdown rules.

An online book of condolence has been made available on the royal website for those who wish to send a personal message, while the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s website has been transformed into a memorial page.

Prince Philip will not have a state funeral nor lie in state for the public to pay their respects, the College of Arms announced, with arrangements revised to meet Covid restrictions. His body will rest at Windsor Castle ahead of a service at St George’s Chapel.

Philip at the Queen’s Diamond JubileePA
Philip at the Queen’s Diamond JubileePA

The Duke of Edinburgh officially retired from public duties in 2017, having spent more than seven decades supporting his wife as her consort in a role that defined his life.

His remarkable life spanned nearly a century of European history, starting with his birth as a member of the Greek royal family and ending as Britain’s longest-serving royal consort.

He married Elizabeth in 1947, playing a key role in modernising the monarchy in the post-war period after she became Queen in 1952 – becoming the one key figure she could turn to behind the walls of Buckingham Palace.

“He has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years,” the Queen said in a rare personal tribute to Philip made in a speech marking their 50th wedding anniversary in 1997.

The Queen and Prince Philip together in 2011AP
The Queen and Prince Philip together in 2011AP

As a Greek prince, his early years were marked by upheaval after his family went into exile following a military coup in Greece which overthrew his uncle, King Constantine I.

His childhood lacked stability and he moved between relatives in France and Britain, eventually going to Gordonstoun School in Morayshire, Scotland.

The former naval officer admitted he found it hard to give up the military career he loved and take on the job as the monarch’s consort in 1952, for which there was no clear-cut constitutional role.

“There was no precedent. If I asked somebody ‘What do you expect me to do?’, they all looked blank – they had no idea, nobody had much idea,” he said in an interview to mark his 90th birthday.

The Queen and Prince Philip after the coronation of 1953PA Wire
The Queen and Prince Philip after the coronation of 1953PA Wire

Philip spent four weeks in hospital earlier this year for treatment for an infection and to have a heart procedure, but returned to Windsor in early March.

Some royal watchers have argued that his absence from a frontline role in recent years due to his declining health has played a role in some of the monarchy’s recent travails, such as the crisis of Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, and their decision to give up royal roles.

In private, he was often regarded as the head of his family, but protocol obliged the man dubbed “the second handshake” to spend his public life literally one step behind his wife.

He took a typically irreverent view of his own retirement in 2017, telling a guest who said he was sorry he was standing down: “Well, I can’t stand up much longer.”

He was known to be an occasionally irascible figure, with a strong propensity to speak his mind, and become famed in the press for a series of gaffes made at official engagements.

He once warned a group of Scottish students in China that they would become “slitty-eyed”. During a visit to a Glasgow factory, he pointed to a fusebox of loose wires and said it looked like it had been installed by an “Indian”.

Some royal observers believe his propensity to speak his mind meant he provided much-needed, unvarnished advice to the Queen.

“The way that he survived in the British monarchy system was to be his own man, and that was a source of support to the Queen,” royal historian Robert Lacey said.

“All her life she was surrounded by men who said ‘yes ma’am’, and he was one man who always told her how it really was, or at least how he saw it.”

Prince Philip and the Queen in 2007POOL/AFP via Getty Images
Prince Philip and the Queen in 2007POOL/AFP via Getty Images

It was widely assumed that he was critical of Diana’s use of broadcast interviews, including one in which she accused Charles of infidelity. But letters between Philip and Diana released after her death showed that the older man was supportive of his daughter-in-law.

Philip’s final years were clouded by controversy in the royal family. His third child, Prince Andrew, was embroiled in scandal over his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein, a US financier who died in a New York prison in 2019 while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.

At the start of 2020, his grandson Harry and his wife Meghan Markle announced they were quitting royal duties and moving to North America to escape the media scrutiny that they found unbearable.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award will likely to be judged Philip’s greatest legacy. Aimed at both able-bodied and disabled youngsters, it became one of the best-known self-development schemes for 14 to 24-year-olds.

In 2013, celebrated the 500th Gold Award presentation ceremony, the duke joked with one group who told him of their hardships on their expedition: “You were meant to suffer, it’s good for the soul.”

The Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, said the nation “has lost an extraordinary public servant”.

“He will be remembered most of all for his extraordinary commitment and devotion to the Queen,” said the opposition leader.

“Their marriage has been a symbol of strength, stability and hope, even as the world around them changed – most recently during the pandemic. It was a partnership that inspired millions in Britain and beyond.”

Mourner adds flowers outside Buckingham PalaceAFP via Getty Images
Mourner adds flowers outside Buckingham PalaceAFP via Getty Images

Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon, Wales’ first minister Mark Drakeford and Northern Ireland’s first minister Arlene Foster all paid tribute to Prince Philip following the news of his death.

Among the world leaders paying tribute, US president Joe Biden said he sent his “deepest condolences” to the Queen, the royal family and all the British people.

“Over the course of his 99-year life, he saw our world change dramatically and repeatedly. From his service during the Second World War, to his 73 years alongside the Queen, and his entire life in the public eye, Prince Philip gladly dedicated himself to the people of the UK, the Commonwealth, and to his family.”

India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, hailed his sense of public service, while Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, said Philip “embodied a generation that we will never see again”.

New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said her thoughts would be with the Queen at this “profoundly sad time”, and Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, described the Duke of Edinburgh as a “man of great purpose and conviction”.

The BBC has said planned programming had been suspending following the death, while ITV also announced changes to its schedules.

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