Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle to lead MPs’ tributes for ‘irreplaceable’ Prince Philip

Joe Murphy
·4-min read
The Union flag flies at half staff over the Palace of Westminster (AP)
The Union flag flies at half staff over the Palace of Westminster (AP)

Black armbands were being worn today by Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle and the House of Commons’ most senior officials in honour of the “impossible to replace” Duke of Edinburgh.

The symbol of mourning was being adopted by Sir Lindsay and the Serjeant at Arms, the Speaker’s Secretary, the Speaker’s Trainbearer and table clerks in their procession to the chamber and during a session of tributes.

A trawl of parliamentary records by officials for the Standard failed to find any previous example in modern times of a similar tribute. Black armbands were once common at funerals but have largely fallen out of use, although football teams sometimes wear them after the death of a player or manager.

MPs were gathering this afternoon at Westminster and by video link around the country for a special recall of Parliament to give “heartfelt thanks” for the life of the Queen’s husband and most steadfast ally.

“We should not forget the wide-ranging achievements of Prince Philip – the ambassador, the serviceman, the scientist, artist, naturalist, family man, committee chairman, traveller, loyal supporter of the country and Commonwealth,” Sir Lindsay wrote ahead of the session. “He will be sorely missed and impossible to replace.”

After the Speaker’s tribute, Prime Minster Boris Johnson was due to move a motion, expected to be carried unanimously, expressing “the deepest sympathies of this House” to the Queen.

Mr Johnson’s humble address offered “the heartfelt thanks of this House and this nation for his unfailing dedication to this Country and the Commonwealth exemplified in his distinguished service in the Royal Navy in the Second World War; his commitment to young people in setting up The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, a scheme which has touched the lives of millions across the globe; his early, passionate commitment to the environment; and his unstinting support to Your Majesty throughout his life”.

MPs were instructed to wear “appropriate mourning dress”, such as a dark coat, suit, or day dress if they wished to speak in the eight-hour session. Flags were at half mast around Westminster and also at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh and the Welsh Assembly in Cardiff which each held separate tributes.

PA
PA

Tobias Ellwood MP, chair of the Defence Committee, said it was an occasion to “reflect and celebrate” the Duke’s life and said he hoped to speak about the Duke’s support for the military.

“He was an exemplar of that wartime generation who stepped forward to serve, and a continual inspiration across the ranks of what it means to serve your country,” he said on Sky.

He said there was “talk of changing the name of Dartmouth to recognise the Duke of Edinburgh, and the fact he came top of his class there” and even of launching a replacement for the Royal yacht, HMS Britannia, and naming the new vessel after the Duke of Edinburgh.

Many MPs spoke of meeting the Duke, including Chris Skidmore who did so after completing his gold Duke of Edinburgh Award and being presented with it at St James Palace. “I did all three badges, and I’m sure like many who took part, the scheme was a defining part of my youth.” He joked that the Duke’s award scheme had been “more value (and definitely more rigorous!) than some of my A levels”.

Some MPs were prayerful. Daniel Kawczynski said: “On my way to Commons this morning I paused outside Westminster Abbey to pray for the soul of HRH Duke of Edinburgh.”

Tributes were also paid in the Lords. Speaking ahead of the debate, the Lords Speaker, former Cabinet minister Lord Fowler, said: “Throughout the 51 years I have served in the Lords and the Commons, Prince Philip has been a constant inspiration to all serving in Parliament. His devotion to public service was admired by all and his legacy will never be forgotten.”

Senior parliamentary sources said the two Speakers were open to the idea of a permanent memorial being placed in Parliament, with ideas being put forward by MPs including a stained glass window, painting or statue.

Bob Blackman, joint secretary of the influential 1922 committee of Tory backbenchers, told the Telegraph: “I think it would be right that we fund it through an appropriate collection from MPs and peers by voluntary contributions. That would be sensible.” A spokeswomen for Sir Lindsay indicated that proposals from MPs would be considered. “We will look and reflect in good time.”

Former Liberal Democrat leader Lord Steel said Prince Philip was “a great supporter of our parliament”. He told the BBC: “The fact that we have a whole week of public mourning, I think, is testimony to his effectiveness as he was described yesterday by his son as grandfather of the nation - I think that’s how he’ll be remembered.”

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