HRH PHILIP DUKE OF EDINBURGH
My late father (who was a much loved parish priest) often described himself jokingly as 'Mrs Lanham's husband'. When she was in her prime, my mother was on a committee responsible for Vicarages in the Gloucester Diocese; her job was to give a woman's advice on the design of kitchens so that they could be
as user friendly as possible. Since I am married to a leading member of Clifton Parish Council I am inclined
to give myself the same title as Father did, but in the interests of domestic harmony I shall refrain from doing
so. Perhaps Rumpole of the Vestry would be more appropriate and I would wear that with pride - though whether Judy is 'She who must be obeyed' is open to debate, and I do not drink vast quantities of Pomeroy's Plonk.
This came to me as I shared the grief of the nation over the death of Philip Duke of Edinburgh, because this could be applied to him. He was a formidable person in his own right, enormously respected, enormously gifted, deeply religious and with an ability to relate to ordinary people. Above all, he was the power behind
Her Majesty, her rock. Always there, seldom obtrusive, enabling her to be arguably the mightiest and most loved monarch this country has ever had.
What has struck me is that the universal sense of grief that has enfolded this nation is not just that we have
lost a unique figure in our history, though that is bad enough. It is the sense of loss that we have felt for Her Majesty. We have been grieving for her as well as for him. The vast majority of us have lost someone very
near and dear to us, so we can relate to what she feels as she faces life without a husband to whom she was married for a staggering 74 years and to whom she was devoted. There has been a kind of closing ranks around her, the spirit of which is best summed up in the heartfelt message by the Prime Minister of Australia. ‘She has been there for us over such a long time; let us be there now for you, Your Majesty, and allow us to send our love to you.’ Nothing could be added to that; he might be speaking for us all.
And what of his epitaph? He probably wouldn't want one because it would seem sentimental. Rummaging through the hundreds of newspaper cuttings which, as an historian I keep, I found a quotation by Jacob Rudin that seems to sum up what needs to be said at a time of national mourning over such a mighty man. ‘When we are dead and people weep for us and grieve, let it because we touched their lives with beauty and simplicity. Let it not be said that life was good to us but rather that we were good to life.’ The Duke enriched our lives and the life of the nation just by being himself. As many have said he could have risen to the very highest ranks of the Royal Navy. Instead he became husband to a queen and devoted himself to her life and to the life of this nation. We are indeed the richer for his being among us and poorer for his passing. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.
Warmest good wishes, Paul