Britain is slowly coming to terms with the death of Prince Philip on Friday, with major figures extending condolences and Britons reflecting on the royal consort’s enduring legacy.
Married to Queen Elizabeth II for 73 years, the prince had been in and out of hospital in recent years with ill health, and retired from public life altogether in August 2017 at 96.
“He outlived nearly everyone who knew him and might explain him,” wrote BBC royal correspondent Jonny Drymond of the prince, noting that only a “two-dimensional” portrait remains. “Salt-tongued and short-tempered, a man who told off-colour jokes and made politically incorrect remarks, an eccentric great-uncle who’d been around forever and towards whom most people felt affection — but who rather too often embarrassed himself and others in company.”
Nonetheless, Drymond hastens to add that the prince’s reputation will be “reassessed” following his death, “because Prince Philip was an extraordinary man who lived an extraordinary life.”
In a rare moment where she publicly complimented her husband, the Queen said earnestly in a 1997 speech: “He is someone who doesn’t take easily to compliments, but he has quite simply been my strength and stay all these years.” The monarch has yet to speak publicly following Philip’s death, and it’s not expected there will be any further statement from Buckingham Palace on Friday.
Since news broke, British broadcasters have scrambled to rejig their schedules with coverage and tributes to the prince. The BBC website was awash with royal packages and videos, while the regular broadcast schedule was suspended until 6 p.m. on Friday. Instead, Prince Philip will receive blanket broadcast news coverage well into the evening and Saturday.
ITV, which has become a leader in royal coverage in recent years and nabbed the highly coveted CBS interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, is similarly airing ongoing news coverage. The broadcaster will air at 5 p.m. the specially commissioned “Prince Philip: Duke of Edinburgh,” followed at 7 p.m. by live program “Prince Philip, Fondly Remembered,” featuring presenters Phillip Schofield and Julie Etchingham. At 9 p.m., the broadcaster will air “Prince Philip: A Royal Life” fronted by royal correspondent Chris Ship.
Meanwhile, Channel 4 will air a “Royal Obituary” program in tribute at 4 p.m. as well as an extended 90-minute news special at 7 p.m., while ViacomCBS-backed Channel 5 will also air a special news program at 5 p.m. It’s still unclear how Comcast-backed pay-TV operator Sky will pivot to cover the event.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a statement said the prince had “lived an extraordinary life — as a naval hero in the Second World War, as the man who inspired countless young people through the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and, above all, as Her Majesty The Queen’s loyal consort.
“Our thoughts are with Her Majesty and her family, who have lost not just a much-loved and highly respected public figure, but a devoted husband and a proud and loving father, grandfather and great-grandfather,” continued the PM. “We are a kingdom united both in grief and gratitude; grief at Prince Philip’s passing, and gratitude for his decades of selfless service to the country.”
On the death of HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. pic.twitter.com/rZlbY1matF
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) April 9, 2021
The Union Jack was lowered to half-mast at Downing Street on Friday, following news of the prince’s death. The House of Commons, which has been on recess, will reconvene for a special session on Monday, to pay tribute.
Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party, also paid his respects to the royal consort, noting that Britain had “lost an extraordinary public servant in Prince Philip.”
Of the prince’s marriage to the Queen, Starmer described “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.”
The United Kingdom has lost an extraordinary public servant in Prince Philip.
Prince Philip dedicated his life to our country – from a distinguished career in the Royal Navy during the Second World War to his decades of service as the Duke of Edinburgh.
— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) April 9, 2021
Elsewhere, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said in a statement that “on the occasions when I met him, I was always struck by his obvious joy at life, his enquiring mind and his ability to communicate to people from every background and walk of life. He was a master at putting people at their ease and making them feel special.”
— Archbishop of Canterbury (@JustinWelby) April 9, 2021
Across the pond, U.S. president Joe Biden also shared his “deepest condolences” with the Queen, royal family and U.K.
“Over the course of his 99-year life, he saw our world change dramatically and repeatedly,” said the president in statements posted to social media. “From his service during World War II, 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 U.K., the Commonwealth, and to his family.
“The impact of his decades of devoted public service is evident in the worthy causes he lifted up as patron, in the environmental efforts he championed, in the members of the Armed Forces that he supported, in the young people he inspired, and so much more,” Biden continued. “His legacy will live on not only through his family, but in all the charitable endeavors he shaped.