Basic housekeeping first, if you don’t mind.
If you believe that Monarchy has no place in the 21st century Britain, or that Prince Philip was an obnoxious racist waste of space, please click away now. If you continue reading, you might feel compelled to leave a disparaging comment, I might be tempted to respond, and things could turn ugly, because with me, it’s personal.
My love affair with the British Royal Family began shortly after I first stepped my foot onto the British soil, in the summer of 1988. I can pinpoint the moment accurately, to the day that Prince Andrew’s first born daughter’s name were announced to the world, some days after her birth. I was at work and listened to the radio for hours on that day, as royal commentators analysed the significance and the provenance of the choice of Beatrice Elizabeth Mary. I was hooked on the spot, and the British Monarchy gained a lifelong fan that day. A few years later, the Queen gained an unwaveringly devoted subject in me.
When I chose to adopt Britain as my for ever country, I adopted the Royal Family wholeheartedly, too, warts and all. I am not going to lie, they have tested my devotion a few times over the recent years, but my loyalty to them remains as strong as ever.
Prince Phillip has always been my second favourite Royal, overshadowed in my adulation only by his wife, the Queen. The latter is my all time, undisputed, hands down, no questions asked, nobody comes close, role model, coming as near to perfection in my eyes, as any human being can get.
Throughout my life in Britain, Prince Philip had been a reassuring public presence, and I always had a soft spot for him, but couldn’t quite figure out why that was, until one day it dawned on me that his boundless energy reminded me a lot about my own dad.
I am acutely aware that I was not being terribly original in this discovery. In fact, I am sure that a lot of people of my generation or thereabout must have recognised traits of their own fathers and grandfathers in the Duke too. He represented that solid type of ‘real man’ which used to be prevalent in the world when he was in his prime. He simply got on with things. The concept has become somewhat old-fashioned now.
Ever since that lightbulb moment, linking the Duke to my dad, and especially since my dad passed away 10 years ago, Prince Philip had gained a unique place in my affections.
I loved his relentless curiosity and his deep involvement in a vast range of projects, often comparing him to my father, who was similarly passionate about many things in his lifetime.
Prince Philip did nothing by half, but rather devoted his full attention to each task at hand. Ditto, my dad. He seemed to love spending time with young people, and children; again, my dad in a nutshell. The Duke was absurdly handsome as a young man, and so, of course, was my dad. I admired Prince Philip’s appetite for creativity and innovation, his incessant search for something meaningful to do, combined with his amazing down to earth attitude, his dislike of any sort of ‘fuss’ and ‘stuffiness’.
I loved his, often cheeky, sense of humour, and it never occurred to me to find his famous one-liners offensive, but rather I recognised them as part of his charm and one of the kind personality.
My favourite quip of his is his response to being asked (in 1967) whether he would like to visit Soviet Union?
‘I would like to go to Russia very much — although the bastards murdered half my family.’
The Queen and Prince Philip together were an ultimate couples goal. Their devotion to each other, their partnership, loyalty, their division of labour and building each other up during their 73 years of marriage was something that even the most irritating smug-marrieds among us can only dream of.
As I write this, my older daughter is traipsing the hills of Surrey, as part of her Gold DofE Award practice run expedition. She got up at 6 am on the last Friday of her Easter holiday and off she went, her backpack towering over her head. She will spend the day hiking, equipped with a map, a compass, and her common sense, to reach the destination sometime late afternoon. Tomorrow, she will repeat the same task again. Sometime in May, she is going to go on the final overnight expedition, complete with pitching a tent, cooking an evening meal, and finding her way along the track.
And that’s it really, that’s all that the Duke of Edinburgh means to me. For everything else, there is Wikipedia.