The Sunday Mail (Queensland)

Final obituary rewrite for Iron Duke who cheated death


THE phone call was as sudden as it was alarming.

“You are going to be very busy tonight – Prince Philip is going to die,” a top Westminste­r source solemnly told me during a frantic ring-around to media bureau chiefs in the British capital.

This was April 2008 when the then 86-year-old had missed several public appointmen­ts for what was initially a chest infection but that later saw him admitted to hospital.

Word spread and such was the state of the nation bracing for a royal funeral, Buckingham Palace was prompted to issue an extraordin­ary statement denying the Duke’s death was imminent.

But the palace statement, and indeed the Westminste­r call-around to journalist­s, was telling of just how popular the prince was and the then expected impact his death would have not just in Britain but throughout the Commonweal­th.

That extraordin­ary scene was 13 years to the month too early.

Philip’s death on Friday was realised and reverberat­ed across both sides of the hemisphere.

This time the palace issued a simple statement and the royal family’s official website switched to a holding page in memory of the duke.

It featured a central image of Philip on a black background, accompanie­d by the Palace’s statement. It seemed for a time he had come through so many health and other trials in his long life that newspapers around the world were permanentl­y updating prewritten obituaries for “the iron duke” who as one royal courtier remarked to News Corp Australia after another health scare in 2016, he was “simply too stubborn to die”.

He proved all wrong for a long time but at the age of 99 years, he passed away quietly with the Queen, close friends and aides by his side.

He was known to be dreading celebratin­g his 100th birthday, once remarking he “bits falling off”.

He found reports over the years of his greatly exaggerate­d imminent demise amusing and, while a private man who declared to palace courtiers when he did finally pass he wanted “no fuss”, his inspiring dedication to the realm will this week be fondly and appropriat­ely remembered.

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