“The Queen has lost her Captain – Philip was her rock”
The nation was left heartbroken last week when Prince Philip – who has loyally been at the Queen’s side throughout her 68-year reign and their 73-year marriage – died aged 99. The Palace announced the sad news on Friday afternoon in a statement that read, “It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen announces the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
“His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle. The Royal Family join with people around the world in mourning his loss.”
Someone who witnessed first-hand their remarkable relationship was former royal staff member Paul Burrell, who worked for the Queen before becoming Princess Diana’s butler. He tells Closer that Philip was “the rock” for the entire royal family and will be hugely missed, especially given the family’s recent upheaval following controversy over the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s tell-all with Oprah Winfrey.
He says, “The Queen has lost the captain of her ship, the man whom she trusted more than any other for over 70 years. He was the head of the family behind closed doors and everyone knew it. His sense of duty to his wife, family and adopted country never faltered.
“Princess Elizabeth fell in love with her dashing, uniformed prince and their marriage lasted regardless of the problems that came their way. It was never easy for Prince Philip being an outsider, but he understood the contract he signed.
“During all the turbulent times the monarchy faced over the years, he was the Queen’s rock – a steady hand who had common sense in abundance. The Queen deferred to him on most things, and would have done so in light of the recent turbulent times.
“During the 11 years I served Her Majesty The Queen at Buckingham Palace, he was always by her side and each evening would mix her favourite drink before dinner and take it through to her dressing room. Prince Philip was a gentleman, but never suffered fools gladly.”
There had been fears for the Duke’s health earlier this year when he spent a month in hospital with an infection, but he returned home to Windsor in March. It will have come as the cruellest blow for the Queen after what had already been a tumultuous year for her.
Last month, the royal family were hit with claims of racism and criticised for a lack of support for Prince Harry and wife Meghan Markle – who stepped back from royal life and moved to America last year – following the couple’s tell-all interview with US TV host Oprah Winfrey. The Palace issued a statement in response, claiming the matters would be dealt with privately.
But while his family were devastated, his passing led to an outpouring of love and a celebration of his extraordinary life. He and Queen Elizabeth have four children: Prince Charles, 72, Princess Anne, 70, Prince Andrew, 61, and Prince Edward, 57, and eight grandchildren, including, Peter Philips, 43, Zara Tindall, 39, Prince William, 38, Prince Harry, 36, Princess Beatrice, 32, Princess Eugenie, 31, Lady Louise, 17, and James Viscount Severn, 13. They also have ten great-grandchildren, including Prince George, seven, who is third in line to the throne.
During the Queen’s 68-year reign, Prince Philip had over 22,000 solo engagements, gave approximately 5,500 speeches and wrote 14 books. His self-deprecating humour and witty one-liners built him a reputation for both causing controversy and sparking delight from the public.
The keen sportsman also campaigned for schools around the UK to have playing fields, to inspire children to get active, and also created the Duke of Edinburgh scheme – a youth awards programme encouraging volunteering, expeditions, the learning of a new skill and physical activity. He retired from royal engagements in 2017 – quipping that after his busy career, he was now “the world’s most experienced plaqueunveiler”. He made his last public appearance in July at a military ceremony at Windsor Castle.
His humour remained as he approached his 90th birthday nine years ago – when he told a royal correspondent, “Bits are beginning to drop off.”
But he was also reportedly incredibly thoughtful – stepping in to help take care of grandsons William and Harry when their mother Princess Diana tragically passed away in 1997. He could be seen leading the way at Diana’s funeral as William and Harry, aged 15 and 12 respectively, followed the coffin – with royal correspondent Jennie Bond later detailing that when William wavered and felt too sad to
walk, Philip said, “If I walk, will you?” before leading the procession.
Speaking of his grandfather, William – who had always maintained a strong bond with him – said in 2004 that he “will tell me something I don’t want to hear and doesn’t care if I get upset about it. He knows it is the right thing to say.”
And when asked by Matt Smith – who played Prince Phillip in series one and two of The Crown – how to describe his grandfather, Prince William said, “One word: legend”.
❛ HIS SENSE OF DUTY TO HIS WIFE, FAMILY AND ADOPTED COUNTRY NEVER FALTERED ❜