New Duke will tread own path
Few will remember a time when Prince Philip was not a presence in their lives. Now we will all have to get used to a new Duke of Edinburgh as Prince Charles inherits the title.
As one era ends, another begins.
Prince Charles has big shoes to fill, and it is understandable he is unable to say how he will do it so soon after his father’s death.
The Prince of Wales looked broken when he addressed the nation yesterday to speak of his “dear Papa”.
But along with the title, he has inherited the Duke of Edinburgh’s strength.
He will mend. He will step up to the plate. But Charles will also be different from his father. And that may be no bad thing.
For many, Prince Philip’s political incorrectness and irreverence added hugely to the joy of national and international life.
We will never forget his retort on being welcomed by the President of Nigeria in traditional robes. “Looks like you’re ready for bed,” said Philip.
To some, his comments were borderline racist. Either way, they have no place in the 21st century global village where the antennae of public figures must be finely tuned to diplomatic niceties.
Philip came from a generation moulded by the brutality of war. Its badges of honour were toughness and true grit. It gave him a no-nonsense outlook on the world which came with a stiff upper lip and a ready quip.
And he was so irrepressible that no sooner had one off-the-cuff remark made headlines than it was followed by another.
It also equipped him with a work ethic which meant he took 22,000 solo engagements and 637 overseas tours in his stride.
The young people who benefitted from the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme have much to thank him for. So do the world’s endangered animals.
Prince Charles follows in those proud footsteps, though he will tread his own path.
In public, Prince Philip was always a few paces behind the Queen. In private, he was not just her rock but her sounding board.
We will never know the advice he gave, but we have a measure of it because she has rarely put a foot wrong in 68 years on the throne.
Now Prince Charles must go from son and heir to the sovereign’s right hand.
He must guide the younger royals in their public duties while preparing one son for kingship and the other to navigate life outside the family firm.
But for now, most of all, he must be there to support his mother as Saturday’s funeral approaches.
We will mourn beside the Queen in spirit even if Covid means we cannot do so in person. And we will stand behind the new Duke of Edinburgh as the Crown begins its next chapter.