Lib Dems’ parliamentary tributes to Prince Philip

I am sure that all our hearts will go out to the Queen today as we see her sitting alone in St George’s Chapel at the funeral of her husband of 73 years.

Bereavement is horrific at any time, but the pandemic has made it even more cruel for millions of people.

For the Queen there is a particularly difficult aspect. She’ll be on her own, but with the eyes of the entire world upon her. I just hope that she gets some comfort from knowing that she has the compassion and love of those millions of people.

This Monday, all our Parliaments were recalled to pay tribute to Prince Philip. Below are the tributes paid by Ed Davey, Willie Rennie, Kirsty Williams and Dick Newby, covering so many aspects of his life. Ed’s tales of Paddy’s encounters with the Duke will make you smile.

They are fitting tributes to someone who was such a huge part of our nation’s life for almost three quarters of a century.

Ed Davey

Princess Anne said yesterday:

“You know it is going to happen but you are never really ready.”

That is a truth shared by so many grieving families. Most people know that their loved one is near the end of their life because they are old or very sick, but that does not mean that they can avoid the tidal wave of grief—that moment of finality. This year more than most so many families have faced that moment, so I am sure that the Princess Royal speaks for not just the Queen and the royal family but the whole country: you are never really ready.

However, as people grieve, we can also say thank you— thank you to one of Britain’s greatest public servants of the last 100 years. As other party leaders have said, Prince Philip has been a rock in the life of our nation since his betrothal to our Queen, then the young Princess Elizabeth. Above all, he has always been her rock. After 73 years of marriage, it will be our Queen who feels this loss far more than anyone else. If anyone says that bereavement is easier when a loved one has lived a long life, I have to say that that is not my experience. So, ma’am, our hearts go out to you.

Thankfully, there are so many wonderful memories to comfort the Queen and the nation. We have already heard about many of the Duke’s contributions to our public life. I would mention his role as president of the Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, for nearly 59 years. It was there that he helped to lead the major wave of British and global environmentalism and conservation, and where his commitment to British industry and design was so remarkable. As the Prime Minister said, it is fitting that his coffin will be carried in a specially adapted Land Rover that he himself designed.

I spoke to the Prince briefly on two occasions many years ago, once when he came to my school and once when I went to his palace at Saint James’s, as one of the millions of young people lucky enough to have taken part in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme. To be at the palace that day, I had hiked round Kinder Scout, camped in Snowdonia and got lost in the Cheviots. For the gold award, among much else, one has to learn a new skill. When the Duke came to my group, he asked us what new skill we had learnt. I told him proudly that I had learnt to drive. So the Duke asked, “With four or six horses?” He pretended to be surprised when I said, “No, Sir, a car.”

I have spoken to several people in preparing my words today. Lady Ashdown, Jane, kindly shared her late, great husband’s experience of the Duke. As a former royal marine, Paddy bonded well with the longest ever serving captain general of the Royal Marines. The Duke said that no other politician had ever laid a wreath on Remembrance Sunday as well as Paddy did, with his royal marine heel-click. Paddy also wrote in his memoirs about a state banquet for the King of Malaysia. After dinner, the Duke was touring the room and came to speak to Paddy. Well briefed as always, he asked Paddy why he had learnt Malay. Paddy writes: “I told him I’d been in the Commando Brigade in Singapore as a bachelor and had discovered that in Malay

“there was one word…which meant ‘Let’s take off our clothes and tell dirty stories’”,

So how could I resist learning Malay? The Duke roared with laughter and followed up with some pretty salty jokes, including a very fruity one about wanting a pee in China. Much giggling.”

A state banquet also features in an anecdote from the former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. He recalls how he went to a state banquet for the Spanish King, not in his own right but as the husband of Miriam González Durántez. At the reception, Nick explained to the Duke that was merely accompanying Miriam. The Duke replied: “I know the feeling.”

There can be no doubt, for the Queen has said it herself, that the Duke was far more than a companion. He was a man who should be celebrated in his own right—for his courage, so evident in his war record; for his foresight, so marvellous in the championing of young people across the world; and for his determination to show real leadership on the environment. He was not, as he described himself,

“a discredited Balkan prince of no particular merit or distinction”;

he was special—a man who brought all his amazing European ancestry to the service of our country. Britain’s special monarchy has been made more special thanks to Prince Philip. As we thank him for his unique service, let us thank him above all for the wisdom, counsel, friendship and love he gave to our Queen.

Willie Rennie

I associate myself with all the fitting tributes that have been made today and over the weekend.

I used to wear a badge on my lapel—it was a little blue man. The Duke of Edinburgh spotted it at a reception. He bounced up, demanding to know what it was. “To show support for the prostate cancer campaign,” I said. He looked at me closely and said, “Have you got it or are you against it?” Then he bounced off again. The engagement was only 30 seconds long, but it has stayed with me, and it has been retold numerous times over the years.

It seemed that the Duke of Edinburgh left lasting impressions on many others, too. Some were less repeatable than others, but so many were fun and memorable. Sometimes he offended, but I do not share the view of some that he was an offensive man. For many, he has been part of a family that has provided comfort and stability in what can be a turbulent and intimidating world. His decades of public service through his 99 years with us; his steadfast presence when so much has been changing; his support for the Queen, his wife, for whom he was her “strength and stay”; his loyal service to family and country; his weight behind charities, especially environmental ones—all of those things have good sides, and we should cherish good sides.

My two boys have been active in the Duke of Edinburgh’s award programme. Ali worked through all the levels to secure the gold award, learning kayaking, volunteering, film making—all sorts of different things. Stephen is still working through it, with expeditions and cooking—to our great benefit—and mountain biking, too.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s impact on my family has been great. His impact on millions of others has been utterly outstanding: learning new skills, meeting new people, showing leadership, building teams, maturing and growing. Every year, hundreds of thousands of young people in countries across the globe participate in the programme. Last year, in Scotland alone, 20,000 started the programme and 11,000 achieved awards. The reach is astonishing. The programme was the Duke of Edinburgh’s inspiration all those years ago, and it has blossomed under his leadership, changing lives for ever. That is a lasting legacy to be proud of.

To the Queen and her family, I say that all our thoughts are with you today. For everything, Prince Philip, we all say, “Thank you.”

Kirsty Williams

On behalf of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, I would like to express my deepest condolences to Her Majesty the Queen, the royal family and all of those that feel the passing of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, most keenly. The Duke of Edinburgh dedicated his long life to those that he loved, to our country, and to the many causes that he championed. Those causes were numerous and varied. His commitment to environmental justice has already been commented upon this morning, and was espoused before it became fashionable to do so. But, of course, the most well known of his passions was indeed the outdoors that Dafydd Elis-Thomas just referred to, and the establishment of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme, a scheme that recognised the need to support and develop the potential of all our young people, and to give them the opportunity to experience a broad range of opportunities beyond formal education—indeed, I would argue, an ethos that underpins our new curriculum here in Wales. Perhaps some of us were lucky enough to undertake the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, although I do have to admit, Presiding Officer, those two days in the Black Mountains for my bronze award were enough for me. Therefore, I felt a little fraudulent when I had the very great honour, many years later, to be invited to St James’s Palace to present gold awards, on behalf of the Duke, to Welsh recipients.

But his commitment to children and young people and the causes of education went beyond that of his award. He was a patron of Book Aid International—a programme that looks to support literacy programmes across the world and looks to develop public libraries, recognising the importance of access to the written word in democratising knowledge. He was also a patron of Plan International, which looks to support children and young people in some of the poorest nations of the world.

I know that every time he visited the constituency of Brecon and Radnorshire he was warmly welcomed, and his visits were sources of great pride to the local community.40

May he rest in peace, and may his memory be a blessing.

Dick Newby

My Lords, trying to sum up the life of Prince Philip and his contribution to our national life in a few minutes is quite a challenge. But a good place to start is Prince Philip’s own views on the matter. When asked to sum up his contribution to public life, he responded with typical frankness:

“I’ve just done what I think is my best. Some people think it’s all right. Some don’t. What can you do? I can’t change my way of doing things. It’s part of my style. It’s just too bad, they’ll have to lump it.”

For Prince Philip, doing one’s best had several distinct components. He obviously did his best as a loyal, steadfast, and supportive consort to his wife. Given his early naval career, to fulfil the role of Queen’s consort clearly required a major gear change. That cannot have been easy, yet he did it with great devotion and aplomb. When people look back on this Elizabethan age, they will see how much it was sustained by the extremely close partnership between Prince Philip and the Queen.

But while fulfilling the role of consort with great dedication, he took a leaf out of Prince Albert’s book and devoted a huge amount of energy to a wide range of causes and positions which sought to improve the lives of people and protect our planet. The work he did over many years with WWF was ground-breaking and his views about the interconnectedness of all species and the responsibility which we have to protect them, although commonplace now, were widely pooh-poohed at the time.

As we have heard, his sponsorship of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme was even more significant; it has touched and transformed the lives of millions of young people across the country and the world. For me, without the scheme I would not know how to do a fireman’s lift, would never have struggled to put up a tent on the Yorkshire Moors in a howling gale, would Toggle showing location ofColumn 1060never have tried to coax a reluctant Primus stove into life. Some of these skills have proved more useful in later life than others but, as with everyone else who has participated in the scheme—sadly, in my case, only to bronze level—it gave me a broadening of horizons, a greater sense of self-reliance and a greater awareness of the natural world. For me, the scheme was a useful complement to adolescence but, for many more, it was a life changer and even a lifesaver. Of course, Prince Philip had a formal connection with literally hundreds of charities and other bodies, all of which have expressed their gratitude to the contribution he made to their work.

My own experience of being with the Duke of Edinburgh is limited to the period when I was Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard and so attended various functions at various palaces. My wife was also able to join me at some of these. When introduced to the Duke of Edinburgh for the first time, Ailsa was asked where we lived. She replied that she was rector of Putney and that we therefore lived there. “Good heavens,” he exclaimed, “are there Christians in Putney?”

The last time I was in his company was at a formal dinner at St James’s Palace for members of the Yeomen of the Guard and their wives. It was a bitterly cold winter evening and the Queen and Duke—already in his 90s—came from Buckingham Palace, in formal evening dress, and spent about 45 minutes talking to groups of yeomen and their wives. They did so with great energy, put everyone at ease and really engaged in this series of short conversations. As the Queen and Duke left, I escorted them part of the way and then left them to make their way out down a long corridor. Watching them from behind, I could make out an animated conversation and an occasional chuckle. They had enjoyed it but, more importantly, they had made all those to whom they had spoken feel special and valued. To have a monarch and consort who, over many decades, have together and individually made people from the widest possible range of groups across our society feel special and valued has been a huge blessing for this country.

Today we send our condolences to the Queen and the Royal Family for a personal loss. But as a country we mourn the passing and celebrate the achievements of someone who for over 70 years sought to develop the individual spirit and promote the common good.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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4 Comments

  • Helen Dudden 17th Apr '21 - 3:51pm

    I lost my mother, just before the virus and although she was 92 years old and unwell it does still leave a large gap in my life.
    My sincere condolences are with the Royal family today.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 17th Apr '21 - 4:03pm

    Oh, Helen, I am so sorry to see that.

  • Denis Loretto 19th Apr '21 - 7:15pm

    John Alderdice gave a very good speech in the House of Lords in which he recalled the contribution the Duke made to Irish reconcilation by accompanying the Queen on her famous visit to Dublin and meeting Martin McGuinness knowing he had been an IRA leader when his namesake and father-figure Lord Mountbatten was brutally murdered.

  • Peter Hirst 20th Apr '21 - 3:18pm

    The role and culture of the monarchy as an institution will change with Prince Philip’s death. It has some catching up to do though I am sure it is up to it as long as it wants to. It needs however to keep an eye on public opinion going forward.

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