Last Friday we heard the sad news of the death of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, at the age of 99. Although not unexpected, after his recent stay in hospital, it perhaps marks the start of a transition, of change in the Royal Family, which is likely to continue in the months and years ahead. While some of you may remember King George VI, for many of us, the Queen has been a part of our whole lives, and I think it shows great love and dedication, that Prince Philip stood by her side, supporting and encouraging her for as long as he could.
I met Prince Philip in 2006 when I was presented with my Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award at St James’ Palace. Despite the number of young people receiving their awards, he took time to speak to each of us, and seemed genuinely interested in what we had done, what we had learned and how we had grown through the scheme. Our journeys were all different, and we had all taken on different challenges, but all achieved and learned so much. He also took time to speak to our parents, and seemed really pleased to see Mum wearing her Gold Award – two generations, perhaps now even three or more generations of young people being inspired, challenged, and encouraged by the scheme – what an amazing legacy to leave.
Watching the special television programmes over the weekend, it was clear that he was a man with strong views and a lived out faith, who didn’t always get it right, or say the right things, but who was dedicated to the causes he supported, who inspired and encouraged many, and who was a loving family man to the end.
Perhaps you have your own stories of meeting the Duke of Edinburgh, or of how he has changed your life, perhaps through his work for local charities or through the DofE Award Scheme. As you remember them, give thanks for a long life well lived.
The URC has offered some words of reflection and prayer, which may be helpful as we pray for the Queen and for the Royal Family in these sad times:
The United Reformed Church has expressed its sadness at the passing of HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, who died on April 9 aged 99.
A constant support to Her Majesty the Queen since their marriage in 1947, the Prince was one of the nation's best-loved and controversial royal figures.
Psalm 107: 23-31
down to the sea in ships,
doing business on the mighty waters;
they saw the deeds of the Lord,
his wondrous works in the deep.
For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
which lifted up the waves of the sea.
They mounted up to heaven, they went down to the depths;
their courage melted away in their calamity;
they reeled and staggered like drunkards,
and were at their wits’ end.
cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he brought them out from their distress;
he made the storm be still,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.
were glad because they had quiet,
and he brought them to their desired haven.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wonderful works to humankind.
The death of HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, brings a moment to reflect on an extraordinary life. For many, this death will leave them feeling shaken, as the life of someone who has for so many decades been at the heart of our nation comes to an end.
He was born in Corfu and baptised into the Orthodox church. Later received into the Church of England, many who have known the Duke of Edinburgh bear witness to the depth of his faith and his theological knowledge. A regular visitor to Mount Athos, and a keen questioner of preachers, his faith was much more than nominal.
With a childhood marred by political turmoil and danger, as his family fled from Greece, Philip was, in many ways, often almost alone in the world as he grew up. Gordonstoun school and the British Royal Navy gave him roots and a home, and with marriage to Princess Elizabeth his life’s path was set.
She described him, in 2012, as a ‘constant strength and guide’ and his supportive role as a husband was one he fulfilled over decades of marriage. It is often said that he felt the loss of his own career keenly, but he became a hardworking member of the Royal Family, taking up causes and projects with formidable energy.
Many of us will have been, or will know, someone who learned a love of the outdoors, spurred on by the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme. Countless young people have learned endurance and survival skills, navigating maps and building fires, walking in the hills and bedding down in tents, achieving things they would not have imagined possible.
Prince Philip has also been a tireless campaigner on behalf of threatened wildlife and for the preservation of the earth.
Known for his blunt and forthright speech, and for being the man who was always one step behind the Queen, he was a determined supporter of his wife, an energetic sportsman, a committed conservationist, with the strength of character to remain steady through changing and difficult times.
Queen Elizabeth often acknowledged her debt to him and encouraged the whole nation to recognise it too.
At this moment of his death we have an opportunity to reflect and to give thanks, for a life of dedicated service to nation and commonwealth. We pray for his family and closest friends, for those who will mourn and miss him most.
And we draw hope from the faith into which he was baptised, declaring that Christ is risen.
O God, our rock and our redeemer,
we come to worship you
and to give thanks for your servant Philip.
We thank you for his long life,
for his dedicated support of his wife in her vocation as Queen,
and for his service to commonwealth and nation.
We thank you for the Duke of Edinburgh award,
for the work of the World Wide Fund for Nature
and for so many causes he inspired and supported.
We thank you for what he has meant
to each one of us…
We treasure memories
of meeting him ….
We rejoice that he lived and shared
the faith we hold,
and that, by your grace,
he survived danger and threat.
We pray for those who will miss him most
that they may find comfort and hope.
We celebrate and affirm our faith
that death is defeated,
that new life awaits your children,
and that creation is renewed in Christ.
And, in this day and time, we pray,
as we are always glad to pray,
may your Kingdom come. Amen.
May he rest in peace, and rise in glory.
With love and blessings,