Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth II’s husband and the longest-serving royal consort has died at the age of 99.
His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh married then Princess Elizabeth in 1947, and has supported her for over 70 years since. The Queen herself once referred to the Duke as “my strength and stay”.
The Duke had recently returned to Windsor Castle after spending a month in hospital following heart surgery, and died on Friday morning just two months shy of his hundredth birthday.
A statement from Buckingham Palace said: "It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen has announced 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."
Prime minister Boris Johnson said he received news of the Duke’s death “with great sadness”, and paid tribute to a man who had "inspired the lives of countless young people".
Johnson said from Downing Street: “He helped to steer the Royal Family and the monarchy so that it remains an institution indisputably vital to the balance and happiness of our national life.
"Prince Philip earned the affection of generations here in the United Kingdom, across the Commonwealth, and around the world.”
In the months preceding his death, the Prince was admitted to King Edward VII’s Hospital in Marylebone as a precautionary measure in February after reports that he had been feeling unwell. He underwent heart surgery for a pre-existing condition at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in the City of London the following month, before being discharged on March 16, at which point he was said to be in “good spirits”.
Born on the Greek island of Corfu on June 10, 1921, the Prince was the son of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, and Princess Alice, a daughter of Lord Louis Mountbatten and great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria.
Prince Philip and the Queen went on to have four children, eight grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren. Their first child, Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, was born in 1948. His sister, Princess Anne, Princess Royal, followed in 1950, with Duke of York, Prince Andrew’s birth coming in 1960 and then Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, arriving four years later.
Prince Philip’s funeral, which will be televised, is to be held at St George’s Chapel in Windsor in lieu of the traditional site of Westminster Abbey, in accordance with the Prince’s request for no lying in state nor a state funeral.
An aide to the Duke of Edinburgh once said that “he doesn’t see himself as important enough” for a state funeral and instead preferred a quieter ceremony despite the Queen’s wish for him to have a state funeral. He will be the first consort to the monarch for over a century not to have a lying in state.
He will be interred at St George’s Chapel following a royal ceremonial funeral. His remains will then be held in the royal vault beneath St George’s until the death of Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II, at which point both will be buried side by side at the George VI Memorial Chapel.
He married the Queen eight years after their first meeting, after the two became acquainted when the Prince was an 18-year-old and the then Princess was 13.
Since their union in 1947, the royal couple have spent little time apart, the only notable exception being a four-month overseas tour the Prince undertook in 1956.
Despite being the son of a Greek prince and often treated as an outsider initially, both the Prince and the Queen had a great-great-grandparent in common in Queen Victoria. The former Royal Navy Officer served in World War II and gave up what was a promising career in the Navy to take up his role as the Queen’s consort.
At the royal couple’s golden wedding celebrations, the Queen said of Prince Philip’s commitment to her that “I, and his whole family, in this and many other countries, owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim or we shall ever know.”
Even in old age, Prince Philip remained a dedicated member of the royal family and carried out 300 royal engagements a year. He did not officially step down from royal duties until August 2017, by which time he was 96.
Despite maintaining an active lifestyle and remaining in rude health throughout his years, the waning years of the Prince’s life saw him hospitalised on a number of occasions, undergoing a series of operations.
The Royal Family had planned for Prince Philip’s coffin to be taken taken to the Chapel Royal at St James’s Palace, where it would remain until the day of the funeral, which would in normal circumstances be held one week on from Saturday. However, plans may be forced to change due to Covid restrictions.
In line with a tradition set by great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria, his coffin will be taken from St James’s Palace to Wellington Arch in a procession upon a gun carriage, drawn by a gun crew from the Royal Navy.
Philip himself was involved in drawing up the order of services for his own funeral, with the hymns Eternal Father and Strong to Save among his requests. He also wished to have representatives of the armed forces that he was involved with throughout his life present at the service.