As the Duke of Edinburgh is laid to rest in St George’s Chapel, Windsor this weekend, we will be saying goodbye to one who in so many ways represented a generation that risked all in defence of not only our country but fundamental human decency 75 years ago.
He exemplified the wartime generation that did so much and he embodied public service to which he devoted his life.
He will be taken to the Chapel with naval and military respects being paid on behalf of a grateful nation but once inside he will be alone with 30 close friends and the family for whom he did so much.
His unfussy, direct, approach helped create a revolution in Royalty and announce a new era in which the monarchy was more available and more present than ever before – the numbers of UK citizens who have seen or met the Queen and her consort is an extraordinary testament to their dedication and service.
The Duke was 99 but the causes he championed including on conservation and the environment are the very topics on which youngest generation are, rightly, so impassioned. He was a pioneer, in 1961 helping found the World Wildlife Fund, the world’s largest conservation fund, drawing unprecedented attention to the plight of endangered wildlife suffering from poaching, deforestation and pollution.
This is not the only way in which he appeared well ahead of his times – his defence of playing fields, advocacy of modern engineering and driving technological change to help deliver solutions for the future.
For many he will be remembered for the Duke of Edinburgh award which has been running continuously for 65 years. The award operates in over 140 countries, in the UK, it is staffed by 40,000 volunteers, with more than a quarter of 14-year-olds participating in the programme annually. The award has been transforming for so many – including those for whom it was the route out of despair and even criminality.
He was recognised not just in the Commonwealth but throughout the world as, alongside the Queen, a beacon of stability as Presidents and Prime Ministers come and go. I was touched this week when my counterpart in the Greek Defence Ministry proudly shared with me a photograph of the 9 year old Prince Philip in the national dress of the land of his birth.
He was a symbol of many things but above all he was a husband, father and grandfather and this Saturday our thoughts will be with the Queen, for whom he was such a support, and his family.