Remembering the Duke

Published on 15 April 2021

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Early next Sunday morning New Zealand time, the funeral for Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, will be held in the grounds of Windsor Castle. It will be a relatively low-key ceremony due to COVID-19 restrictions and, according to reports, the Prince’s own wishes.

That doesn’t surprise me. I have met several members of the Royal Family, including Prince Philip, and have had the opportunity to speak with them at some length during official functions. I found the Duke to be very easy to talk to and, like the Queen and Prince Charles, he had a great knack of putting you at your ease. It was an honour to meet the man and I am saddened by his passing.

The British Monarchy is probably the most scrutinised family in history. Every day, they are featured in magazine and newspaper stories, television news reports, and are even the subject of a television series. With all that attention, it is perhaps easy to lose sight of the fact that this is a family. The Duke has been a steady and unwavering part of this household during the good times and the crises that all families experience. Despite their exalted position and privilege, they will be feeling the loss of a husband, father and grandfather very deeply. Whatever your views on the Monarchy, I think it’s important to acknowledge that fact.

Something else I want to acknowledge is the positive influence the Duke has had upon millions of young people around the world, including in New Zealand. Early in his career, Prince Philip initiated the Duke of Edinburgh's Award. Originally set up for boys aged 15 to 18 in 1956, it quickly expanded to include girls in 1958 and is now awarded to youth in more than 130 nations. While there are variations in how the award operates across the world, all seek to encourage young people to excel through volunteering and in improving physical skills in sports, arts, and other challenges.

The award was established in 1963 in New Zealand and is referred to as the Duke of Edinburgh's Hillary Award, acknowledging links with Sir Edmund Hillary. The Duke of Edinburgh's Hillary Award receives around 8000 registrations annually from 14-24-year olds and more than 19,000 young New Zealanders are participating in the challenge at any one time. Globally, it is estimated that as many as 8 million young people have participated in the Awards. The Duke could only have known a small number of those participants, but that does not diminish the very significant positive impact this man had on the lives of others by using his position to assist them.

Since learning of the Duke’s death last weekend, much has already been said and written on what this may mean for the British Royal Family. I think everyone would all agree this is a significant moment for the institution. For now, though, my thoughts are with those mourning the loss of a much-loved family member. 

Last updated 15 April 2021