Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II for 73 years, died peacefully at Windsor Castle at age 99. His death was announced midday Friday, three weeks after his 28-night hospital stay for an infection and heart surgery.
Prince Philip was the father of Prince Charles and the grandfather of Prince Harry and Prince William. He mostly avoided the spotlight after he retired from public life in 2017, returning for one final public appearance in August 2017. He resurfaced in May 2018 at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, where he waved to crowds from the back seat of a limousine.
The Prince’s death comes as the royal family is in disarray, riddled by drama following a revealing Oprah interview. The turmoil in the family continues despite Philip’s lifetime goal to preserve the crown and issue in a modern monarchy.
Philip counteracted Queen Elizabeth’s hands-off rule, one that was slightly invisible. Philip brought the royals onto the silver screen, televising presentations such as a royal tour of the Commonwealth and the Queen’s coronation in 1953. “It wasn’t equipped to deal with a new media age,” a historian, Sarah Gristwood explained to NBC News. “Prince Philip played a huge role in moving it forward then.”
“He helped create the model of the British royal family that has enabled it to continue forward into the 21st century. We have lost sight of that night, but I hope we’ll remember him for it.”
Prince Philip was born on June 10, 1921, as a royal in a less-than-royal setting. He was the only son of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, and Princess Alice of Battenberg. His uncle, Greece’s king at the time, was forced to abdicate when Philip was a baby.
He joined the Royal Navy at 18 and he saw active duty from the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean and took an active part in World War II. His military presence marked him for life. He is best known for his military attire, which stood as an emblem for his high-ranking titles.
According to The New York Times, Philip was seen as a remote and loose-lipped individual of the royal family, often sparking backlash for racist or unruly comments. He was also known to be aloof, demanding and domineering. Still, Queen Elizabeth fell in love with the dashing prince, and even told her father, King George VI, that he was the only man she could ever love.
The two met at a family wedding in 1934, which ignited the exchange of love letters and outings. They were married in Westminster Abbey in 1947, with a tremendous guest list of 2,000 and 200 million listening to the ceremony on the radio.
Prince Philip’s life marked a series of historical milestones, as he was the longest-serving consort and the oldest serving partner of a reigning monarch in British history.
Boris Johnson spoke at Philip’s tribute on Thursday, addressing the nation and the world. “We give thanks, as a nation and a kingdom,” he said in his speech. “For the extraordinary life and work of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.”
“We remember the duke for all of this and above all for his steadfast support for Her Majesty the Queen. Not just as her consort, by her side every day of her reign, but as her husband, her ‘strength and stay’, of more than 70 years.”
Since the tragedy, flags around the UK and Commonwealth are at half-mast, according to Daily Mail. Her majesty will also enter a period of mourning while officials plan a royal ceremonial funeral in Windsor. The funeral will have a military procession, but plans will be hit by COVID restrictions.
The words spoken by Queen Elizabeth share the depth of the country’s loss. “I, and his whole family, and this and many other countries, own him a debt greater than he would ever claim or we shall ever know,” she said during a speech on their 50th wedding anniversary in 1997. There she called him her “strength and stay,” a sentiment perhaps felt around the world as Queen Elizabeth, a wife of 73 years, mourns an immense loss.