Boris Johnson Remembers "Ahead Of His Time" Prince Philip As MPs Pay Tribute In A Special Commons Session
Boris Johnson led tributes to the late Duke of Edinburgh in the Commons (Parliamentlive.tv)
MPs have returned early from their Easter recess to take part in a memorial debate for the Duke of Edinburgh, who died on Friday aged 99.
No other Commons business is scheduled for Monday, and 136 MPs in total are down to speak in a session that could last up to seven and a half hours.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson described the Duke as a “model of selflessness”, adding that he “will be remembered with gratitude and with fondness for generations to come”.
He said it was “fitting” that the Duke “will be conveyed to his final resting place in a Land Rover which the Prince designed himself”.
“The vehicle's unique and idiosyncratic silhouette reminds the world that he was, above all, a practical man who could take something very traditional — whether a machine, or indeed a great national institution — and find a way, by his own ingenuity, to improve it, to adapt it for the 20th or 21st century,” Johnson continued.
Johnson also referenced some of the controversial moments for which the Duke was often criticised, describing him as "at once politically incorrect and ahead of his time".
“It is true that he occasionally drove a coach and horses through the finer points of diplomatic protocol, and he coined a new word – dontopedalogy – for the experience of putting your foot in your mouth," he said.
But he defended Prince Philip's manner, insisting that people "understood he was trying to break the ice, to get things moving, to get people laughing".
The session began with a minute’s silence, led by Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, who described the Royal as the "father of the nation", and said he would “be missed and impossible to replace”.
“As we reflect on a life well lived we should not forget the wide-ranging achievements of Prince Philip," the Speaker continued.
"But we should also remember him as a family man: a devoted husband, a father, a grandfather, a great grandfather. He was without doubt the father of the nation.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said “Britain will not be the same in his absence”, describing the Duke as “symbol of the nation we hope to be at our best, a source of stability, a rock”.
He shared his memories of the Duke of Edinburgh award, which the opposition leader said he completed when he was 14.
“My first activity was to volunteer at a local mental health hospital, where, unbeknown to me at the time, my late granddad would later be admitted,” Starmer said.
“My final activity was wandering around Dartmoor in a small team, with just a compass and a map in the pouring rain, frantically trying to find our way.
“If that doesn’t prepare you for coming into politics, nothing will.”
The debate is being held as part of a period of national mourning, which will last until the day after the Duke of Edinburgh's funeral, which is set to be held in Windsor on Saturday.
Former Prime Minister Theresa May told MPs about her first visit to Balmoral Castle, where Prince Philip sent her and her husband on an hours long walk around the estate.
“My husband and I, as everybody knows, enjoy walking and we were able to do some walks there," she explained.
"Prince Philip very kindly suggested a particular walk to us. We were very grateful for this suggestion and we set off.
“When we got back to the castle several hours later, we were told Prince Philip did indeed enjoy this walk, but he normally drove round it in a car.
"I'm not sure if this was a test, and if it was if we passed it."
May also recalled bonding with the Duke over their shared interest of cricket. "On our last visit we went to say farewell, and initially we couldn't find Prince Philip," she said.
"Eventually I caught up with him and he was watching the cricket. How I would have loved to have stayed watching the cricket with him."
The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford said Prince Philip’s links with Scotland “grew and deepened” following his marriage to the Queen.
He joked about his visit to the opening of the Queensferry Crossing. “Once again, alongside the Queen, they became the first people to cross the new bridge after it officially opened it in 2017," Blackford said.
“I know that political campaigning remains suspended, but I'm sure that members opposite will forgive me for saying that I'm pretty sure that Prince Philip would have appreciated that the bridge was delivered on time and under budget."
Former Conservative Party leader, Iain Duncan Smith added that he was struck by the "huge outpouring of fondness" from the "new generation" for Prince Philip.
"I didn't expect quite that level of fondness because I thought by now that many of the new generation they would not recognise many of the things he had done, or even understood," he said.
"Their fondness and their sense of who he was is quite interesting."
Duncan Smith believed the Duke's death marked the passing of the "greatest generation" which, he said, in Prince Philip's words, didn't "belly-ache" about their problems.
"That generation that was prepared to sacrifice everything so that the rest of us could live in peace and prosperity," he continued.
"They didn't ask any questions. And what defined them so much, and I think defined him, in a way, was this sense of duty."
During the period of mourning, all ministerial visits, routine announcements and government statements will be paused — with the exception of important public health announcements.
Flags at all official buildings, including 10 Downing Street and the Scottish Parliament, are being flown at half mast, and non-official flags such as the Rainbow Flag and military flags are not to be raised.
Dozens of world leaders and notable politicians have issued messages of condolence and remembrance following the news of the Duke’s death, including US President Joe Biden, India’s prime minister Narendra Modi and Australian prime minister Scott Morrison.