Thu, 6 May 2021

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Lord Michael Howard pays tribute to Prince Philip

Lord Michael Howard pays tribute to Prince Philip
3 min read

As so many have pointed out, it is difficult to see how Her Majesty could have achieved that pinnacle of affection without the “strength and stay” of her husband.

The sad passing of the Duke of Edinburgh is a solemn moment in the history of our nation. The husband of our Queen for 73 years, described by her as her “strength and stay”, it is impossible to exaggerate his contribution to our national life, his service to the nation.

The man we mourn was an absolutely extraordinary human being. After a turbulent childhood he served in the Royal Navy with great distinction in the Second World War and, as many have pointed out, would, in all probability, have reached the most senior ranks in the Service had another course not been mapped out for him.

When he left the Service, on the death King George VI, he faced the great challenge of carving out a role for himself with no precedents to follow. That he achieved that objective with imagination, intelligence and a relentless sense of duty is beyond doubt.

The Duke of Edinburgh Award has taught so many, including my daughter, the values of self-reliance

The causes which he made his own have transformed the lives of countless people all over the world. The Duke of Edinburgh Award has taught so many, including my daughter, the values of self-reliance. He championed the cause of the environment long before it became fashionable. He pursued an interest in engineering and technology-far from what might have been expected. And these interests transcended the borders of the United Kingdom and even those of the Commonwealth.

Those of us who have been privileged to meet him, however fleetingly, were made well aware of his interest in us and what we were doing. The last time I met him, about three years ago, I rather impertinently congratulated him on how well he was looking and expressed the hope that would continue for many years to come. He replied that at the age of ninety-six he wasn’t at all sure that would be a good idea.

But as we remember and pay tribute to this extraordinary man we should pause to reflect on the significance of his contribution to the monarchy and the significance of that institution to our national life.

We stand apart from others in the continuity of our constitutional arrangements. We do not have an elected head of state nor an appointed one. We have a head of state whose unique position plays, as the Prime Minister has said, a vital role in the balance of our national affairs. That gives us very special advantages.

And we have been blessed with a Queen who commands love and respect on all sides.

A couple of years ago, on a visit to a Caribbean island whose head of state she is, I read a newspaper editorial proffering some advice to a newly appointed Governor-General. “If you are ever in doubt about any decision you are about to make”, it read “just pause and ask yourself -what would Her Majesty do?”

As so many have pointed out it is difficult to see how Her Majesty could have achieved that pinnacle of affection without the “strength and stay” of her husband.

So, as we mourn the passing of a remarkable man whom we shall greatly miss we should reflect on our great good fortune in being the beneficiaries of the dedication to public service of the Queen and the Duke. And we pay tribute to the memory of the man to whom we owe so much.

 

Lord Howard is a Conservative member of the House of Lords and former leader of the Conservative Party.

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