Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, dies aged 99

Buckingham Palace says the Duke of Edinburgh ‘passed away peacefully’ at Windsor Castle.

A tribute to Britain's Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, who has died at the age of 99, is projected onto a large screen at Piccadilly Circus in London [Matt Dunham/AP]
A tribute to Britain's Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, who has died at the age of 99, is projected onto a large screen at Piccadilly Circus in London [Matt Dunham/AP]

Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, has died aged 99, Buckingham Palace said on Friday.

“It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen announces the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh,” the palace said in a statement.

“His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle. Further announcements will be made in due course. The Royal Family join with people around the world in mourning his loss.”

 

Flags at Buckingham Palace and at government buildings across the United Kingdom were immediately lowered to half-mast.

Members of the public also began to lay flowers outside of the palace, which sits in central London, and at Windsor Castle, the royal palace to the west of the capital where Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II have resided during COVID-19 lockdowns.

The College of Arms, Britain’s heraldic authority, said there would be no state funeral or lying-in-state, reflecting both tradition and the prince’s “wishes”, as well as current COVID-19 restrictions in England.

“His Royal Highness’s body will lie at rest in Windsor Castle ahead of the funeral in St George’s Chapel. This is in line with custom and with His Royal Highness’s wishes,” it said in a statement, without specifying a date upon which he would be laid to rest.

“It is regretfully requested that members of the public do not attempt to attend or participate in any of the events that make up the funeral.”

The Queen’s ‘strength and stay’

The Duke of Edinburgh, as he was officially known, had spent four weeks in a UK hospital earlier this year to receive treatment for an infection and have a heart procedure, but returned to Windsor in early March.

He was only months away from his 100th birthday in June and had been by the queen’s side throughout her 69-year reign, the longest in British history.

“He has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years,” the queen said in a rare personal tribute to him made in a speech marking the pair’s 50th wedding anniversary in 1997. The couple married in 1947, five years before Queen Elizabeth II succeeded to the throne.

After completing more than 22,000 solo appearances, Prince Philip retired from public life in August 2017, although after that he occasionally appeared at official engagements.

His last public appearance came last July at a military ceremony at Windsor Castle.

In his life, he earned a reputation for a tough, no-nonsense attitude and a propensity for occasional bigotry. He was also widely admired for his extensive charitable efforts, which predominantly focused on younger people, wildlife conservation and battling climate change.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would be remembered, “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,” Johnson said in a televised address to the nation.

“And it is to Her Majesty, and her family, that our nation’s thoughts must turn today,” he added.

Mourners gather outside Buckingham Palace after it was announced that Britain’s Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth, has died at the age of 99 [Hannah McKay/Reuters]

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, offering her condolences, said she was “saddened” by the death of the duke.

“I send my personal and deepest condolences – and those of [the Scottish government] and the people of Scotland – to Her Majesty The Queen and her family,” she tweeted.

Private head of the family

Prince Philip and the queen had four children – Prince Charles, the heir to the throne, Princess Anne, and Princes Andrew and Edward.

While he officially played second fiddle to his wife, the Duke of Edinburgh was regarded as the private head of the family.

The former naval officer, who was born on the Greek island of Corfu in 1921 and fought in World War II, often took a wry approach to his unusual position.

“Constitutionally, I don’t exist,” he once said.

Prince Philip, in his capacity of Colonel, Grenadier Guards, chats to Sergeants from 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards in their Mess at Lille Barracks in Aldershot, England [File: Matt Dunham/AP]

The prince’s charm and disinclination to tolerate those he regarded as foolish or sycophantic earned him respect from some Britons. But to others, his sometimes brusque demeanour made him appear rude and aloof.

His final years were clouded by controversy and fissures within the royal family.

His third child, Prince Andrew, was embroiled in a scandal over his friendship with US financier Jeffrey Epstein, who died in a New York prison in 2019 while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.

At the start of 2020, his grandson Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, announced they were quitting royal duties and moving to North America to escape intense media scrutiny that they found unbearable.

Prince Philip is survived by the queen and their four children, as well as eight grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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