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The Legacy of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

A sad detail about the death of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, at the age of 99, was that he was two months short of his 100th birthday. Many tributes and condolences have been made by various people, from world leaders to everyday citizens. The United Kingdom now enters an eight-day mourning period and prepares itself for the funeral on Saturday, 17th April. It is fitting that we should understand what legacy the Duke of Edinburgh leaves to this land and the globe.

Of course, it is challenging to suggest that Prince Phillip has one underlining legacy.

The prince has a multi-layered legacy, which we can provide just a few of these layers in this article.   

Speech paying tribute to Prince Phillip by PM Boris Johnson

Strong work ethic

Historians studying the Royal Family have always stressed his work ethic which played a crucial role within this family. This value was seen throughout his life, from his time in the Navy to his royal duties. To many observers, Prince Phillip was by the Queen’s side for most of her life, and the Queen often referred to Phillip as her “strength and stay.” It was clear that Phillip had these values of duty, self-sacrifice and loyalty to the country, all wrapped up within hard work.  

Despite his elderly age, by August 2017, when he retired from royal duties, he completed 22,219 solo engagements and 5,493 speeches. For someone who started these engagements in 1952, that is a very notable achievement. He was the longest-serving consort of a reigning British monarch and the longest-lived male member of the royal family. Even at his age, he still tried to do his best to help the country and the Royal Family in any way possible. These include being a patron, president, or member of over 780 organisations and serving as the Duke of Edinburgh Award’s chairman.

But one of these things that often gets forgotten about is his role in reforming Buckingham Palace and the royal family.

Reforming the Royal Family and the Palace

According to his private secretary Mike Parker, he was “dragging some of the staff into the twentieth century” by creating his royal family role. One significant reform was allowing the royal family to embrace the modern media, such as encouraging the Queen to have a television. From there, she was able to screen her annual Christmas broadcast from 1957 till now, thanks to Phillip’s initiative of opening up the Royal Family. He fought to have telephones installed in 1952 and pushed for the Queen’s coronation in 1953 to be televised.   

He was also the first royal to do a televised interview, which did cause some protocol issues. However, soon after his first interview, many royals started to engage more with the media, such as the Queen’s Christmas broadcast. He even brought computers into his office, which at the time was novel and was behind the informal palace lunches that had guests from various backgrounds attend. Charles Anson, who was the Queen’s press secretary from 1990 to 1997, said that Phillip “wanted to make the royal household and the monarchy less stuffy, not to have so much formality everywhere.”

Despite his ambitions clashing with traditionalists in the palace, what is undeniable is that Phillip brought in a massive change for the royal family. It is clear that without him, we wouldn’t have seen the Christmas broadcast or the royals conducting interviews. As much as there is still a debate around the Royal family, Phillip was the first person to open this institution to the media and the modern world that we see today.

He wanted to make the royal household and the monarchy less stuffy, not to have so much formality everywhere

Charles Anson, former Queen’s press secretary

The Duke of Edinburgh award

Although, without a doubt, Prince Phillip will be remembered for the Duke of Edinburgh Award (DofE) set up in 1956. For sixty years, millions of people between the ages of 14-25 have participated in this award scheme, encouraging young people to set goals and challenge themselves. It also helps with personal discovery, self-reliance, commitment, responsibility and service to the community. The scheme has three individual attainment levels, such as bronze, silver and gold, and each of these levels has an increasing degree of commitment. In the United Kingdom, more than three million awards have been achieved since 1956, and the programme has since expanded to 144 nations, showcasing how successful the program has been.

The prince has always been interested in young people and was inspired by his school days and organisations such as the National Playing Fields Association and the Outward Bound Trust. According to him, the DofE was here to help “countless young people on their sometimes-difficult path to adulthood”, and he refers to the scheme as “a do-it-yourself growing-up kit.”

There have been many success stories birthed because of the programme, including Hannah Cockroft, who said taking part in the award helped her start her Paralympic career. Lucy Aur was also another individual supported by the DofE, when she suffered from social anxiety. She became more confident by working her way through the bronze, silver and gold awards by teaching primary school children during her volunteer work. Sky News journalist Inzamam Rashid wrote about his experiences with the prince, such as when Rashid gave a speech at a DofE award event the prince helped with his tie.   

Ruth Marvel, who is the CEO of the scheme, said that “The DofE has played a crucial role in supporting young people to survive and thrive despite the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic, and we will continue to build on his legacy.”

“You probably could say without the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award I wouldn’t be a Paralympic champion.

Hannah Cockroft, Wheelchair racer who won  five Paralympic, 10 world and two European titles, in the 100m, 400m and 800m T34 races.

Brutal and, at times, questionable honesty

As much as Prince Phillip has provided a lot for the country and potentially to the world, he has also been very open with his thoughts, some of which have raised a few eyebrows.

At a Battle of Britain event, he was seen saying the f-word to a photographer after losing his patience over how long it took to take a picture of himself and a few others, such as with the Duke of Cambridge and the Earl and Countess of Wessex. He said Stoke on Trent was “ghastly” and said the same thing when touring China in 1986. During his visit to Papua New Guinea in 1998, he spoke to a British student and said, “you managed not to get eaten then?” He said “Damn fool question” at a BBC journalist named Caroline Wyatt at a banquet at the Elysée Palace after asking Queen Elizabeth if she was enjoying her stay in Paris in 2006.

In 1961 at the Scottish Women’s Institute, he suggested that “British women can’t cook.” One of his most famous comments brought up at the beginning of the current pandemic was the alleged joke he told to the media in Germany 30 years ago. He said that “in the event that I am reincarnated, I would like to return as a deadly virus, to contribute something to solving overpopulation.” As much as he has a legacy of outstanding achievements, there were times where he did make a few questionable comments, which have been picked up.  

Remembering Prince Phillip

As the United Kingdom enters mourning, Prince Phillip’s legacy has been talked about and cannot be described simply in one word, one sentence or one perspective. He is an individual that has contributed to the royal family and the country in a variety of ways, if that is by his hard work, his reforms, his awards and his brutal honesty. He has brought many people much joy and has helped many people seen by the DofE award. He has even been remembered in meme culture, which some people question if that should be allowed.

Regardless of if people like or dislike the Royal Family, Prince Phillip has a legacy and its not any old legacy, rather a legacy full of layers.

Announcement of the death of The Duke of Edinburgh | The Royal Family
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Hamish Hallett is a journalist/broadcaster part of the scribe team at Common Sense. He has a deep interest in current affairs, both domestically and internationally, which you can see through his written work and his podcast called A Spoonful of News. Hamish loves to understand what makes people tick and get to the root of today's issues. Away from the network, Hamish has a profound interest in reading books, keeping active, travailing, meeting new and exciting people and controversially having ham and pineapple on pizza.

Hamish Hallett
Hamish Hallett is a journalist/broadcaster part of the scribe team at Common Sense. He has a deep interest in current affairs, both domestically and internationally, which you can see through his written work and his podcast called A Spoonful of News. Hamish loves to understand what makes people tick and get to the root of today's issues. Away from the network, Hamish has a profound interest in reading books, keeping active, travailing, meeting new and exciting people and controversially having ham and pineapple on pizza.

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