The death of His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, at the grand old age of ninety-nine, may not have been a surprise, but it is still a moment for national sadness and for national reflection.
Prince Philip served with distinction in the Royal Navy during World War Two, in what was this nation’s darkest hour, fighting against fascism. In active service that saw him come under enemy fire on numerous occasions, and had him mentioned in dispatches for bravery, he laid down a marker for a life of service.
If he never did anything else, then I would offer my thanks to him and the men and women of that generation for making a stand against Nazism so those of us who followed could live in freedom.
Around our city there are constant reminders of his visits here. I saw some wonderful photographs this week on social media of his visit in 1953 to open Coronation Park playing fields in Hoole, in 1953, the year of the Queen’s Coronation.
Many children and young people here in Chester, across the nation and the world have been able to benefit from the Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards scheme. Established in 1956, the awards scheme aims to teach young people valuable life skills. I have heard many wonderful stories about the expeditions and so many have described them as one of the best experiences of their life.
It was the Duke’s vision to help young people from all walks of life, and I am certain his legacy will live on through this scheme for years to come.
This week in the Commons we had a day of tributes to Prince Philip. I pointed out that he and The Queen had been married for a lifetime – 73 years. They were already married four years before Sputnik 1 was launched; for sixteen years before The Beatles released ‘Please Please Me’ and for over twenty years before the first Moon landing.
They have been a constant in the entire lives of pretty much every resident of Chester and the United Kingdom.
The loss our Queen must feel on the death of her husband of so many years, is surely immeasurable. But theirs have been two lifetimes of service and the fact they remain so popular and respected is testament to their dedication to the UK and the Commonwealth.
May you rest in peace, Your Highness.