I remember being particularly touched by what Her Majesty The Queen said of Prince Philip on their golden wedding anniversary: “He is someone who doesn’t take easily to compliments. He has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years, and I, and his whole family, and this and many other countries, owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim or we shall ever know.”
To reflect now on their life of dedication, to one another and to the people, is special. The fact their golden wedding anniversary was almost a quarter of a century ago is in itself remarkable. They have been married over 73 years, with four children, eight grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren. Side-by-side they’ve travelled all over the world, from Australia to America, Africa to India, flying the flag for the Commonwealth headed up by Her Majesty. They’ve shared total commitment to their duties and service and they always had each other to lighten the burden of public life with a little bit of laughter.
The Queen was in Kenya at the time of her father’s death on a tour of the Commonwealth. A very young woman, away from home, suddenly and devastatingly bereaved, she made a simple statement of commitment, a statement that she would be there for those she governed, that she was dedicating herself to them.
In a message released on Accession Day, Princess Elizabeth wrote: In this special year, as I dedicate myself anew to your service, I hope we will all be reminded of the power of togetherness and the convening strength of family, friendship and good neighbourliness. Beside her then, as he has been since, was Prince Philip.
‘Dedication’ is a word rooted in classical and biblical language: in this context, to be ‘dedicated’ is to be absolutely removed from other uses, being completely available to God. Whilst it was the Princess who gave the historic message, the commitment to dedication was also made by Prince Philip.
That dedication is clear in his naval career, during which he saw active service in the Second World War, achieving the rank of Commander. But I think to all of us it is clearest in his work in support of The Queen. In 2009 he became the longest serving British consort in the history of our nation. His dedication to his other passions: conservation, engineering and the Duke of Edinburgh Award, has touched us all, and will continue to do so for generations.
To declare a lifelong dedication is to take a huge risk, to embark on a costly venture. It is clear to me that The Queen’s words spoken about her husband over 20 years ago remain as true today: we owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim, or we shall ever know.
My prayers are with Her Majesty The Queen and the Royal Family at this time. I pray that they may know God’s comfort and peace.