House of Lords tribute to HRH The Duke of Edinburgh
Tribute by the Bishop of London
‘My Lords it is a privilege to follow so many distinguished Noble and Galant Lords including my honourable friend the Most Reverend Primate, the Archbishop of Canterbury all who have already spoken so warmly, and I wish to add my tribute to His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh. My Noble Lords will know that it is my honour not just to be the Bishop of London but also the Dean of Her Majesty’s Chapels Royal.
I would like to start with words from Alfred Tennyson:
Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,
Of course, these are words from Alfred Tennyson’s poem ‘Crossing the Bar,’ which was sung by the choir of St Paul’s Cathedral on Saturday evening as part of Evensong, following the death of His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh.
‘Crossing the Bar’ is to cross the sandbar between the tide of life with it’s outgoing flood and the ocean which lies beyond death. The poem speaks of a life well lived so that there is no sadness of farewell but instead a journey peacefully travelled, serenely and securely.
We have much to be grateful for in the life of His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh. It was a life of dedication. That dedication is clear in his naval career, during which he saw active service in the Second World War, achieving the rank of Commander. It is seen in his other passions: conservation, engineering and the Duke of Edinburgh Award. We have heard much about the Duke of Edinburgh awards not least from Baroness Grey-Thompson and I am personally grateful for the Award and it’s contribution to the formation of my children and nephews and nieces.
But I think to all of us, his dedication is clearest in his work in support of Her Majesty The Queen. In 2009 he became the longest serving British consort in the history of our nation. To reflect now on their life of dedication, to one another and to the people they govern, teaches us much about service. They have been married for over 73 years and side-by-side they’ve travelled all over the world, from Australia to America, Africa to India, flying the flag for the Commonwealth of which Her Majesty is the figurehead. They’ve shared total commitment to their duties and service, and they always had each other to lighten the burden of public life.
His Royal Highness will be remembered for his gift of putting others at ease of which others have spoken of and his ability to enter into conversation on any topic and with great knowledge. The Most Reverend Primate The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke of His Royal Highness’s ability to dissect a sermon. I was personally impressed when he engaged on a sermon just delivered whilst also recognizing the intersectionality of my health service background and of my faith. That desire for the engagement of faith with the secular world was also seen in his work with St George’s House, which thrives on debate, discussion and dialogue as a way of nurturing wisdom which can be put to use in the wider world. I and many others have benefited greatly from it’s work. His Royal Highness has touched us all and will continue to do so for generations to come.
In words used also by The Most Reverend Primate The Archbishop of Canterbury I pray that Her Majesty The Queen will know the promise of the Psalmist:
‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.’
And I pray also that as a man of faith, His Royal Highness will see His Pilot, the Good Shepherd himself, face to face.
In the words of Tennyson:
For though from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.
(Alfred Tennyson 1889)’