Over the past few days so many moving words and thoughtful reflections have been spoken about the life and work of HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. And, although I am almost certain, Prince Philip himself would have raised a sceptical eyebrow at all the rich tributes that have been paid to him - much preferring us all just to ‘get on with it’ - it is vital that we do indeed pause to celebrate such a rich life of public service.
For seven decades Prince Philip was a towering presence in the public life of our country and the wider Commonwealth. He was a decorated Royal Navy officer through the Second World War and then long serving and distinguished Royal Consort to the Queen. His contribution to our civil society and common good through the Princes Trust and numerous other charities and good causes goes far beyond what most of us could hope to achieve in ten lifetimes. First and foremost, though, Prince Philip was a husband and a father, a grandfather and great grandfather. It is this deeply personal dimension that was so apparent throughout his funeral on Saturday. Along with many millions of people around the globe I watched Prince Philip’s funeral with a huge sense of thankfulness for his life - a century so full of meaningful service, and duties fully honoured. In these times of Covid restrictions, what we were privileged to share on our television screens was a family mourning the loss of their champion. After a long and full life, it was time to say goodbye.
This has been such a challenging and poignant year in our national life. So many lives have been lost to Covid, so many livelihoods shaken, and exciting opportunities put on pause. The death of Prince Philip has again reminded us of the importance of our own families and, indeed, inspired us afresh of the central place of public service and duty which sit at the heart of our nation. In Parliament last week we have also been paying tribute to two parliamentarians who have recently passed away – Dame Cheryl Gillan and Baroness Shirley Williams. From different sides of the political isle they were both trailblazers who set supreme examples of service to their country and to the communities they represented. Even in our sadness at these losses, we can count ourselves fortunate to have such a rich heritage to celebrate. May it inspire us to greater service and an even brighter future.