‘Deep sorrow’ as Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, dies peacefully aged 99

Members of the royal family have led an outpouring of tributes from around the world at the death of Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth.

Buckingham Palace has spoken of the Queen’s “deep sorrow” after her husband of 73 years, who had been by her side throughout her reign, died peacefully at Windsor Castle aged 99 on Friday night (Australian time).

As condolences poured in from leaders and public figures around the world, the duke’s grandson Prince Harry and wife Meghan’s charitable organisation Archewell posted a message on their website.

The PA news agency said Harry was likely to travel from the US to attend his grandfather’s funeral.

“In loving memory of His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh 1921-2021,” the message on the Archewell Foundation’s website reads.

“Thank you for your service…you will be greatly missed.”

Flags at Buckingham Palace and government buildings across the United Kingdom were lowered to half-mast and within an hour of the announcement the public began to lay flowers outside Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace.

The public has been asked not to gather and leave tributes. Photo: Getty

However mourners have been urged not to gather and leave tributes at royal residences and the public has been asked to stay away from funeral events because of the coronavirus pandemic.

An online book of condolence has been launched on the Royal Family’s official website for people to leave messages of sympathy.

The prince died two months short of his 100th birthday. He had recently spent four weeks in hospital with an infection where he was treated for a heart condition before being discharged and returned to Windsor early in March.

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson was among the first to pay tribute and said the Duke had helped steer the royal family and monarchy so “it remains an institution indisputably vital to the balance and happiness of our national life.”

“We remember the Duke … above all for his steadfast support for Her Majesty the Queen, not just as her consort, by her side, every day of her reign, but as her husband, has strength and stay of more than 70 years. And it is to Her Majesty, and her family, that our nation’s thoughts must turn today,” he said.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Prince Philip, who had visited Australia 21 times, was president and patron of nearly 50 Australian organisations.

“He embodied a generation that we will never see again,” said Mr Morrison in a statement.

Some of his trips to Australia earned international headlines for controversial comments and on one occasion he asked an Aboriginal elder: “Do you still throw spears at each other?”.

Australia’s Governor General David Hurley issued a statement expressing deep sadness and said more information would be shared about how Australians would be able to express their condolences.

Former US presidents Donald Trump, Barack Obama and George W Bush and their wives expressed their sadness.

The Duke of Edinburgh had been by his wife’s side throughout her 69-year reign, the longest in British history, and during that time earned a reputation for a tough, no-nonsense attitude and a propensity for occasional gaffes.

A Greek prince, Philip married Elizabeth in 1947, and together they had four children, eight grandchildren and nine great grandchildren.

He played a key role helping the monarchy adapt to a changing world in the post-World War II period, and behind the walls of Buckingham Palace was the one key figure the Queen could trust and turn to, knowing he could tell her exactly what he thought.

“He has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years,” Elizabeth, 94, said in a rare personal tribute to Philip in a speech marking their 50th wedding anniversary in 1997.

“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.”

Undated picture showing the Royal British couple, Queen Elizabeth II, and her husband Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, with their two children, Charles, Prince of Wales (L) and Princess Anne (R), circa 1951. Photo: OFF/AFP via Getty Images

The former naval officer, who served in the Royal Navy during the war and was mentioned in dispatches for bravery, admitted he found it hard to give up the military career he loved and to take on the job as the monarch’s consort, for which there was no clear-cut constitutional role.

In private, the prince was regarded as the unquestioned head of his family, but protocol obliged the man dubbed “the second handshake” to spend his public life literally one step behind his wife.

“There was no precedent. If I asked somebody ‘what do you expect me to do?’, they all looked blank – they had no idea, nobody had much idea,” he said in an interview to mark his 90th birthday.

After completing more than 22,000 solo appearances, Philip retired from public life in August 2017, although after that he occasionally appeared at official engagements.

His last appearance was in July at a military ceremony at Windsor Castle, the royal palace west of London where he and the monarch have resided during COVID-19 lockdowns.

Prince Philip’s last public appearance in July.

The death of the Duke comes in the midst of the worst public health crisis for generations as Britain and countries around the globe reel from the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

It has also taken place in the aftermath of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s bombshell Oprah Winfrey interview, which left the monarchy in turmoil after Meghan Markle accused an unnamed royal of racism and the institution of failing to help her when she was wanted to take her own life.

Philip will not have a state funeral nor lie in state for the public to pay their respects ahead of the funeral, the College of Arms said, with arrangements revised to meet coronavirus restrictions.

“The funeral will not be a State Funeral and will not be preceded by a Lying-in-State. His Royal Highness’s body will lie at rest in Windsor Castle ahead of the funeral in St George’s Chapel. This is in line with custom and with His Royal Highness’s wishes,” the College of Arms said on Friday.

“The funeral arrangements have been revised in view of the prevailing circumstances arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and it is regretfully requested that members of the public do not attempt to attend or participate in any of the events that make up the funeral.”

with AAP

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