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WORLD | 09-04-2021 10:04

Queen Elizabeth II's husband Prince Philip dies aged 99

Longest-serving royal consort in British history, who was a constant presence at Queen Elizabeth II's side for decades, died on Friday aged 99, Buckingham Palace has announced.

Prince Philip, the longest serving royal consort in British history, who was a constant presence at Queen Elizabeth II's side for decades, died on Friday aged 99, Buckingham Palace has announced.

The death of the Duke of Edinburgh is a profound loss for the 94-year-old monarch, who once described him as her "strength and stay all these years."

Queen Elizabeth announced his passing "with deep sorrow" after he died peacefully in the morning at Windsor Castle, west of London, the palace said in a statement.

"The Royal Family join with people around the world in mourning his loss," the statement said.

The outspoken former Navy commander devoted much of his life as the queen's husband to charity work – but was notorious for numerous gaffes, some of them causing offence.

He was admitted to hospital on February 16, and went home after a month during which he was treated for a pre-existing heart condition and an infection.

Announcing his passing, BBC television played the national anthem over a picture of Philip in his prime, dressed in military dress uniform. 

Flags were lowered to half-mast on royal and government buildings and a notice announcing his death pinned to the gates of Buckingham Palace.

"We give thanks, as a nation and a kingdom, for the extraordinary life and work of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh," Prime Minister Boris Johnson said outside 10 Downing Street. 

Johnson said Philip had "earned the affection of generations" at home, in the Commonwealth and across the world after first serving in the Royal Navy and then over nearly eight decades beside the queen.

Tributes poured in from the United States, Europe and Commonwealth countries including Australia, India and New Zealand. 

Condolences were also expressed by leaders in Ireland, where in 2011 the queen and Philip paid the first royal state visit for a century following generations of enmity with Britain.

Prior to this year's crisis over relations with the queen's grandson Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, the monarchy had to weather the 1997 death in a car crash of Harry's mother Princess Diana.

Tony Blair, who was prime minister then, lauded Philip "as a man of foresight, determination and courage" who was ahead of his time in the cause of environmental protection.

Philip retired from public duties in 2017 at the age of 96 and died just before his 100th birthday in June – a milestone that for Britons is typically marked with a congratulatory message from the queen, who is now Britain's longest-serving monarch.

Few public appearances

The couple, who celebrated their 73rd wedding anniversary in November, had been living largely in isolation at Windsor Castle, west of London, because their age put them at heightened risk from Covid-19.

Philip and the queen – isolated in what they called "HMS Bubble" – received their first vaccinations against the virus in January.

The Duke of Edinburgh was no stranger to health issues. He was previously fitted with a stent in 2011 after suffering from a blocked artery. He also had a hip operation in 2018 and in January 2019, he emerged unscathed after his vehicle was involved in a traffic accident that injured two people near the monarch's Sandringham estate in eastern England.

The prince then spent four nights in hospital in December that year, receiving treatment for what was described as a "pre-existing condition." He was discharged on Christmas Eve, in time to rejoin the rest of the royal family for the festive period.

Since the pandemic, Philip had made few public appearances. He was last seen at a staged appearance at a military ceremony at Windsor Castle in July, days after attending the wedding ceremony of his granddaughter Princess Beatrice. In November, he and the queen marked the latest anniversary of their 1947 nuptials by releasing a photograph of them together, again at Windsor.

The queen had four children with Philip – Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward – eight grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

Shelved ambitions

Philip was born on the island of Corfu with Danish and Greek royal titles. 

He fled the country when he was just 18 months old with his parents and four sisters, after his uncle, king Constantine of Greece, was forced to abdicate. The family initially settled in France.

Philip was formally introduced to princess Elizabeth, the future queen, in July 1939 and they kept in touch during the war, meeting on several occasions. 

The pair married in Westminster Abbey in London in 1947.

A rising star in the British Navy, Philip had reached the rank of commander by the time Elizabeth ascended to the throne in 1952. He eventually shelved his personal ambitions to support his wife in the role.

Over the ensuing decades he was involved in numerous charities, including the World Wide Fund For Nature and the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme for young people.

Tributes flood in

Current and former world leaders joined a chorus of condolences from around the world following the death of Prince Philip on Friday at the age of 99. 

Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin said he was "saddened" by Philip's death, adding: "Our thoughts and prayers are with Queen Elizabeth and the people of the United Kingdom at this time."

Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison ordered flags to be flown at half-mast in his country after the passing of Philip, who he said "embodied a generation that we will never see again."

"The Commonwealth family joins together in sorrow and thanksgiving for the loss and life of Prince Philip. God bless from all here in Australia," said the leader of the Commonwealth nation. 

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid tribute to Philip's military career and community work, saying his "thoughts are with the British people and the Royal family." 

"He had a distinguished career in the military and was at the forefront of many community service initiatives. May his soul rest in peace," the leader of the Commonwealth country tweeted. 

Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called Philip a loyal servant to the United Kingdom who "lived a long life of service to his country."

"We are deeply saddened by the loss of His Royal Highness Prince Philip. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Royal family, the people of the Commonwealth, and all who loved him dearly," Maas tweeted. 

EU Commission head Ursula von der Leyen said on Twitter she was "saddened to hear of the passing of His Royal Highness Prince Philip." 

"I would like to extend my sincere sympathy to Her Majesty The Queen, the Royal Family and the people of the United Kingdom on this very sad day."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also expressed his "deepest condolences" the the Royal family. "Prince Phillip was the consummate public servant and will be much missed in Israel and across the world," he wrote. 

Former US president George W. Bush said Philip had represented his country "with dignity," honouring his "remarkable life."

"He devoted himself to worthy causes and to others," Bush said in a statement. "He represented the United Kingdom with dignity and brought boundless strength and support to the sovereign."

The head of UNESCO also tweeted her "sincere condolences" to the royal family and the United Kingdom after Philip's death. 

"His Royal Highness Philip was a pillar of English modern history and a strong advocate of Planet action through the Duke of Edinburgh Conservation Award. He will be missed," Audrey Azoulay said on Twitter. 

 

– TIMES/AFP

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