Prince Philip: A tribute in words and pictures

His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh died on April 9, 2021, at the age of 99. Here, Country Life takes a look at the extraordinary impact of a man who shaped the nation over the course of nine decades.

In his magisterial 1991 biography of Prince Philip, Tim Heald declared: ‘If there wasn’t a Duke of Edinburgh now, we should have to think seriously about inventing one.’ Heald followed the then 70- year-old Duke for a few days of engagements and found himself flailing in the indefatigable Prince’s wake through a packed diary.

The Duke was so long-lived that few of us remember when the handsome Prince and his young and beautiful Queen blazed across the world stage, but, in recent years, the Netflix series The Crown reminded a global audience of the young couple determined to change the world, even if the show’s soap-opera approach was often rather more fiction than fact.

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Heald was allowed unprecedented access for his book and found himself struggling to fit all The Duke’s accomplishments and activities into his book’s pages. It was a routine that had barely reduced by the time Prince Philip retired from public duties in August 2017.

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Anyone who still believes that the members of the Royal Family live in pampered idleness would do well to study The Duke’s diary and the sheer number of events packed into a single day, every day, for decade after decade.

The Duke of Edinburgh attends the Presentation Reception for The Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award holders in the gardens at the Palace of Holyrood House in 2017. Photo by Jane Barlow – WPA Pool/Getty Images

They should also speak to all the thousands of people His Highness met over those decades, most of whom would state their pleasure at meeting the avuncular Duke, as well as the many young people who have enjoyed and benefited from the awards scheme he set up.

Over his lifetime of service, he served as a patron of more than 780 organisations  — and, for him, that didn’t mean being a remote name on the letterhead. His was a very hands-on, active participation, in many cases lasting for more than 50 years.

Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh during the transfer of the Colonel-in-Chief of The Rifles at Windsor Castle on July 22, 2020 in Windsor, England. Photo by Samir Hussein/ Samir Hussein/WireImage

The organisations involved reflect his wide-ranging interests, from conservation and engineering to school playing fields. If that wasn’t enough, he was also keen to promote discussions between races and faiths, organising conferences to facilitate such dialogues, even if the public at large was unaware of them.

The Duke of Edinburgh in Malta, October 20, 1949. Photo by Keystone-FranceGamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Ever wary of empty fame, he knew the public could devour you as quickly as they could adore you:

‘In the first years of The Queen’s reign, the level of adulation you wouldn’t believe it… It could have been corroding. It would have been very easy to play to the gallery, but I took a conscious decision not to do that. Safer not to be too popular. You can’t fall too far.’

He may not have always been appreciated, but his achievements will speak for him for many years to come.

To celebrate his contribution to public life, we’ve collected some of Prince Philip’s most memorable pictures over the years.