Over the last few weeks, the nation and many countries around the commonwealth have paid tribute to HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. The duke being the duke had very fixed views on his funeral arrangements. No fuss, no sermons, no tributes and all in line with the same COVID restriction every family in the UK has been enduring for the last year. The insistence of no tribute was probably a good decision for how can we possibly summarise almost 100 years of life in a ten or fifteen minute eulogy. The media reflection during the week of what he did in life was possibly the best tribute we could ever pay to this man.
I don't know whether you ever meet Prince Philip in a face to face situation. Most of my immediate family have meet him. My mum and dad where in a line up when he visited the Royal British Legion in Londonderry a decade and a half ago. And of course, they were the couple the Queen and Prince Philip stopped to have a chat with.
My mother in law met him in Buckingham Palace when accompanying her daughter to collect her Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award. I never every met Prince Philip but I was seriously involved in the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme and helped many young people achieve bronze, silver and gold, including a young 16-year-old woman who was later to become my wife.
The Duke's influence reached many millions of families across the world not only as a royal consort but in many of the everyday activities of the members of the commonwealth. He was associated with 992 different organisations either as president or patron. I struggle sometimes with three parishes.
The duke had an incredible life, long lived and extremely active. It's difficult to imagine that he started life in the UK as an asylum seeker after the abdication of his father King Constantine 1 of Greece. He was smuggled out of Corfu by the royal navy in an orange box. Somethings seldom change we still have asylum seekers coming to the UK in more modern versions of an orange box with an outboard motor attachment.
But Prince Philip's most important role was consort to her majesty the Queen. In fact he was the longest living consort to a British monarch. Those of you who have followed the box set "The Crown" will be aware that in the early years the young Philip found his new role difficult.
No male had been in this position before. The royal household and successive governments struggled to identify a role for the Prince. After all he held no formal position in either royal duties or in the structure of Government and yet he managed to establish a significant role in many theatres of British and global activity.
His love of the environment, he championed sport, he had a keen interest in industry his world wildlife interests and of course as a serving royal naval officer, his love of all things military. The Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme will surely be the ongoing legacy of this man and all that it did for the young people of the Commonwealth.
Of course like the rest of us he had his faults his sharp wit very often got him into hot water. He was a man who spoke his mind and didn't suffer fools gladly. We have all heard of the incidences where the Duke got it in the neck for something he said, did or didn't do.
But in all of his roles surely his support for the Queen took paramount importance. They were deeply in love and between them created a sound base to unite this country in a way that politicians down through the years failed have failed to do. And now everything has changed as it usually does when a key member of any family dies and leaves an unfillable hole.
As a nation we stand at the end of an era or maybe more accurately the beginning of the end of an era as all attention now focuses on her Majesty the Queen. Remember, the vast majority of citizens who make up the commonwealth have never known any other monarch than the Queen. And now she appears as a solitary figure without the support of her most important confidant, Prince Philip.
We could look forward with a degree of pessimism at this point in our nation's future. But for the fact that the Queen and her late husband had another important influence in their live. They both had an unshakable faith in God and of his son Jesus Christ. They believed in a life after death and a resurrection on the last day. That will be a huge support for her in the days and weeks ahead. And it should be a huge encouragement to us as well that we have a Queen who really is a defender of the faith and takes that responsibility very seriously indeed.
So my prayer going forward from here is that God will be merciful to our Queen. That he will give her his comfort and peace and that the death of this stalwart member of the royal family may deliver healing to a divided family and return some sense of unity and purpose.
As for His Royal Highness Prince Philip, the words that Jesus spoke to his followers and the accolade that awaits all of us as children of God should suffice.
"Come you that are blessed by my father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world".