Ian Murray – 2021 Speech on HRH The Duke of Edinburgh

The speech made by Ian Murray, the Labour MP for Edinburgh South, in the House of Commons on 12 April 2021.

I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to say a few words on behalf of my constituents in tribute and condolence this afternoon. As has been said already in the House and will no doubt be repeated throughout these tributes and for months and years to come, on Friday we lost an extraordinary public servant who dedicated his long life to our country, transformed the lives of millions of young people across the world and promoted the issue of global conservation well before it was widely understood by the vast majority of the population. For more than seven decades, he was a constant at the Queen’s side. We know from all that has been said and written how much the Queen cherished the support, counsel and love of her husband.

Prince Philip, of course, had a long association with Scotland that dates back to his schooldays at Gordonstoun in the mid-1930s. But it is on my city—the city of his title, Edinburgh—that I would like to say a few words in tribute this afternoon. He was the patron of around 30 charities and educational institutions based in Edinburgh alone, not to mention the many thousands across the whole country that we have heard about today, including Heriot-Watt University, the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, the University of Edinburgh Graduates’ Association and the Botanical Society of Scotland; he was patron and a freeman of Edinburgh itself; Edinburgh chamber of commerce and enterprise, the Edinburgh Indian Association, the Edinburgh press club and, of course, the Edinburgh Royal Navy club—how could it not be? His beloved Royal Yacht Britannia, which he helped to design, is retired in Leith in Edinburgh.

He was a friend of the Royal Scottish Academy of Art and Architecture and the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, a patron of the National Galleries of Scotland, the Rotary Club of Edinburgh, the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the University of Edinburgh athletics club, and of course, he was chancellor of Edinburgh University for nearly 60 years from the 1950s—a position that he accepted with the joke that

“only a Scotsman could survive Scottish education”;

I am not sure whether that was born of experience at Gordonstoun. He was heavily involved in all aspects of the university. He would preside over special graduation ceremonies. He would help to induct new professors. He attended long service awards for senior staff. He would attend the installation of the rector by students. He enjoyed the uproar of the rector’s ceremony and complained to former Professor O’Shea that he had made the event “too orderly”. He partook in the granting of fellowships to postgraduate students at the University of Edinburgh undertaking advance and complex research. However, he never shied away from engaging with the students on their complicated topics—everything from particle physics to Dolly the sheep. In fact, one recipient said afterwards:

“I feel I’ve just been put through another exam, except it was much harder than the last one.”

He had an official Edinburgh colour, Edinburgh green, which his team wore and which lined his private car, and his own official standard, featuring the lions and hearts of Denmark, a white cross on blue for Greece, two black pales on white for the Mountbatten family and the coat of arms of the city of Edinburgh. We have heard much this afternoon about the founding of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards in 1956, which he chaired until his 80th birthday. He regularly attended the gold ceremonies hosted at Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh. For many young people, those awards were the closest they would get to a traditional high school graduation, so the Duke of Edinburgh always took the time to individually speak to as many of the awardees as he could. It is a scheme that transformed the life chances of young people across the world, from the prince’s own school at Gordonstoun all the way to the school that I attended in Edinburgh.

Many people recall anecdotes of his sharp wit and humour. Everyone who has paid tribute since Friday has talked of him as a funny, engaging, warm and loving man. He once joked, while stuck in a lift during a visit to Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University, that it

“could only happen in a technical college.”

He was not just the Duke of Edinburgh in name but the Duke of Edinburgh in his actions and public service too. His legacy to the UK, the Commonwealth overseas territories and the wider world will be celebrated and will live on for many generations. His contribution to my city of Edinburgh will be unmatched.

Losing a loved one is always so hard. I lost my own father when he was just 39. His grandchildren will only know him by the stories that we tell and the anecdotes that we recall. But it does not matter whether you are 39 or 99, a duke or a cooper; the hurt and loss to those loved ones and friends never diminishes. On behalf of my constituents in Edinburgh South and the city of his title, we send our heartfelt condolences and thoughts to Her Majesty the Queen, his close and extended family and all who will miss him so much.