The speech made by Theresa May, the former Prime Minister and current Conservative MP for Maidenhead, in the House of Commons on 12 April 2021.
I join with the Prime Minister and everyone across this House in sending my heartfelt condolences to Her Majesty the Queen on the death of His Royal Highness the Prince Philip. Our thoughts and prayers are with Her Majesty and the whole royal family.
In recent days, there have been many tributes to Prince Philip: some from those who knew him well, some from those who had barely met him, and some from those who had never met him, but whose lives he had touched. I had the privilege of meeting him and having a number of conversations with him. He was a truly remarkable man; a man of so many talents. We have heard some of them referred to already today: a distinguished naval officer, an inventor, an innovator, a designer, a painter, a sportsman, and so much else.
What always struck me when he spoke, when I was having those conversations with him, was not just the incredible breadth and wide range of interests that he had, but the depth of knowledge that he had about each of those interests. He did not just dip into a subject; he did not pick something up because it was fashionable. He was deeply interested, he cared, and he understood the importance of getting to know the issues that he was involved in. He was indeed a man ahead of his time, particularly in the areas of the environment and conservation, but that was not a passing whim. He deeply loved the natural world; he understood nature; and he was passionate about wanting future generations to be able to enjoy and benefit from the natural world, too.
I remember, on my first visit to Balmoral as Prime Minister, Prince Philip driving myself and my husband around the estate and talking to us about it. It was if he knew every single inch of it. He talked about the ancient Caledonian forest, about the birds, many of which were protected, about the animals and plants on the estate, about the changes he had seen over the years, and about what was needed to ensure that the environment could be protected and enjoyed by future generations. He was indeed a man ahead of his time. He showed his deep knowledge, but he was also an immensely practical person.
He was also a man of high standards. That did indeed come through in his attention to detail in the cooking of the meat at the Balmoral barbecues. But I also remember a black tie event, hosted by the then mayor of the royal borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, which Prince Philip was coming down from Windsor castle to attend, but probably for no more than half an hour. Now, some people might have said, “You’ll have to take me as you find me, so I’ll just turn up and that will be it,” but he dressed immaculately in black tie. He took the time and trouble because he had high standards, but also because he respected the event and the people attending, and he wanted them to be at their ease.
I remember my last day at Balmoral. My husband and I, as everybody knows, enjoy walking. Prince Philip had very kindly suggested a particular walk, so we were grateful for the suggestion and set off. When we got back to the castle, several hours later, we were told that Prince Philip did indeed enjoy this walk, but normally he drove around it in a car. I am not sure whether it was a test—and, if it was, whether we passed it. On that last visit, when we went to say our farewells, initially we could not find Prince Philip. When I eventually caught up with him, he was watching the cricket. How I would have loved to have stayed and watched the cricket with him.
I am a Berkshire MP, and in Berkshire we feel a particular connection with the royal family. Prince Philip set up the Prince Philip Trust Fund, which provides grants to individuals and causes in the royal borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, and many of my constituents will have benefited from that trust fund. Among the causes it focuses on are young people, and this is reflected, as others have said, in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme. It is one of his particular legacies that he had this passion for enabling young people to find themselves, challenge themselves, broaden their horizons and develop what are, for some, life-changing skills.
Millions across the world have much to be grateful to him for, but perhaps the most important aspect of his life was his absolute commitment to supporting Her Majesty the Queen. It is in no way comparable, but I do know how important it is to have a husband—a partner—who is a source of strength and a rock in times of trouble. As a hugely talented person, Prince Philip could have been enormously successful in his own right, but he put his life to ensuring the success of his wife. It was that willingness to put himself second and to serve, to understand the importance of duty and to exercise it day in, day out, that will be his true lasting legacy, and that should be an inspiration to us all.
All of us here in the UK and across the Commonwealth have so much to be grateful to him for, and we say thank you. He understood the requirements of responsibility, the demands of duty and the sacrifices of service. We will never see his like again. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.