British High Commission mourns the loss of His Royal Highness Prince Philip

Staff members at the British High Commission in Samoa are mourning the loss of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, who passed away at the age of 99 at his home of Windsor Castle in the United Kingdom last weekend.

British High Commissioner to Samoa, His Excellency David Ward said this week has been a sad one for them but it has also been one to celebrate the long, good life that the Duke of Edinburgh lived.

“This week for us in the United Kingdom and many people around the world, a sad week because it is the week when His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh was taken away from us as he passed away last Friday. It is a sad week but of course it is also a week to reflect on his life, pay tribute to the things he did, be grateful and celebrate the contributions he made to the life of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and many countries around the world over a very long life,” said His Excellency during an interview with the Samoa Observer.

The High Commissioner said the late Prince had a wide range of interests that ranged from engineering to theology and made contributions to the Commonwealth and the world in three key areas: international relations, youth development programs and the environment.

Prince Philip was born in Corfu, Greece on 10 June, 1921 at a time when Greece and Turkey were at war, into the Greek and Danish royal families.

Prince Philip was baptised in the Greek Orthodox Church. When he married Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, he was received into the Anglican Church. 

“The three things to remember are his work for international relations particularly in the Commonwealth. He was born in a very troubled time… 100 years ago this year in June he was born, a member of the Greek royal family by birth, he was not British. 

"He was born at a time when Greece and Turkey were at war, a very existential war between the two countries and to us now that seems a very different world,” said Mr. Ward.

“He also of course fought in the Second World War. He was a serving naval officer. Again that seems now like quite distant history. I think that’s it’s a tribute to him and many others people like him who have worked trying to promote good international relations since. 

"Those sort of global wars are now unimaginable. I hope that will remain so. He was interested in many things from engineering to theology and he did work to promote them.”

The highest ranking British representative to Samoa encourages people in Samoa and elsewhere to think about and remember Prince Philip’s work with young people. He said the late Prince established the Duke of Edinburgh’s award scheme under which teenagers and young adults take part in various public service activities, volunteering or organizing sport, taking part in and leading outdoor expeditions.

“[It] helped to develop their leadership skills…and how to give service….it’s a scheme often run by schools or youth organisations…around the world, hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of people have taken part in that scheme over the years and helped to develop our current society…because it was with young people it means that that work will continue to have an effect as long as those young people are alive. It’s a contribution to the future of society a well,” said H.E. Ward.

Well before the environment became a global issue, Prince Philip helped to found the World Wildlife Fund now known as the Worldwide Fund for Nature.

“He was one of the founders of the World Wildlife Fund, now known as the Worldwide Fund for Nature. That was several decades ago I think when we were much less aware of the impact of the destructive impact of humanity…industrialisation has spread around the world or urbanization or consumerism – our impact has become greater but he was one of the first to draw attention in public or to raise the awareness of the crucial need to for our own future to protect the environment,” said the High Commissioner. 

“What I would encourage Samoan people to do, particularly young people is simply to ask older Samoans for their memories of the Duke of Edinburgh. He visited Samoa in 1977 which I can remember 1977. That was the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. She had been Queen for 25 years at that point. She did a tour of the Commonwealth countries including the South Pacific. She also did a tour of the United Kingdom and I remember my mother taking my brother and me to go and see her with the Duke of Edinburgh, in Newcastle my hometown.” 

“Older people in Samoa will remember the visit by them to Samoa and I would encourage young people here just ask their grandparents if they have any memories and what they remember of him, because his life has been a very long one. If any of us are still active at the age of 99 I’d be impressed and grateful.”

Her Majesty the Queen has lost a partner of 73 years.

“I think we can only imagine how difficult she must find it when her partner of more than 70 years passes away. They had been married for 73 years and known each other many years before that. The Queen met Prince Philip when she was 13 and perhaps decided even then that that was the person she intended to marry,” said Mr. Ward.

“They have had one of the longest marriages. The Queen herself has described Prince Philip as her strength and stay. To lose that at such a point in life must be very difficult to cope with.”

The Prince had been in the hospital for a month, from February to March of 2021 for treatment of a heart condition, His Excellency said and “like all people of 99 he had various ongoing health concerns but he remained active.” 

He was discharged from the hospital, following successful treatment. He’d had a hospital stay of almost a month which was the longest ever in his life. 

He passed away peacefully at Windsor Castle on 9 April, 2021.

Funeral services for Prince Philip will take place at 3 p.m. United Kingdom Time on Saturday the 17th which is 3 a.m. on Sunday morning in Samoa.

“The funeral will be held in line with the current restrictions by the British Government on COVID, and at this difficult time of COVID restrictions, currently there is a limit and only 30 people can attend any funeral, so it has not been possible to arrange the ceremonial funeral that we might have expected in more normal times, where we might have invited overseas guests and representatives of government,” Mr. Ward said.

“Instead it’s going to be a funeral just for members of the family. And it will take place entirely within Windsor Castle which is one of the homes of the Queen. It’s a very large home so there will be space for a procession to the chapel within the castle, where the funeral will take place. It will be televised so I am sure people in Samoa will see pictures on the news of the funeral and it will be very solemn and ceremonial. It will be much smaller in scale than what we would have expected in non-COVID times.”

Mr. Ward and his office have been quite busy passing messages of condolences back and forth. 

“It’s been a busy week for us, ensuring we can respond appropriately and make arrangements for the Condolence Book and pass condolence messages backward and forward,” he said. 

“It’s a sad moment for us but also we appreciate that it was a very long life and when someone lives such a long and good life it’s a time to be thankful as well.”

An online stream of Prince Philip’s funeral will be available at www.bbc.co.uk.

Services begin at 3 p.m. British Standard Time on Saturday 17 April, 2021 (3 a.m. Samoa Time). 

Viewers around the world are expected to tune in for the service that will take place at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.

His Excellency Ward plans to say a few words in memory of Prince Philip at the All Saints Anglican Church in Motootua.

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