A message from Very Rev Professor David Fergusson on the death of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh
Published on 10 April 2021
A message from Very Rev Professor David Fergusson, Dean of the Chapel Royal in Scotland and Dean of the Order of the Thistle, on the death of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.
We are deeply saddened to hear of the death of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. He was a remarkable man who played a hugely significant role in supporting Her Majesty to fulfil the obligations and duties of the Monarch; prayers will be said throughout the Church of Scotland for Her Majesty and for all of the close family and friends for whom his loss will be deeply felt at this time.
Much will be written about Prince Philip and much will be made of his candour and even of his occasionally outspoken views, but the lasting impression must be of the longest-serving and most faithful consort that any British monarch could ever have hoped to have by her side.
Before his marriage to the Princess Elizabeth he relinquished his Greek and Danish royal titles and became a naturalised British subject, adopting the surname Mountbatten from his maternal grandparents. As a young married couple, they might have expected to spend the early years of their marriage beyond the public gaze, but the premature death of King George VI meant that Philip, husband and father, had to adapt in short order to the life of being the Queen’s consort. It is a tribute to his character and commitment that he found creative and fulfilling ways of supporting Her Majesty throughout the highs and lows of the longest reign in British history.
Prince Philip’s ties to Scotland were no small part of his life. Part of his education was spent at Gordonstoun School. In 1956, he gave his name to the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme which has enhanced the life and experience of countless young people over more than sixty years. As Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh (1953–2011), he took a lively interest in its work, becoming a regular visitor to its several campuses, including New College, the home of the School of Divinity, and providing vital support for new initiatives.
He truly loved the Scottish Highlands and shared with Her Majesty a passion for Balmoral together with a concern for its parish community. The royal couple were generous hosts to a succession of Church of Scotland ministers who were weekend house guests and visiting preachers at Crathie Kirk. Over the years he must have heard hundreds of sermons delivered by ministers and Moderators; he listened keenly and many will remember their theme being picked over at the lunch table or in a late-night conversation where the meaning of life and the state of the world were widely reviewed.
No one who enjoyed Prince Philip’s company could deny that they were in the presence of a keen and agile mind, but they also knew how much he was able to subdue his natural gifts in order to play his part as ‘liege man of life and limb’. These may be old fashioned terms, but they describe the loyalty of one who played a significant part in holding the monarchy together through years of significant and even turbulent change.
While we in the Church of Scotland acknowledge the contribution that Prince Philip has made to the fabric of our public life we know, however, that he will particularly be mourned as a husband, a father, a grandfather and a great-grandfather. Our prayers will be offered for those whose loss is more personal and profound, especially Her Majesty the Queen.
Very Rev Professor David Fergusson and Very Rev Dr Derek Browning have provided a selection of readings, hymns and prayers, marking the death of the Duke of Edinburgh, for use by ministers and congregations.