Boris Johnson leads UK tributes to Prince Philip
Britain enters a week of mourning for ‘much-loved and highly respected public figure’
Flowers with condolence messages are placed outside Windsor Castle following the death of the Duke of Edinburgh. Photograph: Andy Rain/ EPA
Boris Johnson has led tributes to Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, following his death on Friday aged 99 as Britain enters a week of mourning ahead of his funeral. Flags on public buildings flew at half-mast and the tenor bell at Westminster Abbey tolled 99 times but, because of coronavirus restrictions, Buckingham Palace asked the public not to gather to honour the duke.
All BBC radio networks carried five hours of news and tributes to Prince Philip after the palace announced his death shortly after noon on Friday. In a statement outside 10 Downing Street, the prime minister praised the “extraordinary life” of the man who was married to Queen Elizabeth for 73 years.
“It is to Her Majesty, and her family, that our nation’s thoughts must turn today. Because they have lost not just a much-loved and highly respected public figure, but a devoted husband and a proud and loving father, grandfather and, in recent years, great-grandfather,” Boris Johnson said.
“Like the expert carriage driver that he was, he helped to steer the royal family and the monarchy so that it remains an institution indisputably vital to the balance and happiness of our national life.”
Mr Johnson told his cabinet later that the public would have a chance over the coming days to reflect on Prince Philip’s life, work and legacy. The government has cancelled all scheduled ministerial appearances and interviews and campaigning for local elections in England, and parliamentary elections in Scotland and Wales have been suspended. MPs will return to Westminster on Monday afternoon to pay tribute to Prince Philip.
The palace did not immediately release details of the funeral arrangements but it is expected to be a small service at St George’s Chapel in Windsor on Saturday, April 17th. In accordance with his wishes, there will be no lying in state and no state funeral, and funeral plans that have long been made will have to be adapted to take account of coronavirus restrictions.
The Press Association reported on Friday that Prince Harry is expected to return from the United States for his grandfather’s funeral but that it is not certain his wife Meghan, who is pregnant, will join him.
Labour leader Keir Starmer said Britain had lost an extraordinary public servant in Prince Philip, noting his distinguished service in the Royal Navy during the second World War and his “commitment and devotion” to the queen.
“Their marriage has been a symbol of strength, stability and hope, even as the world around them changed – most recently during the pandemic,” he said.
US president Joe Biden paid tribute to Prince Philip, as did his predecessors Donald Trump, Barack Obama and George Bush. Mr Trump, who met the duke when he made a state visit to Britain during his presidency, said he embodied “the noble soul and proud spirit” of Britain and the Commonwealth.
“Prince Philip defined British dignity and grace. He personified the quiet reserve, stern fortitude, and unbending integrity of the United Kingdom,” he said.
“Over the past few years, Melania and I were honoured to have the opportunity to visit the United Kingdom. We saw first-hand how the monarchy epitomises and carries on the virtues of the British people – and no one did so more than Prince Philip.”
Prince Philip, who died two months before his hundredth birthday, returned to Windsor Castle three weeks ago after a month in hospital where he received cardiac treatment.