Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, the longest-serving consort to a monarch in British history, has died at the age of 99, Buckingham Palace has announced.
Prince Philip, whom the Queen described as her “strength and stay” during her record-breaking reign, passed away at Windsor Castle on Friday.
The palace said in a statement: “It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen announces the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
“His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle.”
The Royal Family join with people around the world in mourning his loss.
The Duke was last seen in public on March 16 as he left the private King Edward VII hospital, where he had been recuperating following heart surgery at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, a leading cardiac unit.
He had been admitted to the hospital on Feb 16 for “rest and observation” after feeling unwell.
But that stay was extended and the palace later revealed he was being treated for an infection. After 13 nights, he was transferred to St Bartholomew’s for specialist cardiac treatment. Royal aides revealed that on March 3, he underwent “a successful procedure for a pre-existing heart condition”.
He was carefully shielded as he left the King Edward VII hospital in a wheelchair and was helped into a car for the 27-mile trip back to Windsor Castle, where he was reunited with the Queen following 28 nights as an in-patient, his longest ever hospital stay.
Previously, the Duke was last seen in public in July 2020, when, despite his advanced years, he briefly returned to royal duties to hand over his role as Colonel-in-Chief of The Rifles.
The Duke left strict isolation at Windsor Castle to be honoured by one of his oldest military ties after 67 years of service, accepting thanks and touching good wishes of “fair winds and following seas”.
He was also pictured at Princess Beatrice’s wedding that month, and photographed alongside the Queen for his 99th birthday in June.
Last November marked the release of the last official photograph, when the Duke was pictured sitting alongside the Queen at Windsor Castle as they admired a homemade card made by their great grandchildren Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, ahead of their 73rd wedding anniversary.
Since March 2020, the Duke had largely lived in strict isolation at Windsor, as a lockdown precaution against Covid-19.
It was a welcome silver lining of the pandemic that allowed the Duke and Her Majesty to spend those last few months together, enjoying each other’s company for more time than they would otherwise have managed.
The Duke had been admitted to the King Edward VII hospital in Marylebone, central London, on Feb 16 for a few days’ rest and observation after feeling unwell.
While it was not an emergency admission and he walked in unaided, that stay was extended and Buckingham Palace later revealed he was being treated for an infection.
After 13 nights at the private hospital, he was transferred to St Bartholomew’s – a cardiac specialist NHS centre in the shadow of St Paul’s Cathedral.
In public, he had appeared in good health since Christmas Eve 2019, when he walked unaided from King Edward VII’s following a four-night stay for an undisclosed, pre-existing condition.
A royal ceremonial funeral with full military honours had been expected to take place in 10 days’ time, although coronavirus restrictions will now alter some of those arrangements.
No further details have yet been released about the funeral, codenamed Operation Forth Bridge by the Royal Household, as the final say about the nature of the ceremony rests with the Queen.
However, Palace insiders have said the Duke specified he wanted a “low key” funeral at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, where he will also be interred.
The Duke’s body is expected to be taken to the Chapel Royal at St James’s Palace in London, where it will lie until the day of the funeral. From there it will be taken by road to Windsor Castle.
Pre-pandemic, around 800 mourners had been expected to be invited to the funeral, drawn from the Duke’s military units, the charities of which he was patron, and people associated with the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme.
They would have been given access to the Chapel Royal to pay their last respects, but it would not have been open to the general public who will be directed towards a book of condolence instead.
The Queen Mother was interred in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, next to her husband George VI and the Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret, and the chapel is expected to become the final resting place of the Duke.
Duke’s health history
His death comes after years of remarkable stamina, in which the Duke undertook more public engagements than much younger senior Royals.
In 2016, he carried out official meetings and visits on 110 days of the year, remaining patron or president of around 800 organisations and taking an active interest in his Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme.
At the time of his 90th birthday, he had declared that he intended to cut back on his public duties, but remained a stalwart presence at a range of engagements throughout Britain.
Although His Royal Highness claimed publicly to be nearing his “sell-by date”, there was little evidence of that in his public utterances, which remained as forthright as ever.
In May 2017, the Palace announced that the Duke would be stepping back from official duties from the autumn, in the closest thing the Royal family comes to retirement.
Then, it was understood he hoped to remain engaged with his favourite causes, free from the pressure of regular public appearances in later life.
After a series of public appearances in which he appeared on fine form, including Trooping the Colour and Royal Ascot, he was hospitalised again that June for two nights.
Fears for his health were played down, with aides saying he was in “good spirits” and out of bed quickly.
Following a successful hip replacement operation and a rumoured broken rib in 2018, he celebrated the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at St George’s Chapel in May, appearing delighted at his grandson’s happiness and listening intently to a visiting American preacher.
In early 2019, he astonished the world by walking away unscathed from a serious car accident which saw his Land Rover roll onto its side near Sandringham. He gave up his driving licence shortly afterwards.
However, he was hospitalised again that December, when he was airlifted to a private London hospital from Sandringham for treatment and observation for what Buckingham Palace described as a “pre-existing condition”.
Palace aides sought to play down the development, insisting there was “no cause for alarm” but the Duke was understood to have been in ill health for several weeks and it was clear he was getting ever frailer.
The Duke was re-admitted on February 16, spending more than a week under the observation of doctors as he was treated for an infection.
The Earl of Wessex, his youngest son, said that the time that the Royal family was keeping its “fingers crossed” and that his father was “a lot better” and was keen to get home.
Duke’s action-packed life
Since his retirement, and pre-pandemic, the Duke had largely been living at Wood Farm on the Sandringham estate.
He was an incredibly active man who enjoyed good health for much of his life.
In his latter years, he was a regular at the Royal Windsor Horse Show, and defied his age to enjoy his hobby of carriage driving in the local parks.
Being a member of the Royal family agreed with him and he kept his lean figure throughout, thanks to healthy eating and a regimen of daily exercise learned in the military.
The Duke’s death will herald fond recollections of his most memorable moments, inevitably including his most amusing reported gaffes over the years.
When asked about his reputation for not suffering fools gladly, he once grinned broadly and replied: “I have suffered fools with patience”.
As tributes pour in for the man who was the Queen’s undisputed rock throughout her reign, many will turn to Her Majesty’s own tribute to him in a speech celebrating their golden wedding anniversary in 1997.
The Queen described her husband as “someone who doesn’t take easily to compliments, but he has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years, and I and his whole family, in this and many other countries, owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim or we shall ever know”.
On Christmas Day 2017, shortly after his retirement, Her Majesty paid further tribute to his “support and unique sense of humour”.
The Duke is survived by his wife, Queen Elizabeth II, and his children Charles, Prince of Wales; Anne, Princess Royal; Prince Andrew, Duke of York and Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex.
He has eight grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren.