As he leaves hospital, we wish Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, a very happy 91st birthday in this Diamond Jubilee Year.
He was born into the Greek Royal Family on 10 June, 1921, but his family was exiled from Greece when he was a child. He was educated in Germany and the UK.
From his youngest years, the Duke’s life has been about service. In 1939, he left school and immediately enlisted in the Royal Navy.
Commissioned a midshipman, he served on the battleship HMS Ramillies, protecting convoys of the Australian Expeditionary Force in the Indian Ocean.
He later served in the Mediterranean on HMS Valiant in the Battle of Crete. He was mentioned in despatches for service during the Battle of Cape Matapan, and was awarded the Greek War Cross of Valour
In a series of courses at Portsmouth, he gained the top grade in four out of five sections and then served in convoy escort duties on the east coast of Britain, and then in the invasion of Sicily. He was appointed first lieutenant of HMS Wallace and at 21, was one of the youngest first lieutenants in the Royal Navy. He saw service in the British Pacific Fleet in the 27th Destroyer Flotilla, and was at Tokyo Bay when the instrument of Japanese surrender was signed.He later courted and married the then Princess Elizabeth later Queen Elizabeth.
This video report last year by the leading broadcaster ITN summarises some memorable moments.
I first saw him with The Queen in 1954. A golden couple, they radiated all of the great virtues and strengths which a Royal couple should.
Australians across our vast nation saw that, and for those who would today denigrate the nation as it was then, those who were adults had fought two world wars, suffered through a depression and built a nation - including much of the infrastructure which we enjoy today and which we seem incapable to add to in any significant way.
As consort, Prince Philip has contributed to the community in Britain, the Commonwealth and beyond over a wide variety of fields including various sports, in conservation where he has been a significant force , in various charities for the disadvantaged and other worthy causes including his overwhelmingly successful award scheme and in the promotion of the English language.
But for many years now he has been the target of elements within the British media. There is a disgracefully lazy form of journalism. It involves making a well-known public person, preferably a member of the Royal family, a caricature.So they have created a caricature of the Prince as someone who is forever "gaffe-prone."
The lazy journalist merely asks someone what Prince Philip said, finds a witty comment and then circulates this as the "shock latest gaffe". They could produce a computer programme to do this. Of course Prince Philip is a much more substantial person than the caricature portrayed in too much of the media.
...a media tribute last year...
“The colossal importance of the Duke of Edinburgh, who celebrates his 90th birthday next week, is that he has defied the spirit of his time,” writes Peter Oborne in the London Daily Telegraph (“The Duke of Edinburgh at 90: Prince Philip’s exemplary life can be an inspiration to all of us,” 2 June 2011) .
“This is why, for most of his adult life, he has been forced to endure such hostility and contempt. In the 1960s, satirists portrayed him as a member of a bankrupt establishment.
“The state socialists who ran Britain in the 1970s despised the Duke as a symbol of ruling-class domination. “The New Right that came to power in the 1980s could not understand him at all. He was not for sale, he was not efficient, and he was not driven by the profit motive, yet he could not really be classified as part of the public sector. He appeared to have no purpose.”
...nastiest period ...
Peter Oborne sees the 1990s as ‘one of the nastiest periods in all British history’, producing a new breed of publicist ‘whose special expertise was presenting greed and self-interest as a form of public virtue.’
“ During this period British public life was under vicious and sustained attack, and in the front line of this was the Royal family. For those too cautious personally to target the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh made an admirable proxy.”
“Try this in a Daily Mirror editorial: ‘You are an arrogant, over-bearing, insensitive, tactless, patronising, boorish, out of touch and now sickening fool.’ For the Sun he was a ‘75-year-old aristocrat who is totally detached from reality.’
“Alastair Campbell, later to be Tony Blair’s press officer, labelled him “crass” and the Royal family “thick”.“ Blairite columnist Anne McElvoy, writing in the Independent: 'Prince Philip, whose mind remains steeped in the casually ignorant racialism of his youth, is beyond redemption and can only be regarded as an asset on the days he is kept indoors.
“Elsewhere he was described as 'wholly out of touch with contemporary life and thought'.
“Attacks like these, which were led by the foreign-owned Sun, which made little secret of its desire to destroy the British monarchy, were common currency.
“But they were sanctioned by mainstream politicians. For example, the Liberal Democrat grandee Menzies Campbell, who is by no means as nice a man as he appears, exploited one press convulsion to damn the Duke as ‘entirely out of touch with public opinion’.
"It was as if the Duke of Edinburgh was not a human being. He was fair game for any kind of verbal brutality.
“Mercifully, these assaults on his humanity have become rare as he has grown older, though the Guardian three years ago published an insulting and impudent article that labelled the Duke as a ‘homophobe and a misogynist’ and concluded that he was a 'disappointed man' who ‘covered his helplessness and anger with the rough-hewn mask of arrogance...”
The response to all sniping from the unworthy - who have probably not attained one tenth of the achievements of the Prince - has been “to get on with it.”
From his war service to his many achievements he has done this and he has done it well.
It is typical of him that his ninety first birthday should be an ordinary working day. So we say Happy Birthday, noble Prince...and may there be many more.