LONDON — World leaders and people on the street honored Prince Philip’s life of service to his wife, Queen Elizabeth II, and the British nation Friday after hearing of the death of a man who had been by the monarch’s side longer than most of them have been alive.
At Buckingham Palace, the queen’s London residence, members of the public laid daffodils at the gates, and the flag was lowered to half-staff. The BBC interrupted programming to broadcast the national anthem, “God Save the Queen.”
United in Grief and Gratitude
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Philip, 99, “earned the affection of generations here in Britain, across the Commonwealth and around the world.”
“We are a kingdom united both in grief and in gratitude,” Johnson said. “Grief at Prince Philip’s passing, and gratitude for his decades of selfless service to the country.”
Philip, who served in the Royal Navy during World War II, married the future queen in 1947 and kept up a full schedule of public appearances until he retired in 2017. On March 16, he was released from the hospital looking tired and gaunt after receiving treatment for an undisclosed infection and a heart problem.
Known for his sharp wit, he fulfilled more than 20,000 royal engagements to boost British interests at home and abroad. He also led hundreds of charities, started programs that helped British schoolchildren, and helped raise his four children, including his eldest son, Prince Charles, the heir to the throne.
Public Gathers Outside Buckingham Palace
Soon after the announcement of his death, people lined up outside Buckingham Palace to see the official notice that had been attached to the gate. It was removed soon afterward because of concerns that it would attract crowds, violating social distancing rules during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The government later issued a statement asking people not to gather or leave flowers outside royal residences around the country to protect public health.
“I’m quite emotional actually even just talking about it,” Louisa Crook, a 41-year-old London resident, said outside Buckingham Palace. “The news broke as we were walking through Parliament Square, and my daughter and I just said we just felt like we had to come down here and just be near the palace — safely, obviously, masks and everything else — and just be close to the Royal Family today.”
Philip’s Long Record of Public Service and Dedication to the Queen
Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, the most senior cleric in the Anglican Church, gave thanks to God for Philip’s life of dedicated service.
“As we recover and rebuild after the terrible trial of the coronavirus pandemic, we will need fortitude and a deep sense of commitment to serving others,″ Welby wrote. “Throughout his life Prince Philip displayed those qualities in abundance, and I pray that we can take inspiration from his example.”
Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party, was among the first to offer his condolences, noting Philip’s long record of public service.
“He will be remembered most of all for his extraordinary commitment and devotion to The Queen,” Starmer said in a statement.
“For more than seven decades, he has been at her side. Their marriage has been a symbol of strength, stability and hope, even as the world around them changed — most recently during the pandemic. It was a partnership that inspired millions in Britain and beyond.”
World Leaders Express Their Sadness and Respect
World leaders also expressed their sadness, including Australia’s Scott Morrison, Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, India’s Narendra Modi and Canada’s Justin Trudeau.
Former U.S. President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, offered condolences to the monarch and the entire royal family.
“He represented the United Kingdom with dignity and brought boundless strength and support to the sovereign,″ Bush said in a statement. “Laura and I are fortunate to have enjoyed the charm and wit of his company, and we know how much he will be missed.″