London, Apr 9 (PTI) Prince Philip, the husband of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, has died aged 99, Buckingham Palace announced on Friday, marking the start of a mourning period in the country.
In a statement issued on behalf of the 94-year-old monarch, the palace said that the country's longest-serving royal consort had died peacefully at Windsor Castle on Friday morning.
“It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen has announced the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh,” the palace statement read.
“His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle,” it said.
“The Royal Family join with people around the world in mourning his loss. Further announcements will be made in due course,” the statement added.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson paid tribute to the royal, whom he hailed as an environmentalist, and a champion of the natural world long before it was fashionable.
“Prince Philip earned the affection of generations here in the United Kingdom, across the Commonwealth and around the world,” Johnson said, in a statement outside 10 Downing Street in London shortly after the palace announcement.
“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,” he said.
Offering his condolences, Johnson reflected on the royal couple’s Golden Wedding anniversary message and repeated the Queen’s words that the country owed her husband “a greater debt than he would ever claim or we shall ever know”.
“We remember the Duke for all of this and above all for his steadfast support for Her Majesty the Queen. Not just as her consort, by her side every day of her reign, but as her husband, her ‘strength and stay’, of more than 70 years,” Johnson added, quoting the Queen’s own words about her husband.
Johnson will lead tributes in the House of Commons on Monday, when Parliament has been recalled from its Easter break, and campaigning for local elections next month have been suspended.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the demise of Prince Philip and hailed him for his distinguished career in the military as well as him being at the forefront of many community service initiatives.
'My thoughts are with the British people and the Royal Family on the passing away of HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh,' Modi tweeted.
'He had a distinguished career in the military and was at the forefront of many community service initiatives. May his soul rest in peace,' Prime Minister Modi said.
The Duke, who was to mark his 100th birthday on June 10, had been discharged from hospital in London on March 16 after a month since he had been admitted there and went on to have a successful heart procedure. The 28-night stay had been his longest spell in hospital where he was treated for a pre-existing heart condition.
In 2011, Prince Philip was taken to hospital by helicopter from Sandringham after suffering chest pains as the royal family was preparing for Christmas. He was treated for a blocked coronary artery at Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire and had a stent fitted.
In recent months, Prince Philip and the Queen spent most of the lockdown at Windsor Castle in England with a small group of household staff, nicknamed “HMS Bubble”.
The couple, who were married for 73 years, received their first COVID-19 jabs together in January. The couple have four children – Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew, and Prince Edward – eight grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
The Duke retired from official royal duties in 2017 after years of service in the armed forces and then as a consort to the monarch, with several charity endeavours. He also travelled around the world supporting the Queen, both on state occasions and royal visits, including four trips to India.
As highlighted by Prime Minister Johnson, he launched and oversaw the Duke of Edinburgh awards scheme to inspire young people in their innovation and entrepreneurship ventures.
The Union flag at Buckingham Palace has been lowered to half-mast in his memory and Operation Forth Bridge has kicked in, the official name for the procedures related to the Duke of Edinburgh’s death.
The coronavirus pandemic lockdown would mean some restrictions to the processes, which involve a national period of mourning lasting until the funeral. As husband of Britain’s Sovereign, the Duke is entitled to a full State funeral, but he had expressed his preference for a 'less fussy', private, military-style funeral.
The College of Arms, which acts on behalf of the Crown, issued a statement to confirm that the funeral will take place at St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle and that the arrangements have been amended in light of the pandemic.
'The funeral arrangements have been revised in view of the prevailing circumstances arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and it is regretfully requested that members of the public do not attempt to attend or participate in any of the events that make up the funeral,' the statement reads.
The Duke will lie at rest in Windsor Castle ahead of the funeral, the date and details of which are to be confirmed by Buckingham Palace. Floral tributes have been gathering as members of the public pay their respects at both royal residences.
All flags fly at half-mast during the mourning period, the Ceremonial Mace in the House of Commons is draped in black and the Royal Family expected to wear mourning clothes (dark, not necessarily black). The Queen is not expected to carry out any official duties during the mourning period. The line of succession to the British throne remains unaffected, as Prince Philip was never in it, so the first in line to the throne remains his son Prince Charles. PTI AK AKJ AKJ