Church leaders pay tribute to 'extraordinary' Prince Philip

Church leaders have paid tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh, who has died aged 99 after 73 faithful years as the Queen's consort.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said today: "I join with the rest of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth in mourning the loss of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, and give thanks to God for his extraordinary life of dedicated service.

"Prince Philip continually demonstrated his unfailing support and unstinting loyalty to Her Majesty The Queen for 73 years.

"He consistently put the interests of others ahead of his own and, in so doing, provided an outstanding example of Christian service. During his naval career, in which he served with distinction in the Second World War, he won the respect of his peers as an outstanding officer.

"On the occasions when I met him, I was always struck by his obvious joy at life, his enquiring mind and his ability to communicate to people from every background and walk of life. He was a master at putting people at their ease and making them feel special." 

He went on to pay special tribute to his achievements, having founded the Duke of Edinburgh's Award in 1956 to inspire young people to help others, and his "powerful" advocacy for conservation. 

"The legacy he leaves is enormous," Welby said.

"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. Throughout his life Prince Philip displayed those qualities in abundance, and I pray that we can take inspiration from his example.

"I also join many people in giving thanks for the marriage of Her Majesty the Queen and Prince Philip, and for their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Theirs was a marriage grounded in friendship and mutual respect and sustained by shared faith in Christ.

"I pray that God will comfort Her Majesty and the rest of the Royal family at this time. May His Royal Highness rest in peace and rise in glory."

The Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, said the Duke was a "remarkable man who lived a life of service dedicated to his country, to his wife, Queen Elizabeth II and his family".

"At eighteen, Prince Philip joined the Royal Navy and served with distinction throughout the Second World War. At the same time, the beginnings of a cherished friendship with Princess Elizabeth began to blossom," he said. 

"That friendship resulted in a marriage which lasted for over 70 years and has been a source of mutual joy, support and comfort in private moments but equally as they have both navigated a very public life together.

"Having become the longest serving British consort, Prince Philip has been unstinting in his support, leading Her Majesty to famously comment, 'he has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years.'"

He added: "His faith in Jesus Christ was an important part of his life and one which shaped who he was."

"Do join me in praying for members of the Royal family as they mourn and may God bring them comfort. As we give thanks to God for a life lived to the full, may Prince Philip rest in peace and rise in glory." 

Prince Philip was born at the family home, Mon Repos on the Greek island of Corfu on June 10, 1921, but his family was forced into exile in Britain after his father, an officer in the Greek army was charged with treason during the Greco-Turkish war.

The Queen married Prince Philip at Westminster Abbey in 1947. 

The Royal family announced "with deep sorrow" the passing of the Queen's "beloved husband" on Friday morning.

"His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle," the announcement said. 

The Archbishop of Wales, John Davies, praised the Duke for sacrificing his own personal life and career and choosing to "steadfastly" remain by the Queen's side over the decades. 

"Despite his retirement from public life in 2017, it is unimaginable that, away from the public gaze, his support of and for the Queen wavered as she continued to fulfil her official duties and headship of the Royal family," he said.

"In both spheres, the Queen has, over more than seven decades of married life, faced countless crises and massive demands, and His Royal Highness, both sustained and strengthened her throughout.

"It is quite commonplace nowadays for someone to be described as a rock in the life of another individual. In the case of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, it is entirely fitting." 

He also commented on the Duke's personal faith and interest in Christian matters.

"Less well-known is the Duke's theologically inquiring mind. Some, but possibly not many, will have heard of and read 'A Windsor Correspondence', a small book of some 80 pages, published in 1984 containing the correspondence that passed between the Duke and the then Dean of Windsor, the Very Rev'd Michael Mann," he said.

"The catalyst for the correspondence was Sir Fred Hoyle's co-authored 1981 work and associated 1982 lecture 'Evolution from Space' the subject matter of which was the probability of the existence of God and the origin of life from space, directed by a great intelligence.

"The Duke was also a noted, and usually constructive, critic of some of the many sermons he and the Queen heard preached over many years.

"These are but a few examples from a long life, packed with variety and rooted in the service of others, the nation, the Commonwealth and beyond. For his gifts and talents, for the benefits that his life brought to the lives of others, for his sense of duty and calling, and for his many evident and admirable qualities and attributes, we should give thanks and pray that he might be at peace, free from human frailty, and in new life with Christ.

"It is the Queen and the rest of their family who will feel most keenly and lament most profoundly the Duke's passing. May they also be able to give thanks for all that he brought to others in so many ways and over so many years. I assure them all of my love and prayers and those of many in the Church in Wales." 

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, remembered the Prince as the Queen's "faithful and loyal husband".

"I pray for the Queen and all of the Royal family," he said. 

"How much we will miss Prince Philip's presence and character, so full of life and vigour. He has been an example of steadfast loyalty and duty cheerfully given. May he rest in peace."

Paul Williams, Chief Executive of Bible Society, whose Patron has been the Queen since her accession in 1952, said: "We join with millions in giving thanks to God for his contribution to the life of our nation, and most of all for his long and loving partnership with our Queen.

"We pray for her, for Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward, and for all who mourn his loss.

"May God bless them and comfort them in their grief, and assure them of his loving purposes for them."