Prince Philip: a most loyal husband and consort

'He has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years,' Elizabeth said in a speech to mark the couple's 50th wedding anniversary in 1997.Reuters

I grew up hearing stories about 1st Lieutenant Philip from my father who was the 2nd lieutenant on the bridge of the Flower class Corvette where they served together.

In those days, 'Philip' was a penniless émigré fighting the Nazis on the high seas. When he married Princess Elizabeth he had to undergo the most profound transition of role and character.

Naturally exuberant, independent, competent, opinionated and dynamic, he had to find the strength of character to inhabit the role of consort to the Queen without either wrecking the delicate protocols that governed the role or subsiding under the weight of the institutional gravity that held everything together.

While we have been arguing about the different priorities of public service versus self service, Prince Philip managed to be supportive without succumbing to anonymity, and kept the integrity of his character without imposing it egotistically.

His independence of mind and rugged integrity illuminated the dull routine of monarchy with a biting wit and a delight in paradox and the absurd.

In giving up a career in the Navy he loved, where he excelled he exemplified the kind of humility and self-giving that Christianity has at its heart.

Baptised as a Greek Orthodox, he accepted the idiosyncrasies of Anglicanism for the woman he loved and at whose side he walked for eight decades.

He exemplified patience, long-suffering, humility and kindness, when the cost of all of these virtues was demandingly high.

His was a generous, tough, reliable, protective and imaginative masculinity, complementing the role and character of his wife both in private as well as public.

We should never take such virtue for granted, but instead be deeply grateful for it and recognise it for containing the depths of human integrity that gave such stability to both family and society.

Dr Gavin Ashenden is a former chaplain to the Queen. He blogs at Ashenden.org