Earlier this week, OS and MP Sir William Cash read a tribute about HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh in the House of Commons. We are deeply saddened by his loss and our thoughts are with the Royal Family at his funeral today.
'On 9 April, when I heard the sad news, I walked to the small Norman church, St Michael’s, next to our home at Upton Cressett, and tolled the Hanover bell 99 times. The bell was hung in 1701 to commemorate the Hanoverian succession negotiated by the ambassador to Hanover, James Cressett, and the Act of Settlement, which took place that year. Directly below the bell stands the Norman font, which Prince Philip arranged to be transferred to Gordonstoun in the 1960s for safekeeping, as the church and the house were then derelict. The font is now returned. This was typical of his spiritual sense: we hear he had more books on religion than any other subject. Our prayers and thoughts, therefore, are with the Queen and the royal family, and my constituents of Stone join with me in their private grief.
I had the privilege of conversing with Prince Philip occasionally, including on the environment. At a garden party, I introduced him to Margaret Thatcher’s advisor on the subject. “Aha!” he said. “So your party is now on my bandwagon, is it?” I replied, “We’ve been on it since Disraeli,” and we had a good laugh. Another time, at St George’s House in Windsor, we touched on the subject of Europe, which was also very illuminating.
Last week, we heard much new about Prince Philip, bringing his long and distinguished life of service into new focus. He was a polymath, a pathfinder with a purpose, with a sharp wit and much laughter. His values were both traditional and modern. He lived a life of duty, self-reliant, selfless without self-pity, and self-effacing. He did not do political correctness. He used his role for the good of mankind, and his award scheme helped millions of young people to achieve their potential in this country, across the Commonwealth and throughout the world, from every walk of life, every faith and every race. He was a good man, doing good things; a brave man in the Navy and in the war. He was as talented as he was learned: curious beyond words, applying his knowledge of science, technology and engineering, and insisting on its practical implementation.
In the words of Shakespeare, Prince Philip would have said,
“I cannot tell what you and other men
Think of this life, but, for my single self,
I had as lief not be as live to be
In awe of such a thing as I myself.”
He was his own man, and a man of his own time. He was a consummate, competitive sportsman, with rugged determination at the reins of his carriage or on the polo field, and he loved to win. He was head of his school and captain of cricket, and later president of the Marylebone Cricket Club. Young people needed playing fields, and he ensured they had them. The film recordings of his life with the Queen show the mutual, sheer love and laughter expressed in their eyes when they were together for those wonderful 73 years. I remember watching the wedding on television: a golden moment in 1947, after six years of war and deep austerity.
On Easter Sunday, shortly before Prince Philip peacefully passed away, Prince Charles read Gerard Manley Hopkins’ ecstatic poem “God’s Grandeur” for the Easter meditation at Stonyhurst, my old school. It opens with the words that so well express his father’s spirituality, and his commitment to the world around us:
“The world is charged with the grandeur of God.”
It goes on to say, “nature is never spent”. As you know so well, Mr Speaker, Stonyhurst is in the Ribble Valley, which inspired Hopkins, and we are told that Her Majesty and Prince Philip have long and greatly loved that area. Hopkins taught at Stonyhurst, where he wrote exquisite poetry about Ribblesdale and the River Hodder by Whitewell, including his poem of 1882 that begins:
“As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame”.
This literally is at the heart of our country, as was Prince Philip himself. He was a man for all seasons and for all mankind. We thank him, and may he rest in peace.'
Sir William Cash