What the Queen, Diana, Harry and other royals have said about Prince Philip

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Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·9 min read
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Watch: Prince Edward on his father's public image

Prince Philip has died at the age of 99 and leaves behind a huge legacy, of modernising the Royal Family, of changing the lives of millions of young people in the Duke of Edinburgh scheme, and in being a champion on environmental issues long before they were popular.

But he was also a husband, a father and a grandfather, and the key figure in the royal household, at its personal and familial level.

Through various stages of his life his family gave glimpses of the real Philip, noting his sense of humour and his pivotal role holding everyone together.

Here's what his family said about him. 

The Queen - 'My strength and stay'

Perhaps the most famous and personal quote about Prince Philip comes from the Queen, now his widow.

On their golden wedding anniversary she said: "He is someone who doesn’t take easily to compliments, but he has, quite simply, been my strength and stay over all these years, and I owe him a greater debt than he would ever claim, or we shall ever know." 

On the occasion of her diamond jubilee, she said: "Prince Philip is, I believe, well-known for declining compliments of any kind. But throughout he has been a constant strength and guide."

File photo dated 21/12/17 of Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh alight from a train at King's Lynn station in Norfolk after travelling from London at the start of her traditional Christmas break, which she will spend on the Royal estate at Sandringham. The Duke of Edinburgh has died, Buckingham Palace has announced. Issue date: Friday April 9, 2020.. See PA story DEATH Philip. Photo credit should read: Joe Giddens/PA Wire
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at King's Lynn station in Norfolk in 2017 after their Christmas break. (Joe Giddens/PA Wire)

Read more: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle pay tribute to Prince Philip after his death

In 2017, the year he retired from public duties, she said in her Christmas speech: "Reflecting on these events makes me grateful for the blessings of home and family, and in particular for 70 years of marriage. 

"I don't know that anyone had invented the term platinum' for a 70th wedding anniversary when I was born. You weren't expected to be around that long. Even Prince Philip has decided it's time to slow down a little – having, as he economically put it, 'done his bit'. 

"But I know his support and unique sense of humour will remain as strong as ever, as we enjoy spending time this Christmas with our family and look forward to welcoming new members into it next year."

Princess Diana - 'Dearest Pa'

There are mixed reports on the relationship between Princess Diana and her father-in-law Prince Philip, but letters between the pair show she called him 'dearest Pa' and relied on his help and advice, particularly when her marriage was in trouble.

Writing in Prince Philip Revealed, royal author Ingrid Seward said of the letters: "He signed them 'Pa' and in the beginning was sympathetic, even saying Charles 'was silly to risk everything with Camilla for a man in his position. We never dreamed he might feel like leaving you for her'."

She wrote to him on occasion, signing with "my fondest love, Diana", and saying that one letter had proved "that you really do care". 

Philip had to strike a balance because he was of course, Prince Charles' father too.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 19: Diana, Princess of Wales, wearing a green velvet dress designed by Victor Edelstein and an emerald choker necklace, kisses her father-in-law, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh on the cheek as she arrives to attend a dinner at the Royal Society of Arts on March 19, 1986 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)
Diana kisses her father-in-law, Prince Philip, at a dinner at the Royal Society of Arts in 1986 in London. (Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)

Read more: Operation Forth Bridge: What happens next after Prince Philip's death?

However well their relationship had started, it was not in a good state before she died in 1997.

She once told her friend Roberto Devorik: "He really hates me and wants me to disappear."

And Seward said Diana told her she hated him toward the end of her life, and had told her children: "Never, never shout at anyone the way Prince Philip does."

Prince Harry - 'couldn't do it without him'

In 2012, when the royals spoke about the Queen ahead of the diamond jubilee, he said: "Regardless of whether my grandfather seems to be doing his own thing, sort of wandering off like a fish down the river, the fact that he's there – personally, I don't think that she could do it without him."

During an interview with James Corden in LA, he showed how close they still were when he was asked about whether the Queen can use Zoom.

Harry said: "Both my grandparents do, we have Zoomed them a few times.

"They've seen Archie running around.

"But my grandfather instead of pressing leave meeting, he just goes 'doof'," he said miming closing a laptop.

Britain's Prince Harry (L) salutes next to his grandfather Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, during a visit to the Field of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey in central London on November 5, 2015. The Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Harry each placed a Cross of Remembrance for Unknown British Soldiers from the First and Second World Wars. AFP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth/POOL (Photo by KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH / POOL / AFP) (Photo by KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Harry with Prince Philip at Westminster Abbey in November 2015. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AFP)

Prince William - 'Legend'

When Matt Smith asked the Duke of Cambridge for advice about playing Philip on The Crown, William replied: "Just one word - legend!"

He also said he was "ahead of his time" when he announced his Earthshot Prize in 2020.

He said: "My grandfather, my father, have been in conservation, the environmental work for many years.

"My grandfather was well ahead of his time. My father was ahead of his time.

"I really want to make sure that, in 20 years, George doesn't turn around and say, are you ahead of your time? Because if he does, we're too late." 

And in 2018, he said of Philip and the Duke of Edinburgh scheme: "My grandfather Prince Philip has been one of the most tireless public servants of this country, deeply committed to helping young people fulfil their potential."

Watch: Princess Anne speaks about Prince Philip's legacy

Prince Charles

His oldest son, Prince Charles, has been said to have had a sometimes difficult relationship with his father, with their different temperaments at odds.

But a tricky childhood turned into a warmer relationship through Charles's adult life.

Speaking during a tribute show to the Duke of Edinburgh Charles said: "Well you know he didn’t suffer fools gladly, so if you said anything that was in any way ambiguous he’d say 'make up your mind'.

"So perhaps it made one choose your words carefully.

"He was very good at showing you how to do things and would instruct you in various things."

Speaking during the lockdown, Charles also expressed how tough it was being away from him father. He said: "I haven’t seen my father for a long time. He’s going to be 99 next week, so yes, or my grandchildren or anything. I’ve been doing the Facetime, is all very well but... fortunately at least you can speak to them on telephones and occasionally do this sort of thing. But it isn’t the same is it. You really want to give people a hug."

Princess Eugenie - 'Incredible'

Eugenie has spoken with great affection of her grandfather on many occasions, and during a documentary for the Queen's 90th birthday, she also spoke about Philip.

She said: "I think Grandpa is incredible.

"He really is strong and consistent. He's been there for all these years, and I think he's the rock, you know, for all of us." 

Princess Eugenie's love for her grandfather was also shown in the last few months as she named her son after him.

August Brooksbank was given one middle name of Philip, after her grandfather.

EPSOM, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 02: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 48 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Princess Beatrice, Princess Eugenie and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh watch the racing from the balcony of the Royal Box on Derby Day at the Investec Derby Festival horse racing meeting at Epsom Racecourse on June 2, 2012 in Epsom, England. For only the second time in its history, the UK celebrates the Diamond Jubilee of a monarch. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II celebrates the 60th anniversary of her ascension to the throne. Thousands of wellwishers from around the world have flocked to London to witness the spectacle of the weekend's celebrations. The Queen along with all the members of the royal family will participate in a River Pageant with a flotilla of 1,000 boats accompanying them down the Thames, a star studded free concert at Buckingham Palace, and a carriage procession and a Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul's Cathedral. (Photo by Indigo/Getty Images)
Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie with their grandfather Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh in the Royal Box on Derby Day at the Epsom Racecourse in 2012. (Indigo/Getty Images)

Princess Anne - 'a sounding board'

Princess Anne said during a programme which marked 70 years of his service that Philip would often read them bedtime stories before they went to sleep.

She said: "He made efforts to be there, particularly on a regular basis at bedtime.

"That degree of continuity when you are not going to be around all the time, there are some periods where you need to have continuity and that is one that can make a real impact."

And Anne said he became someone everyone in the family went to for advice.

She said: "Lots of different members of the family will always find in him a good sounding board.

"But it was always done very quietly and he would never talk to anyone else about his conversations." 

Speaking about Philip’s legacy, Anne said: “Without him life will be completely different.

“But from society’s perspective he was able to keep pace with the kind of technological changes that have such an impact… but above all that it’s not about the technology it’s about the people.”

Prince Edward - 'a wonderful sense of humour'

Edward's youngest son must have had a strong bond with Philip, as he was passed on the most important 

"The image that certain parts of the media would portray of him... was always a slightly unfair depiction because he used to give as good as he took and always in an entertaining way.

"He was always able to manage interviews and say things that the rest of us always dreamed we could say. He was brilliant. Always absolutely brilliant.

"He had a wonderful sense of humour, a fantastic sense of humour, but you can always misinterpret something or turn it against them, so it sounds like it's not right. But anyone who had the privilege to hear him speak said it was his humour which always came through and the twinkle in his eye."

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 02:  Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (L), Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex and Sophie, Countess of Wessex attend the Men's Boxing on Day 6 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at ExCeL on August 2, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh with Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex and Sophie, Countess of Wessex at the Men's Boxing during the London 2012 Olympic Games. (Scott Heavey/Getty Images)

Read more: Prince Philip: The story of a devoted husband to his beloved 'Lilibet' Queen

The Earl of Wessex said his father was "very active, lots of interests, and constantly encouraged us to get involved in all sorts of activities.

"And that's the bit we will always remember."

In a tribute show to him which was filmed before Philip's death, Prince Edward said of the duke's role: “It was always a challenging role to take but he has done it with the most extraordinary flare and an extraordinary tact and diplomacy.

“He has never ever tried to overshadow the Queen in any shape or form and I think he has always been there as that rock in the Queen’s life, and certainly within his family that was exactly the same.”

Sophie, Countess of Wessex - 'He has her back'

The Countess of Wessex once remarked on her father-in-law and his support for the Queen, saying: "I think it would be a very lonely place to be if she didn't have a life partner like she had with Prince Philip.

"He has his own interests as well as the interests of the Queen.

"He sort of has her back, really."

Watch: Prince Philip death: The Duke of Edinburgh dies, aged 99