Prince Philip sadly passed away on 9th April, 2021, following a long and rich life that took him from Corfu, through a revolution, to the halls of Windsor Palace. He was born as a Prince of Greece and Denmark and died as a British Prince and Duke of Edinburgh - a consort of the British Monarch.
My own experience of Prince Philip is as profound as it is simple. Coming from a small village in the outskirts of northern Europe the British royals were something you only read about in the papers every now and then. The internet barely existed so news and information were sought after in newspapers and books. Early on, I was intrigued by Great Britain, the former Empire that overcame so many challenges but also, of course, was responsible for many less proud moments.
At 13, I was very fortunate to get the opportunity to go the south of England, West Sussex to be exact, to study. I spent a few months every year close to Arundel and got to know many friends and get a taste of what England really was. A rare opportunity in those days.
A fond memory is my first trip to London and as we were standing outside the Houses of Parliament and looking up at the imposing Palace a procession of vehicles approached. Just as we reached the front of the cheering crowds the Queen and Prince drove past, happily waving and in their very best of moods. I still remember returning to Arundel that afternoon filled with experiences and the fact that I had only been a meter or two from the Queen and Prince! What a thing for a young boy from Gävle!
A few years later, as an exchange student in New Zealand, I enrolled in the Duke of Edinburgh's Award - a programme initiated by the Duke to "challenge an increasing number of young people to use their leisure time constructively". In order to get the award one needed to accomplish outdoor expeditions, take part in residential projects to help others and prove skills in physical recreation. The award has, for over 70 years, been an appreciated programme across the Commonwealth and given many youngsters a meaningful leisure time outside of school. My time in New Zealand was most certainly made richer due to the Duke's efforts to create the Award all those years ago in 1956.
Later, as a student at University College and work in the House of Commons, I would every now and then get a glimpse of the always cheerful Prince but never actually meet him until he one day appeared at my club, The Savile, in Mayfair. He took his time to make sure everyone was seen and conversed. There was laughter all around and he left no one untouched.
As we received the news of his death an old friend from London phoned and said: "Remember that evening at the Savile? What a privilege to have met him, if only briefly. He will be dearly missed." I can only agree and I will always be thankful for the experiences I have had thanks to his passion for the outdoors