PRINCE PHILIP, husband of the Queen and a leading figure in the British royal family for almost seven decades, has died aged 99, Buckingham Palace said on Friday (9).
The Duke of Edinburgh, as he was officially known, had been by his wife’s side throughout her 69-year reign, the longest in British history, during which time he earned a reputation for a tough, no-nonsense attitude and a propensity for occasional gaffes.
“It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen announces the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh,” the palace said in a statement.
A Greek prince, he married Elizabeth in 1947 playing a key role in modernising the monarchy in the post-World War Two period, and behind the walls of Buckingham Palace being the one key figure the queen could turn to and trust.
In a post-colonial world, India held a special place for Britain and as royal couple they made three trips to the country.
The royal couple visited India for the first time in 1961, nine years after the Queen took charge of the throne. They arrived to a grand welcome and the royal visit being covered in the international media. Moreover, they were guests of honour in that year’s Republic Day parade in New Delhi. The royal couple also visited Bombay, Madras, Jaipur, Agra and Calcutta. They visited Taj Mahal and in Madras people lined the streets to catch a glimpse of the couple.
Prince Philip and the Queen Elizabeth next visited India in 1983, when Indira Gandhi was the prime minister and she ensured both got the taste of gone by British Raj. The prime minister went out of her way and consulted people to replicate the colonial lifestyle for both of them during their stay. Prince Philip and the Queen stayed in the guest wing of the Rashtrapati Bhavan, once where the British Viceroy lived. The menu too was specially designed with little of Indian cuisine on offer.
The year 1997 was India’s 50th Independence anniversary and the royal couple visited Britain’s former colony to mark the occasion. The visit had its share of controversy when the British foreign secretary made a remark about the Kashmir conflict involving India and Pakistan. However, the highlight was the couple’s visit to Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar, the site where General Dyer had opened fire at a peaceful gathering of Indians in 1919.