Prince Philip, who spent more than seven decades supporting his wife Queen Elizabeth II, has died, Buckingham Palace said Friday. He was 99.
His life spanned nearly a century of European history, starting with his birth as a member of the Greek royal family and ending as Britain’s longest-serving consort during a turbulent reign in which the thousand-year-old monarchy was forced to reinvent itself for the 21st century.
Philip spent a month in hospital earlier this year before being released on 16 March to return to Windsor Castle.
“It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen has announced the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh,” the palace said. “His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday condoled the death of Prince Philip. “My thoughts are with the British people and the Royal Family on the passing away of HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. He had a distinguished career in the military and was at the forefront of many community service initiatives. May his soul rest in peace,” he tweeted.
Philip, who was given the title Duke of Edinburgh on his wedding day, saw his sole role as providing support for his wife, who began her reign as Britain retreated from empire and steered the monarchy through decades of declining social deference and UK power into a modern world where people demand intimacy from their icons.
In the 1970s, Michael Parker, an old navy friend and former private secretary of the prince, said of him: “He told me the first day he offered me my job, that his job—first, second and last—was never to let her down.”
The queen, a very private person not given to extravagant displays of affection, once called him “her rock” in public. In private, Philip called his wife Lilibet; but he referred to her in conversation with others as “The Queen.”
Philip’s position was a challenging one—there is no official role for the husband of a sovereign queen—and his life was marked by extraordinary contradictions between his public and private duties. He always walked three paces behind his wife in public, in a show of deference to the monarch, but he was the head of the family in private. Still, his son Charles, as heir to the throne, had a larger income, as well as access to the high-level government papers Philip was not permitted to see.
“Constitutionally, I don’t exist,” said Philip, who in 2009 became the longest-serving consort in British history, surpassing Queen Charlotte, who married King George III in the18th century.
He frequently struggled to find his place—a friction that would later be echoed in his grandson Prince Harry’s decision to give up royal duties.
“There was no precedent,” he said in a rare interview with the BBC to mark his 90th birthday. “If I asked somebody, ‘What do you expect me to do?’ they all looked blank.”
Philip is survived by the queen and their four children—Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward—as well as eight grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.