It’s a sad time for the people of the UK. The royal family’s patriarch, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, has died at 99. One could say that was a good, long life. He was the longest serving consort to a British monarch, with 73 years in that role married to Queen Elizabeth. He was known to be involved with 400 charitable organizations and accompanied the Queen on numerous public engagements. He was the father, grandfather and great grandfather to three heirs to the throne of the House of Windsor. He was gruff, unpredictable, and outspoken, but obviously much loved and respected by his family and country.
I’m writing this off the top of my head. The British royal family is one of those rabbit holes from which, once you’ve developed an interest in their history and story, there’s no going back. To reiterate something I wrote recently about my fascination with all this, I’ve been following news of the royal family and the British Commonwealth for 55 years, to be precise, ever since I began collecting stamps from all over the Commonwealth starting in 8th grade. I spent a lot of my hard-earned lawn mowing earnings on stamps. I stopped collecting when I went off to college, but have no regrets. It was a rewarding, educational and calming hobby, considering I was a rather anxious youth. Stamp collecting was therapy for me. So, putting aside all the horrendous imperialism of Britain and its monarchy and governments in the 19th
and 20th centuries, I still consider the monarchy a fascinating institution.
With the death of Philip, the British are saying they’ve lost the country’s father. The queen is the mother. This sounds a bit absurd to people in the US, nevertheless, I guarantee that most people have read or will read news about this family and its decades and centuries-long history of rule, who captivated the “ordinary” mortals among us, as kings and queens throughout history have. There’s something so larger-than-life about them, and now we see just how human and like us they are. They’re not mythical gods and godesses.
So what do we have to ponder about this in-grief family of royals whom people are awed, repelled, befuddled, and/or fiercely devoted to? Here are a few thoughts:
The private and public grief of the Queen who is known for her stoicism
A subdued funeral because of the pandemic
24-hour TV coverage in Great Britain
Interviews with Prince Andrew talking about his late father that make even him sound less pitiable and dishonored than he is.
Prince Philip’s other children and grandchildren giving very moving brief testimonials in advance of the funeral this Saturday. I just read what Princes William and Harry said about their late “granpa” and it was tender and familiar.
Countess Sophie, wife of Prince Edward, the Queen and Philip’s youngest son, giving glimpses of Philips last moments
Additional focus on Prince Charles, the longest serving heir to the throne in British history
And finally, the big question: whether Philip’s death will result in the healing of the massive family rift opened when his grandson, Prince Harry, gave up his royal obligations to live in California with his American-born wife and actor, Meghan Markle.
Only time will tell. But I keep telling myself to remember that this is just a normal family deep, deep down, that just happens to be continuing centuries-long inherited royal family traditions.