Prince Philip: Leaders pay tribute as ‘grandfather of the nation’ is mourned

  • Watch as MPs remember the Duke of Edinburgh

Leaders in all corners of the UK have paid condolences to the royal family following the death of the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip.

While the House of Commons opened a session to honour Prince Philip with a sombre minute's silence, the mood soon changed as MPs recounted hilarious tales involving the Duke and his resounding sense of humour.

Perhaps the most memorable tribute came from former prime minister Theresa May, who remembered a visit during which she could not work out whether she was being tested by the Duke.

Ms May told the Commons: "I remember my last stay at Balmoral - my husband and I, as everybody knows, enjoy walking and we were able to do some walks there and Prince Philip very kindly suggested a particular walk to us.

"So we were very grateful for this suggestion and we set off. When we got back to the castle several hours later, we were told that Prince Philip did indeed enjoy this walk but he normally drove round it in a car. I'm not sure if it was a test and if it was if we passed it.

"But I also remember on my last visit when I went to say my farewell and initially we couldn't find Prince Philip, and eventually I caught up with him, he was watching the cricket.

"How I would have loved to have stayed watching the cricket with him."

Tributes from political leaders were first heard in Wales and Scotland, where parliaments had followed Westminster in being recalled to pay tribute to Philip.

Former prime minister Theresa May paid tribute to Prince Philip. Credit: Former prime minister Theresa May paid tribute to Prince Philip.

Nicola Sturgeon said the Scottish Parliament was paying its "deepest sympathies" to Prince Philip, while Mark Drakeford said thanked the Duke on behalf of the Welsh Government.

In Westminster, Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle opened the House of Commons tributes, which are expected to run from 2.30pm to 11pm.

Sir Lindsay described Philip as "father of the nation" who will be "sorely" missed and "impossible to replace".

His thanks to the Duke for his "service and loyalty" to the United Kingdom was echoed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who lauded the Queen's consort for modernising the UK.

"A practical man who could take something very traditional, whether a machine or a great national institution and find a way, by his own ingenuity, to improve it, to adapt it for the 20th and 21st century," the prime minister said.

Mr Johnson also nodded to perhaps Prince Philip's most impactful exploit, the Duke of Edinburgh Awards, whose recipients are among the "millions" the PM said had been "touched" by his work.

The PM didn't shy away from acknowledging the Duke's numerous gaffes, saying people "understood he was trying to break the ice, to get things moving, to get people laughing."

He said: "Amongst his more Parliamentary expressions he commented adversely on the French concept of breakfast.

"He told a British student in Papua New Guinea that he was lucky not to be eaten, and the people of the Cayman islands that they were descended from pirates, and that he would like to go to Russia except that, as he put it, 'the bastards murdered half my family'.

"But, Mr Speaker, the world did not hold it against him. On the contrary they overwhelmingly understood that he was trying to break the ice, to get things moving, to get people laughing, and to forget their nerves."

Mr Johnson acknowledged the duke "occasionally drove a coach and horses through the finer points of diplomatic protocol, and he coined a new word, dontopedalogy, for the experience of putting your foot in your mouth".

Wrapping up his remarks, the PM added: "Though I suspect that he might be embarrassed or even faintly exasperated to receive these tributes, he made this country a better place and for that he will be remembered with gratitude and with fondness for generations to come."

Ms Sturgeon said: "It is right that our parliament pays tribute to him today.

"In doing so, we mourn his passing and we extend our deepest sympathy to Her Majesty the Queen and her family.

"We reflect on his distinguished war-time record, his love and support for the Queen and his decades of public service to Scotland, the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.

Listen to the ITV News Royal Podcast:

"Above all, we celebrate and we honour an extraordinary life."

Speaking remotely to the Senedd, Wales's Mr Drakeford said: "Our thoughts today are with those members of the wider royal family who have to face that loss in the particularly distressing circumstances caused by the public health emergency."

He added: "On behalf of the Welsh Government, and those supporting the Government in this Parliament... I extend our sincerest sympathies at the end of an exceptional life lived."

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: "Britain will not be the same in his absence. For most of us, there's never been a time when the Duke of Edinburgh was not present.

"At every stage of our national story for the last seven decades, he has been there. A symbol of the nation we hope to be at our best. A source of stability. A rock.

"Her Majesty once said that 'grief is the price we pay for love'.

"The duke loved this country and Britain loved him in return - that's why we grieve today."

Sir Keir, who participated in the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme, said: "My final activity was wandering around Dartmoor in a small team, with a compass and a map in the pouring rain, frantically trying to find our way - if that doesn't prepare you for coming into politics, nothing will."

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Conservative former party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said the Duke of Edinburgh's death "represents the passing, finally, of the greatest generation", as he recalled another funny tale.

Sir Iain told the Commons of a time the Duke asked the now-Health Secretary Matt Hancock what his job was.

"And (Mr Hancock) boldly announced, this was some years ago, that he had just been put in charge of nuclear submarines. 'But', he said smiling, 'I don't know anything at all about them Your Royal Highness'.

"Whereupon he guffawed immediately and said 'how typical, typical of politicians - in charge of something and not a single clue about it', he said, roared with laughter and walked on. Everyone else in complete and utter silence."

Philip died peacefully at Windsor Castle on Friday morning, two months before his 100th birthday.

Only 30 people – expected to be Philip’s children, grandchildren and other close family – will attend the duke’s funeral on Saturday afternoon as guests.