Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh: A relationship with Wales

  • ITV Wales' National Correspondent Rob Osborne looks back at the duke's impact in Wales - with those who knew him best

His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh has died aged 99.

Prince Philip, the Queen's consort of more than 70 years, passed away at Windsor Castle on Friday, Buckingham Palace has announced.

Upon marrying Elizabeth, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, was also bestowed with the title ‘Earl of Merioneth’. It was the beginning of a lasting relationship with Wales and its people.

The Palace confirmed that the Duke of Edinburgh passed away at Windsor Castle on Friday. Credit: PA Images

The Duke was - in the Queen’s words - her “strength and stay”, and that was apparent during the many royal engagements he undertook with her.

Many of those visits took place here, including the Queen’s first official royal tour to Wales after her coronation in 1953. In this photograph, the Duke of Edinburgh can be seen in Admiral of the Fleet uniform behind the Queen as she inspects Welsh Guards in Swansea.

The Duke of Edinburgh accompanies the Queen in Swansea during her two-day Coronation tour of Wales. Credit: PA Images

Prince Philip took a keen interest in all aspects of Welsh life, from opening the Senedd to serving as Chancellor of the University of Wales. 

In 1954, he was awarded the Freedom of Cardiff - an honour bestowed on fewer than 100 people and organisations since its inception in 1886. 

The year after, during a visit to Fernhill Colliery in the Rhondda Valley in 1955, he met with miners and heard their experiences of working in the pit.

The Duke of Edinburgh is treated to an impromptu concert by miners during his visit to the Fernhill Colliery in the Rhondda Valley. Credit: PA Images

In 1966, the iconic Severn Bridge was built, allowing for safe and accessible travel between Wales and England across the River Severn. The Duke of Edinburgh joined the Queen to officially open it on 8th September that year, marking the dawn of a new economic era for Wales.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh during the opening presentation of the new Severn Bridge. Credit: PA Images

But it was 21st October 1966 that was perhaps most significant in Prince Philip’s relationship with Wales. On this date, tragedy befell the nation when a colliery spoil tip collapsed and engulfed the village of Aberfan, killing 116 children and 28 adults. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visited Aberfan to pay their respects and offer comfort to the bereaved. The community there has often spoken of the support they drew from the royal couple in the days following the disaster.

Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh pay tribute with flowers to the 144 people killed in the Aberfan disaster. Credit: PA Images

As the father of the Prince of Wales, one occasion that would have remained with the Duke was his son’s investiture at Caernarfon Castle in 1969. During the ceremony, the Duke proudly looked on as the Queen invested their son with the girdle, sword, coronet, ring, rod and kingly mantle. Thousands were present at the castle, while millions more watched on television.

Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh with the Prince of Wales during his investiture at Caernarfon Castle. Credit: PA Images

The Duke, who himself served in the Royal Navy and fought in the Second World War, took a keen interest in military life. Here he is pictured with the Queen in 2011 at a windy RAF Valley on Anglesey, visiting their grandson Prince William at the base. It allowed them to see William for the first time in his working environment.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh arrive at a windy RAF Valley in Anglesey, to visit their grandson Prince William at the base. Credit: PA Images

But perhaps his greatest contribution to Welsh life could be regarded as the Duke of Edinburgh’s award scheme. Founded in 1956, the programme continues to help and inspire many thousands of young people in Wales, through volunteering, physical activities, expeditions and life skills.

The Duke of Edinburgh and the Duchess of Cambridge with Olympic and Paralympic medallists who are also Duke of Edinburgh Award holders. Credit: PA Images

In the decades that have passed since the Duke’s first visit alongside the newly-crowned Queen in 1953, Wales has changed significantly. But throughout this period of great change, his presence alongside The Queen remained a constant source of stability.

In May 2017, Buckingham Palace announced the Duke’s intention to step down from his public duties after the summer.