Former Archbishop of Canterbury reflects on 'immense intellectual appetite' of Prince Philip following the Duke's death

  • Lord Williams of Oystermouth has been speaking of his memories of the Duke of Edinburgh and his "constant and unfailing support of the Queen."


The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Williams of Oystermouth, has spoken about the "intellectual acuteness" of Prince Philip, praising his "constant unfailing support" of the Queen.

It was announced that His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh died aged 99 on Friday.

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



Dr Rowan Williams was Archbishop of Canterbury between 2002 and 2012.

He remembers first meeting the Duke of Edinburgh on a royal visit to Wales in 2002, before having a much longer conversation with him at Sandringham after becoming Archbishop.

"Many people I think would’ve been surprised by his intellectual acuteness," Williams told ITV Cymru Wales.

"He’d settled into this public persona of being the shadow a couple of paces behind [the Queen], occasionally bursting out with some wildly inappropriate public remark!"

"What people didn’t see I think was the real toughness and curiosity behind it, the sense of somebody who’d always approach a person or a situation with a real appetite both for knowledge and for argument."

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

Another memory from that week at Sandringham was the sight of the Duke manning the the barbecue.

"I was delighted and surprised to see him cooking the sausages at the barbecue on Saturday evening, which he did as a matter of ritual."

"I was told that’s what he always does, you mustn’t disrupt him whilst he does it!"

Rowan Williams met the Duke many times during his time as Archbishop of Canterbury. Credit: PA Images

The former Archbishop, who was born in Swansea in 1950, also remembers the "sense of curiosity and engagement with which [the Duke] approached religious faith."

"If you said something that puzzled him or stimulated him he would want to take it further.

"And I, yes, I got used to that response when I was preaching in the presence of the Royal Family, he was the one who would ask the questions.

"I do remember fondly after I’d preached on the occasion of some quite complicated and rather traumatic national commemoration, the Duke coming up to me at the door afterwards and simply saying, “you get all the difficult sermons to preach, don’t you?”'



Lord Williams added that Prince Philip, whose other titles included The Earl of Merioneth, "had a powerful sense of being there, not just for England, but for Commonwealth, never mind the UK."

"They always made themselves at home, in wherever area they were in. They didn’t just come with a kind of English entourage to impose on the locals. There were a sense of connection and directness about it all."

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh in 2014 Credit: PA

Asked what he thought Prince Philip's legacy would be, Williams pointed to his "constant unfailing support of the Queen."

"If you think what an extraordinary situation she was placed in, in 1952-53. A very young woman losing a father who should’ve lived a lot longer, plunged into a rapidly changing, international world of complex politics and international relations.

"I think that his presence, his counsel, his steadiness and of course his lack of illusion about people, his willingness to expose nonsense, that must’ve been a huge contribution to the Queen over the years."