Prince Philip Dies at 99

Peter Russell

April 09, 2021

Editor's note, 9 April 2021: This article was updated with additional tributes.

Prince Philip has died at the age of 99.

Buckingham Palace said in a statement: "It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen announces the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

"His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle."

Philip recently spent a month in the King Edward VII hospital and Barts before returning to Windsor Castle on March 16.

 

At first, he was treated an infection but then underwent surgery for a pre-existing heart condition.

The Duke was first admitted to the Kind Edward VII on February 16 after feeling ill for several days.

"The Duke's admission is a precautionary measure, on the advice of His Royal Highness's doctor," Buckingham Palace officials said at the time.

Despite his age, Prince Philip appeared to be in reasonable condition, walking into the King Edward VII unaided after travelling there by car.

He had been expected to remain there for a few days of observation and rest.

On February 20, the Prince of Wales made a 200 mile round trip to visit his father, spending around half-an-hour at his bedside.

Seven days after the duke was admitted, the Palace said he was being treated for an infection and was "comfortable and responding to treatment".

Before this admission, the Duke had been shielding with the Queen at Windsor Castle, where both had been staying during the pandemic with a small number of staff, nicknamed HMS Bubble.

The Royal Couple received COVID-19 vaccines in January as part of priority group 2 in the rollout.

The Duke had been in and out of hospital a few times in his last few years, most recently just before Christmas 2019 when he spent 4 nights at the King Edward VII for treatment of a pre-existing medical condition.

Tributes

Health groups have being paying tribute to Prince Philip.

The British Medical Association (BMA) offered its condolences and said: "He was a dedicated public servant, and among his many other roles over the years kindly served as a past president of our association in 1959." 

Dr Charmaine Griffiths, chief executive of the British Heart Foundation, said: "Prince Philip offered steadfast support to the BHF for nearly 60 years and was a remarkable advocate for the power of research to save and improve lives from heart and circulatory diseases."  

Cancer Research UK said: "We remember with affection and gratitude the lifetime of service given by Prince Philip, and are grateful for the support he showed to the charity over the years."

The Royal Society for Public Health said: "His exceptional public service included presenting the first Queen Elizabeth Medal for outstanding public health contribution in the Commonwealth for our precursor organisation."

Good Health and Stamina

Throughout most of his life the Duke of Edinburgh enjoyed excellent health. 

He is said to have quit smoking the day he married Princess Elizabeth. The future Queen was not a fan of the habit that had damaged the health of her father, King George VI, and is likely to have contributed to his death from coronary thrombosis.

He was not a heavy drinker, usually opting for a simple beer over anything more refined.

For decades he was a keen sportman, renowned for his energy and stamina. 

Long into what would be regarded by most people as late retirement, he was carrying out more than 300 public engagements a year.

He once described himself as "the world's most experienced plaque-unveiler".
 

Cut Back? Who's Going to Tell Him?

Prince Philip was renowned for expressing forthright opinions. When it was suggested that he should cut back on his busy diary, one aide is reported to have said: "Who is going to tell him? To be blunt, the Duke is not somebody you tell what to do." 

It had been revealed in 2007 that the Prince had been diagnosed with a heart condition 15 years earlier for which it was reported he took regular medication. 

It was widely reported that his bodyguards were aware of his heart condition and under orders to take the Duke, who had been patron of the British Heart Foundation since its foundation in 1961, to hospital if he become dizzy or short of breath. They were said to have been 'instructed' not to take "no for an answer" in those circumstances and seek immediate medical help.
 

Winding Down at 90

As he celebrated his 90th birthday, in 2011, the Duke suggested he might be "winding down" and reducing royal duties.

He told the BBC's Fiona Bruce: "I reckon I've done my bit." He added candidly: "On top of that, your memory's going – I can't remember names and things."

But there was no sign that he was going to take it easy – yet.

Retirement

Finally, in 2017, age caught up with the Duke and he announced that he would retire from public engagements towards the end of the year.

Shortly afterwards, responding to a comment by the mathematician Sir Michael Atiyah, that he was sorry he was standing down, Prince Philip quipped: "Well, I can’t stand up much longer."

The explanation for the joke became clear in April the following year, when the Duke underwent a hip operation.

Despite his 'retirement', Buckingham Palace said he might choose to attend certain public events from time to time.

Most notably he attended the wedding of his grandson Prince Harry to Meghan Markle in May 2018.

His appearance was all the more remarkable as he was reported to have broken a rib after apparently slipping while washing.

Car Crash

The new chapter, in which the Duke would enjoy some seclusion from Royal life, was shattered when, in January 2019, he was involved in a car crash close to the Queen's Sandringham estate in Norfolk.

Prince Philip overturned his Land Rover Freelander after pulling out from a driveway. He was helped from the vehicle, and was reported to be conscious, although shocked and shaken.

Buckingham Palace later announced that he had voluntarily surrendered his driving licence.

Chest Infection

In the spring of 2008, after falling ill with a cold, he was admitted, aged 86, to the King Edward VII Hospital in central London for assessment and treatment for a chest infection.

Not for the first time, he may have reflected on his decision to stop smoking so many years ago.

Prostate Claims

In August 2008, the London Evening Standard reported that Prince Philip had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Sri Carmichael, the paper's royal reporter, wrote that the condition had probably been diagnosed during his stay in hospital earlier in the year, and that a policy of 'active surveillance' had been adopted, involving regular blood tests to check PSA levels were not rising.

Buckingham Palace described the reports as "speculation", with a spokesman adding: "The Duke of Edinburgh has authorised us to confirm that the claim made by the Evening Standard that he has received a 'diagnosis of prostate cancer' is untrue."

The newspaper retracted the story, admitting that it was untrue and apologising for breaching the Duke's privacy and causing his family distress.

Christmas in Hospital

In December 2011, the Duke experienced a serious health scare while preparing to celebrate Christmas with other members of the Royal Family at the Queen's Sandringham estate. The onset of chest pains resulted in the Duke being airlifted by helicopter to Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire.

Buckingham Palace said: "The Duke of Edinburgh was found to have a blocked coronary artery which caused his chest pains. This was treated successfully by the minimally invasive procedure of coronary stenting."

The Prince's operation, known as angioplasty, involved inserting a thin plastic tube, or sheath, into an artery, through which a long, narrow, hollow tube, called a catheter, was passed and guided up the blood vessel to the arteries surrounding the heart. A small metal mesh stent was inserted into the artery to maintain blood flow.

The Prince spent 4 nights over Christmas in the hospital's specialist cardiothoracic unit before being discharged on the 27th. It meant he missed the family's annual Boxing Day shoot at Sandringham, which he usually led.

On New Year's Day 2012, the senior royal was well enough to walk 400m to a church service on the Queen's private Norfolk estate, where he was applauded by around 500 spectators.

Bladder Infections

The Duke's speedy recovery was fortunate as he would need all his energies later in the year to accompany the Queen during celebrations marking her Diamond Jubilee. However, during the height of the festivities he was admitted to the King Edward VII Hospital in London with a bladder infection

Some medical experts suggested that the Duke could have developed the infection during the giant river pageant on the Thames where he had stood for hours in pouring rain. 

Prince Philip spent 5 nights in hospital, missing a spectacular Jubilee concert at Buckingham Palace starring Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Cliff Richard, and Sir Tom Jones. He was also absent from the Queen's side during the state procession the following day. 

The Duke was discharged from hospital the day before his 91st birthday. Asked whether he was feeling better, he quipped in characteristic style: "I wouldn’t be coming out otherwise".

On 15th August 2012, he was re-admitted to hospital with a recurrence of a bladder infection. Prince Philip was driven 40 miles from Balmoral to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary. 

A few hours earlier he had appeared in good health during engagements to mark Cowes Week. 

In June 2013 the Duke would return to hospital, spending 11 nights at the private London Clinic following a pre-planned exploratory operation on his abdomen. While recuperating, the Duke celebrated his 92nd birthday.

Details about why the surgery was performed were not made public.

However, by August he had recovered sufficiently to perform a solo official engagement, visiting the Royal Society of Edinburgh to present medals on his way to Balmoral for the Royal family’s annual summer break.
 

Queen's 90th Birthday Celebrations

In April 2016, the Duke, aged 94, was beside the Queen as she celebrated her 90th birthday. The couple travelled the streets of Windsor together in an open-top Range Rover.

However, the following month it was announced he would miss events to mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Jutland on "doctor's advice".

The Battle of Jutland was the biggest naval engagement of World War One and involved the Royal Navy's Grand Fleet and the German High Seas Fleet.

The Duke was said to have been reluctant to have missed commemorations to mark the battle in which Prince Albert – the Duke's father-in-law who went on to be crowned George VI – fought on board HMS Collingwood.
 

Too Unwell for the Queen's Speech

Following the May 2017 General Election, the Duke was not well enough to accompany the Queen to the traditional state opening of parliament.

Buckingham Palace said he had been admitted to London's King Edward VII hospital the previous night due to an infection arising from a previous condition.
 

Bits of Me Are Falling Off

The Duke once said he had no plans to celebrate his 100th birthday.

Indeed, in an interview with The Daily Telegraph back in 2000, he said he "couldn't imagine anything worse" than turning 100. 

When discussing the Queen Mother's 100th birthday, Prince Philip told the publication he had "no desire whatsoever" to reach the same age. 

"I can't imagine anything worse," he said. "Bits of me are falling off already."
 

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