Journalist’s notebook: The death of a prince



There was barely a cloud in the sky over England for the day of Prince Philip’s funeral. Unusual, but perfect for sending one of his favorite royals. In fact, part of the Royal Navy’s tribute to the former sailor and pilot was “strong winds and a following sea”, the maritime message for smooth sailing. And for the Duke of Edinburgh, and all who watched, his funeral was.

Partly because of the COVID-19 restrictions but also because of the royal’s own wishes, it was a relatively simple, small and straightforward affair. But with all the stylish and meaningful details, it also summed up the man. Within a week or so of his passing, it was confirmed just what a high profile individual he was.

He was not only the sometimes Curmudgeon father figure as he was portrayed, but a deep thinker, with interests in a range of fields from engineering and design to conservation and sport, and a loving man not only for his family, but also for the many young people he helped through his charities.


And he was down to earth. We chatted with several of his neighbors in Windsor, near London, just beyond the castle walls which is said to be one of his favorite places. Until a few years ago, we were told he would come out of the stables adjacent to the castle on horseback and carriage, and walk down a block from a public street to the nearby park.

A pub owner told us he always said hello, complimented him on the flowers outside the building, and complained that his sign needed painting. And another man recalled the man pulling his Land Rover out of a parking spot, spotted the prince in his car, and pulled over. Instead, the prince also stopped and made sure the car got out first. As we found out at Saturday’s funeral, the prince loved Land Rovers – his own casket carried on one for his last ride.

(Another tip of the hat to the prince’s sporting past: one of those carriages with his two favorite horses was parked next to the castle, as the prince’s remains were moved to St. George’s Chapel for the funeral ceremony.)

Over the past few days, people have been telling us stories about Prince Philip saying just the right (or sometimes the wrong!) Kind of joke, or just the right remark to put them at ease in a formal setting. Or if they didn’t know him personally, they told us how much they admired him.


My first story for Fox News was the death of Princess Diana. We all remember the tremendous emotional outpouring of the time. This benchmark was certainly very different in many ways. But the deep feelings we heard about the prince, from close friends as well as the public, were about the same deep in emotion.

A 22-year-old standing in front of Buckingham Palace and sporting a half-Mohawk haircut probably gave us the highest honor he could give the prince: “The guy had class!”

Throughout this royal family’s sometimes turbulent times (including all the turmoil surrounding Princess Diana), Prince Philip was known as a fence mender. Beyond the grave, he could have started over. Throughout the procession leading up to the funeral and the ceremony itself, Prince Harry was kept – willingly or by chance – at a distance from his father, Prince Charles and his brother, Prince William. The two were reportedly angered by the controversial interview Harry and his wife Meghan gave to Oprah earlier this year.

Then, once the ceremony was over, which was filled with simple prayers, songs and reminders from the prince (and with a little help from the Duchess of Cambridge), Harry and William walked out of the chapel together, talking, loved ones, almost smiling. Observers noted that Prince Philip would have liked this.

Finally, we remember the sad, shriveled elderly woman we spoke with on another day outside Buckingham Palace. She said she wasn’t thinking of the prince. She thought and cried for the queen. After more than 73 years of marriage, after decades of having her by his side and supporting him, he was gone.

And while she will have a wonderful, loving family around her, the one photo seen perhaps the most after the funeral showed her alone, left behind by COVID-19 and fate, in a bench in St. George. She will be 95 this week. The prince would have turned 100 in June.

I have heard from my family in the United States in recent days. They were all taken by the ritual and aura of the prince’s death. Sometimes I think that with the popularity of “The Crown” TV series and all that is royal, Americans are more fond of “The Firm” than the British. Locals can sometimes be reluctant about the money they cost and how the institution can seem out of step with modern times.


Perhaps it would have taken the loss of the Duke of Edinburgh to remind those here and around the world how much the Prince (and the Royal Family) can be “with him” and what contribution is being made to society. With a few laughs too.

Prince Philip’s wish on his death was that the royal family “just stick me in the back of a Land Rover and drive me to Windsor”. I guess he had that wish. And then some.


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