The Duke of Edinburgh’s passing was and wasn’t a surprise. The timing of most deaths catches a majority of friends, relatives, and acquaintances off-guard. What isn’t surprising about someone’s passing is learning the individual was of old age and/or had a long-term, life threatening ailment. The Duke of Edinburgh fell into later category.
As an American, the Duke of Edinburgh’s passing doesn’t have as profound an effect as the loss of a U.S. President, a Senator, or other connected dignitary. Prince Philip’s demise does have an impact, however. He lived a life and set an example which provide examples that are applicable regardless of someone’s nationality. The question is what lessons can Prince Philip’s life provide? How can we emulate those?
The Duke of Edinburgh was someone I had known about throughout my life.It was not until his passing that I developed an appreciation for why many British admired him. His professional and personal lives provide several examples worthy of further exploration. Public service was paramount in Prince Philip’s life. He was dedicated to enhancing and buttressing the lives of the newest and youngest generations. Prince Philip pursued the task with the establishment of the Duke of Edinburgh Award. It was a program he started in the 1950s – and which has expanded to over 100 countries since. It has impacted and shaped the lives of many young people in the United Kingdom and overseas for several decades. He was involved in advocating for various causes such as Muscular dystrophy for instance. The Duke of Edinburgh also made a lifelong pursuit of addressing different environmental and wildlife issues – both long before either came to the forefront of world affairs.
Prince Philip may be most remembered for what he choose against instead of for. He abandoned a distinguished naval career several years after he wed Princess Elizabeth. The sudden death of her Father – King George VI – compelled her to the throne. He was faced with the choice of continuing a naval career or becoming her unofficial consort; Prince Philip selected the later. His decision was notable considering a distinguished career. The Duke of Edinburgh witnessed combat in the Mediterranean during World War Two. His actions saved the lives of hundreds via quick thinking during the battle of Cape Matapan and the Allied invasion of Sicily. Many naval historians and officers who served with him have speculated he could ascended to the Royal Navy’s highest ranks. He devote his life towards supporting the Queen, instead of challenging British royal tradition and fighting for continuance of a naval career. His life as the Queen’s unofficial consort demonstrated a key aspect of who he was professionally and personally: selflessness and placing others’ needs, interests, and status above his own.
It would be understandable if I choose to ignore the Prince’s passing, as an American ExPat. A key objective of the United States’ Founding Fathers entailed avoiding an establishment – officially or unofficially – of a monarchy. There are many similarities between America’s most distinguished Statesmen and the Royal Family. A key attribute is a dedication to public service, especially when the service entails placing the needs of others above his/her own. Prince Philip exemplified the notion. It’s a concept he practiced throughout his life to his passing last Friday. It’s a practice which can and should be more widely emulated.
*Matthew Kennedy, MSc – Politics of China, School of Oriental and African Studies – University of London, Dillon, Colorado – USA