While Prince Philip is known for being a devoted husband to the Queen for 73 years, prominent Canadians on Friday remembered him instead for his sense of duty and passion for helping youth.
Buckingham Palace said that the Duke of Edinburgh died peacefully in the morning at Windsor Castle. He was 99.
Tributes poured in from across the country, with many who knew him recounting conversations and memories, remembering how he took an interest in their lives and in Canada.
Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, said he remembers sitting at Prince Philip’s table at an informal barbecue at Rideau Hall about 25 years ago. Mr. LeBlanc’s father, Romeo LeBlanc, was the governor-general and the royal couple were in Ottawa for Canada Day.
“I had the chance to sit at Prince Philip’s table and remember fondly his knowledge of Canada, his interest in Canadians and in Canada, but the passion with which he spoke about his service to young people. That is a memory I will always cherish,” he said at a news conference.
Former prime minister Jean Chrétien said he met Prince Philip dozens of times and he was very pleasant and used the occasion to practise his French. Mr. Chrétien said they discussed sports and international politics.
“I met him for the first time in 1968. I was a young minister in the government and we were at a reception, a group of Francophones, speaking in French, and he spoke in French with us and I said, ‘Your royal highness, you speak very good French for an Englishman,’ he said, ‘I’m not an Englishman and I was speaking French before you were born, young man.’ ”
“So it was always lively.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he has had the privilege of knowing Prince Philip almost his entire life, meeting him for the first time when he was just a child in Ottawa. He said he remembers having “a number of wonderful conversations” with him in Malta, shortly after becoming Prime Minister.
“Prince Philip was a man of service motivated by a sense of duty to others. I know that through the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award he helped empower millions of young people from all backgrounds, including here in Canada, to realize their greatest potential and that’s just one example of his many contributions,” he said.
“Prince Philip will be remembered as a champion for young people, a decorated naval officer, a dedicated philanthropist and a constant in the life of Queen Elizabeth the Second.”
The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award was established in 1956 and came to Canada in 1963, with an estimated 500,000 young Canadians having since benefited from the program, according to the organization’s website. Anyone between the ages 14 and 24 can participate in the award, which is gained through individual improvement and achievement.
Gregory Belton is a former chairman of the international board of trustees for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award who continues to be heavily involved with the organization. Over the course of about three decades, Mr. Belton worked closely with Prince Philip, travelling extensively with him and enjoying private audiences at Buckingham Palace.
“He had just a wicked sense of humour … he always had that ramrod straight posture and I just think of his devotion to duty. That was the primary thing in his life, devotion to duty … and then his genuine interest in the welfare of other people, it’s not contrived, it was genuine.”
Of all the members of the Royal Family, Prince Philip has had the longest relationship with Canada, said Carolyn Harris, a historian and instructor at the University of Toronto.
She said he came ashore in Halifax as a midshipman in the Royal Navy in 1941 during the Second World War, and his last visit to Canada was in 2013. During his last visit, he presented new colours to the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment and received the Order of Canada, she said.
Ms. Harris said Prince Philip toured with the Queen on official visits on more than 20 occasions, and made a number of working visits on his own related to his charitable activities.
In 1951, before the Queen’s succession to the throne, the pair made their first trip across Canada and were seen, Ms. Harris said, as a modern royal couple. They arrived by jet instead of ship, and Prince Philip wore a white hat to the Calgary Stampede. She said an image of Prince Philip and Princess Elizabeth became a popular Christmas card motif, where they were square dancing at Rideau Hall and Prince Philip was wearing blue jeans.
It was during a trip to Canada in 1976 that he quipped, “We don’t come here for our health. We can think of other ways of enjoying ourselves.”
In 1959, he was made the first lay president of the Canadian Medical Association, Ms. Harris said, and made a controversial speech for the time. She said he argued Canadians were out of shape and a third would fail a military physical. “Now that’s not controversial, that everyone should exercise more, but at the time the headlines were: ‘Prince Philip tells Canadians to shape up.’
“So it’s interesting seeing how he was ahead of the curve on certain issues.”
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