Prince Philip, the Queen's 'strength and guide' throughout their 73-year marriage and her rock during her 69-year reign, has died today at the age of 99.
The Duke of Edinburgh spent his final days at Windsor Castle with his wife after a 28-night stay in hospital having been admitted in mid-February for an infection and a pre-existing heart condition.
Her Majesty announced her husband's death at midday. 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. Further announcements will made in due course. The Royal Family join with people around the world in mourning his loss'.
His death plunges the nation and the Royal Family into mourning, and brings to an end Philip's lifetime of service to Britain and to Elizabeth, the Queen who adored him since her teens.
'He has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years,' Her Majesty said at their Golden Wedding banquet in 1997. 'I and his whole family, and this and many other countries, owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim, or we shall ever know.'
The quizzical, witty, faithful - and often controversial - the Duke was the Queen's greatest source of support, her confidant and the man she relied on above all others.
Until his death, Philip was the longest-serving consort in British history and the oldest partner of a reigning monarch, who despite his ill health took part her first royal engagement of 2021 last week.
He was a great-grandfather of ten, with the most recent addition to his wider family being Zara and Mike Tindall's baby son Lucas Philip Tindall on March 21 - soon after Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank's son August, who was born on February 9.
Philip's lifelong role was to ensure that he never let The Queen down and their long-lasting marriage was one of the world's best known relationships.
Reflecting their love in her Diamond Jubilee speech to Parliament in 2012, the Elizabeth said: 'During these years as your Queen, the support of my family has, across the generations, been beyond measure. Prince Philip is, I believe, well-known for declining compliments of any kind. But throughout he has been a constant strength and guide.'
The couple married in November 1947 - she a 21-year-old sheltered princess, he a swaggering Royal Navy officer with Greek and Danish royal blood, who had only recently seen active service during World War Two.
From that moment, the day Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten became the Duke of Edinburgh, Philip - a private, enigmatic man of strong character - was always there, one step behind, ready to lend the Queen a helping hand.
Following his retirement from public life in August 2017, he kept a low public profile.
In recent months the couple have lived through the coronavirus pandemic together, at Sandringham in Norfolk, during a summer break at Balmoral Estate in Scotland and latterly in what was dubbed 'HMS Bubble' at Windsor Castle from October 2020.
The pair received their coronavirus inoculations together at Windsor in January, and the virus was quickly ruled out as the cause of his admission to London's King Edward VII hospital on February 16.
Buckingham Palace had initially said it was a precautionary measure because the Duke was feeling unwell, and his grandson Prince William said after a week of treatment that he was 'OK' but doctors were 'keeping an eye on him'.
The palace then revealed the Duke was being treated for an 'infection', with his youngest son Prince Edward adding that the Royal Family were 'keeping our fingers crossed'.
But concerns grew when, after two weeks at the private King Edward VII, Philip was transferred to St Bartholomew's NHS hospital in central London with the palace saying he would 'undertake testing and observation for a pre-existing heart condition'.
He then underwent a heart operation and was transferred back to King Edward VII's, before eventually leaving on March 16 and returning to Windsor Castle by car following 28 days in hospital.
Philip's eldest son Prince Charles, 72, paid him a half-hour visit during the first week of his treatment, making a 100-mile journey from Highgrove in Gloucestershire to the capital. Charles appeared emotional when he left.
The monarchy was plunged into crisis while Philip was in hospital following the shocking allegations of racism made by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in their interview with chat show host Oprah Winfrey.
Harry and Meghan, who faced calls to postpone the interview because Philip was unwell, accused an unnamed royal, not the Queen nor the duke, of raising concerns about how dark their son Archie's skin tone would be before he was born.
Meghan also told of how she begged for help when she was suicidal, but said the institution gave her no support. The Queen, 94, said the issues were concerning, but that 'some recollections may vary' and the matter was a family one that would be dealt with privately.
Although Philip was in remarkably good health well into his 90s, he had battled ill health in recent years and spent Christmas 2011 in hospital when he was rushed in needing a heart stent. It was the first Christmas he and the Queen had spent apart in their then 64-year marriage.
It was those increasing health concerns that led to him stepping back from royal duties in 2017. He conducted the last of his 22,219 public engagements since the Queen ascended the throne in 1952 by meeting Royal Marines at Buckingham Palace.
Though he rarely made public appearances after his official retirement, Philip was pictured standing next to the Queen at the private wedding of Princess Beatrice and Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi in Windsor in July 2020.
Other appearances included at the weddings of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in May 2018, and Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank in October 2018, both at Windsor Castle.
He also appeared at the wedding of Lady Gabriella Windsor, whose father is the Queen's cousin Prince Michael of Kent, to Thomas Kingston in May 2019, and formally handed over his role as Colonel-in-Chief of the infantry regiment The Rifles to the Duchess of Cornwall at Windsor Castle in July 2020.
After his retirement, the Duke of Edinburgh spent much of his time at Windsor, and at Wood Farm, a small residence on the Queen's private Sandringham estate, where he read, painted watercolours and wrote letters - with occasional visits to London.
Through his stewardship, he had a profound effect on the development of the British monarchy. In public, the Duke never attempted to upstage the woman he loved. In private, it was Philip that the Queen would defer to.
'All too often, I fear, Prince Philip has had to listen to me speaking,' the Queen said in the 1997 Golden Wedding address. 'Frequently we have discussed my intended speech beforehand and, as you will imagine, his views have been expressed in a forthright manner.'
The Duke replied in his toast to his wife: 'I think the main lesson we have learnt is that tolerance is the one essential ingredient in any happy marriage.
'You can take it from me, the Queen has the quality of tolerance in abundance.'
At home, he assumed the position of head of the family as the royal patriarch. Even as recently as November 2019, he held talks with Prince Charles at Sandringham to discuss the fallout from Prince Andrew's disastrous TV interview over his friendship with paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
In April that year, the Duke had become the longest serving consort in British history and the oldest serving partner of a reigning monarch, while his wife became Britain's longest reigning monarch and the world's longest reigning serving monarch.
Like his great-great-grandfather Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's beloved husband, the Duke immersed himself in national life, yet managed to retain something of the sceptical spectator.
Some thought he was arrogant, rude and insensitive; others found him witty and fun.
He could be abrupt, outspoken and was not afraid of using colourful language. He was parodied for his bad-tempered outbursts and criticised for his legendary gaffes.
Philip once warned a group of Scottish students in China that they would become 'slitty eyed'.
On another occasion, he pointed to a fusebox of loose wires in a Glasgow factory and remarked that it looked like it had been installed by an 'Indian'.
He was well aware of his public perception, once telling former Tory MP Gyles Brandreth: 'I have become a caricature. There we are. I've just got to accept it.'
There was further controversy in February 2019, when Philip voluntarily surrendered his driving licence, having flipped his Land Rover Freelander in a crash with a Kia near the Sandringham estate that left two women injured.
The Duke was a forceful man, often portrayed as short-tempered and rather off-hand in his manner.
Yet he had the ability to charm and could be relied upon to break the ice with his sense of humour and quick repartee.
The curious Duke would ask endless questions while on engagements, grilling and challenging his hosts persistently.
He had a no-fuss, no-nonsense manner that has been inherited by his daughter, the Princess Royal.
He was once said to have described himself as 'a discredited Balkan prince of no particular merit or distinction'. He was never given – and apparently never coveted – the title of Prince Consort, traditionally how Queens' husbands are styled.
He received little public adulation for his tireless charity work and support for the monarchy in difficult times.
He and the Queen witnessed the failure of three of their four children's marriages and the fallout that followed, particularly the scandal surrounding Camilla Parker Bowles, who eventually married into The Firm.
More recently, they also endured the fallout from Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's decision to break away from Royal duties in January 2020 - dubbed Megxit.
One Royal expert, Ingrid Seward, claimed Philip would have been 'more influential' in challenging Harry over his decision to leave the Royal Family if he had been younger.
Further issues ensued when it was announced Harry and Meghan were going to be interviewed by Oprah Winfrey in a 'tell-all' chat - which they did not brief the Queen about in advance.
Then on February 19, Harry and Meghan were stripped of their prestigious patronages as the couple confirmed Megxit had become permanent.
That came less than a week after the couple announced with a black-and-white photoshoot that Meghan was pregnant with their second child, later revealed to be a girl.
Elizabeth and Philip also witnessed Prince Andrew's disastrous Newsnight interview in November 2019 over his friendship with paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, which saw the Duke of York deserted by many of his official charities and patronages.
The Royal Family also faced criticism for their response to the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.
The Duke was depicted as a tough, but caring father, amid speculation that his relationship with the Prince of Wales was not always the easiest.
But he guarded his privacy and refused to discuss such matters.
By almost any standard he was a remarkable character. He had all the qualities which, even without his royal status, would have led him to the top.
He was a successful naval officer and he was also a pilot of considerable ability.
In his leisure moments he was a good shot, a first-class polo player, an accomplished sailor, enthusiastic cricketer and international four-in-hand carriage driver.
He also enjoyed films, and is said to have made a surprise visit to the set of the Hatton Garden heist film King Of Thieves in 2018.
His themes were many but he regularly returned to the prickly subject of the British economy and also conservation, one of his great passions.
He could speak with authority on industry, science and nature.
One of the Duke's most famous speeches was in 1961 when he told industrialists: 'Gentlemen, I think it is time we pulled our fingers out.'
He often criticised exporters for not fighting hard enough for Britain abroad and hit out at the 'I'm all right, Jack' society for not pulling its weight at home.
Even in later life, the Duke was a modern man. He was always forward-thinking and often ahead of his time.
He was eating muesli 20 years before most people and drove around London in an electric car in an attempt to fight pollution.
As the world begins to mourn him, Philip will be remembered for the huge role he played in the lives of people in Britain and the Commonwealth, while the Queen now faces her greatest challenge of all as she leads the country for the first time without her loyal husband by her side.
There are those who believe that, had the Duke not married Princess Elizabeth, he would have been First Sea Lord. But he gave it all up for the woman he devoted himself to.
Writing to Princess Elizabeth – Lilibet as he called her – in 1946, he apologised for the 'monumental cheek' of turning up to Buckingham Palace uninvited.
'Yet however contrite I feel, there is always a small voice that keeps saying 'Nothing ventured, nothing gained',' he wrote.
'Well did I venture, and I gained a wonderful time.'
This article has been adapted from its original source.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.