Upon his death, Prince Philip leaves a legacy of virtue


The death of Britain’s Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II for 73 years, has brought many reactions, most of them complimenting his lifelong service to the nation and devotion to his marriage. Certainly, compliment was the theme by the country’s senior bishop, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the archbishop of Westminster.

His blood was the bluest of the blue. His grandfather, uncle and three first cousins were kings of Greece. His mother was a niece of the last czarina of Russia, sister of the queen of Sweden and first cousin of the queen of Spain. His first cousin was queen of Romania.

It was not all grandeur and privilege, however. In early childhood, his family fled Greece because of political changes. Until young adulthood, he was for all practical purposes without a country, let alone funds for survival.

His father was a playboy, notorious for his marital infidelity. His mother was emotionally fragile, often hospitalized for psychiatric complaints. War separated him from his sisters.

Yet, somehow, he formed personal values that were strong, and they never left him.

Princess Alice of Greece, his mother, should not be remembered for her mental issues. She was deeply committed to her beliefs in the Greek Orthodox tradition. The state of Israel honored her for her courageous protection, literally at the risk of her own life, of Jews when the German army occupied Greece.

Eventually, she became an Orthodox nun, in a community that cared for the poor. She asked to be buried on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, where the Agony in the Garden occurred. Her remains rest there today.

Catholics might note that the prince attended President John F. Kennedy’s requiem Mass in November 1963 and Pope Benedict XVI’s installation in April 2005.

Since his death, Philip himself has been eulogized for his utter devotion to his wife, and she to him, for almost three-quarters of a century. No observer says these impressions are unfounded.

British royalty deliberately lead private lives. (For this reason, at least partly, the recent interview of Prince Harry, Philip’s grandson, and Harry’s American wife, Meghan Markle, made headlines worldwide for their exposure of their own experiences.)

Even so, although never even hinted in public, the marriage between Philip and the queen had its challenges. Some whisper that he had a roving eye when he was younger. Others suspect that Elizabeth’s total dedication to her role as head of the British nation provoked tension.

His views were not always politically correct, creating problems for his wife. On television in Canada, he implied that he and his wife did not eagerly visit the country. Canadians gasped. (Elizabeth is Canada’s constitutional head of state.)

Some suggest that his troubled upbringing, his strict training as a British naval officer made him too demanding as a father.

Still, their marriage is recalled for their ultimate, complete loyalty to, and connection with, each other. Some people joked that always, always, always, the queen began her public addresses, “My husband and I ….”

Neither could have been happy in seeing the marriages of three of their four children end in divorce, but the British people took these divorces in stride, reflecting what the estimate of marriage has come to be.

Viewing divorce almost as inevitable in marriage is so widespread, including among Catholics, that the prince’s long, strong union with the queen is being discussed as unusual, even odd, because whatever the circumstances, Philip and Elizabeth made their marriage fulfilling, not as something to be endured, but solemnly undertaken, before God, as a commitment to each other.

His passing clearly has touched the minds and hearts of many in Britain and beyond. As Cardinal Nichols stated, his memory is a blessing for his country, for him as a husband, and of him as an unendingly generous servant of the common good.

This article comes to you from OSV Newsweekly (Our Sunday Visitor) courtesy of your parish or diocese.


Catholic News & Perspective

Provides information on the Church, the nation and the world from OSV, America's most popular and trusted national Catholic news source


Opening the Word: Witnesses on earth

Friday, May 14, 2021
By: Timothy P. O'Malley There must have been a wondrous and yet anxious expectation that filled the disciples on that... Read More

Editorial: Dear kids: This is what it means to receive the Eucharist

Wednesday, May 12, 2021
By: Our Sunday Visitor Editorial Board Dear First Communicants, Congratulations! What a special time this is. It is the moment you receive Jesus in... Read More

Pope to institute formal ‘ministry of catechist’

Monday, May 10, 2021
By: Cindy Wooden VATICAN CITY (CNS) — While millions of laypeople around the world are recognized as catechists in their parish or diocese,... Read More

Opening the Word: Remain in my love

Friday, May 7, 2021
By: Timothy P. O'Malley The declining religiosity of U.S. citizens seems inevitable. Each time Gallup or Pew releases a poll,... Read More

Throughout May, join the worldwide Rosary marathon

Wednesday, May 5, 2021
By: Our Sunday Visitor Editorial Board Over the course of the pandemic, certain powerful moments of national and worldwide prayer stand out. A year... Read More

On difficult issues, think critically — and think with the Church

Monday, May 3, 2021
By: Msgr. Owen F. Campion A priest tells this story. He was driving through a rural area on vacation when he noticed an exit sign for one of the... Read More

Opening the Word: The scandal of abiding

Friday, April 30, 2021
By: Timothy P. O'Malley If you are looking to sell a book on Christian discipleship, you need a radical title. The kind of title that underlines... Read More

Religion is essential

Wednesday, April 28, 2021
By: Kathryn Jean Lopez We are now a little more than a year since church doors shut for the Mass, confessions went on hiatus in many places and... Read More

The inspiring — and surprising — conversion of Justin Bieber

Monday, April 26, 2021
By: Scott Warden The other day, I was driving along a fairly busy stretch of road with my two youngest daughters in the backseat when I noticed... Read More

Opening the Word: A letter to my son on his first Communion

Friday, April 23, 2021
By: Timothy P. O'Malley The writer has taken the occasion of his son’s first Communion to speak about the Eucharist considering the readings... Read More

Online Giving

Online Giving

Secure and Convenient Donate now!