Boris Johnson leads tributes to 'father of the nation' Prince Philip

12 April 2021, 15:12 | Updated: 13 April 2021, 06:08

By Maddie Goodfellow

The Duke of Edinburgh "made this country a better place", Boris Johnson said as he led tributes in Parliament following the death of Prince Philip.

Boris Johnson told the Commons: "It is fitting that on Saturday his Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh will be conveyed to his final resting place in a Land Rover which Prince Philip designed himself, with a long wheel base and capacious rear cabin.

"Because that vehicle's unique and idiosyncratic silhouette reminds the world that he was above all a practical man, who could take something very traditional - whether a machine or, indeed, a great national institution - and find a way by his own ingenuity to improve it, to adapt it for the 20th and 21st century."

The Prime Minister said Philip, through his achievements including the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme, had touched the lives of millions of people.

He said that "in due course" the House of Commons and the country would consider a "suitable memorial" to Philip, who died aged 99 on Friday.

Boris Johnson has paid tribute to Prince Philip
Boris Johnson has paid tribute to Prince Philip. Picture: PA

And speaking fondly of some of the Duke's famous slip-ups, Boris Johnson says the duke was "at once politically incorrect and ahead of his time". 

He says "the world did not hold it against him" because they "overwhelming understood" he was trying to break the ice and get people laughing.

READ MORE: Prince William says he will 'miss my Grandpa' in emotional tribute to Prince Philip

READ MORE: Prince Harry says Prince Philip was the 'legend of banter' in heartwarming memorial

Tributes have been paid by MPs to Prince Philip
Tributes have been paid by MPs to Prince Philip. Picture: PA

Mr Johnson said the Duke will be "remembered with gratitude and fondness for generations to come", although he believes he may have been "embarrassed" by tributes.

He said Prince Philip was a model of "selflessness and putting others before ourselves", and commented that he "made this country a better place".

And Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said the duke "never let the Queen down".

Philip was "without doubt the father of the nation, and will sorely be missed and impossible to replace", the Speaker said.

Boris Johnson said many people believe the Duke of Edinburgh had "touched their lives" in some way.

He told the Commons: "He had other novel ideas that touched the lives of millions, developed their character and confidence, their teamwork and self-reliance.

"It was amazing and instructive to listen on Friday to the Cabinet's tributes to the Duke and to hear how many of them were proud to say that they or their children had benefited from taking part in his Duke of Edinburgh's Award schemes.

"I will leave it to the House to speculate as to who claimed to have got a gold award and who got a bronze - but I believe those ministers spoke for millions around the world, across this country, who felt that the duke had in some way touched their lives.

"People whose work he supported in the course of an astonishing 22,219 public engagements, people he encouraged and people, yes, that he amused."

The PM was joined in his tributes by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who said: "Prince Philip was a man of many titles. Duke of Edinburgh, Lord High Admiral, a royal commander, Baron of Greenwich. But above all, he was a much loved father, grandfather and great grandfather."

He then recounted his time undertaking the Duke of Edinburgh award as a teenager, saying his first activity was to volunteer in a mental health hospital, "where unbeknown to me at the time, my late granddad would later be admitted."

He then told the Commons: "My final activity was wandering around Dartmoor in a small team with a compass and a map in the pouring rain, frantic, trying to find our way.

"Mr Speaker, if that doesn't prepare you for coming into politics, nothing will."

The Labour leader also spoke of Philip's love of painting and recalled a cartoon published in recent days which he believed captured the moment of national and personal loss.

Sir Keir told MPs: "It depicted Her Majesty, dressed in black, looking back at her shadow and seeing the duke, standing there - as ever at her side, attentive and holding her hand.

"Britain will not be the same in his absence. For most of us, there's never been a time when the Duke of Edinburgh was not present. At every stage of our national story for the last seven decades, he has been there. A symbol of the nation we hope to be at our best. A source of stability. A rock.

"Her Majesty once said that 'grief is the price we pay for love'. The duke loved this country. And Britain loved him in return. That's why we grieve today."

Sir Keir said people must also celebrate the duke, adding: "A life lived in strong and vigorous brushstrokes. And we offer up this tribute: to the Duke Edinburgh, for a lifetime of public service - the Gold Award."