It is with great solemnity that the Maastricht Diplomat marks the passing of Prince Philip, husband to Queen Elizabeth II, at the age of 99 - just a few months short of his 100th birthday.
For those who loved him, from within and outside of the British Isles, Philip was considered a hallmark of the modern man - a loving and supporting husband, a defender of the environment and animal welfare, an enthusiastic supporter of the great outdoors, and a Royal with a sense of humour and humility about the Windsor position in the world. To his detractors, he was a colonial and racist who was severely out of touch with the fast-changing world around him; standing for the Old World of colonialism, patriarchy, ignorance, and irrelevance. While we will neither take a stand for or against the British Royal Family, there are many aspects of the Prince's life that can, and should, be reflected upon.
It is undoubtedly true that while Philip was born a Greek prince of European aristocratic background, he was ultimately a Prince in exile and without much to his name - apart from extensive and wealthy family connections that still afforded him an opportunity not many else at the time had. However, within aristocratic circles, his lot was not easy. It was into this cut throat world he was thrust. Paying his dues in service to the British Navy, Philip was given a leg up from his influential uncle Lord Mountbatten when he was introduced to a young Princess Elizabeth and was soon wed to the throne. Although this has its perks, of which there are many, some of the closest values to Philip were taken away - his position, his relevance, and his ability to pass on his name. For the world in which he came from, the highly patriarchal society of mens' men, this was a severe blow. However, without much public grumbling (although reportedly much private grumbling), he set about his task of supporting the Queen and the Royal family.
It is for this that we should judge Philip. Not on his position in the world, for that debate will rage on endlessly, but for his position in life. As a husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and servant to the British cause. It is this last point which perhaps is most pertinent. For much of European aristocracy, the 20th century post-WWII was a time of obscurity and a fading from the public eye (although not from the public coffer). What Philip sought to do was bring his family up to speed on relevance in a modern world, a world seemingly without much use for royals. Undoubtedly often out of his depth, it is often said that Philip had to make up his job as he went along, he threw himself into causes close to his heart and lending royal patronage to over 800 different charities and causes around the world - his signature public mark being the Duke of Edinburgh award, for encouraging the youth of Britain to embrace the great outdoors and engage in a little risk taking. Values undoubtedly held in high esteem for a man's man.
This, and his innumerable public gaffes, is what Philip will be remembered for. A member of the British Royal family who did his best to keep the family relevant to the British cause, despite the oncoming 21st century and the intense public scrutiny that comes with it. For a man born in 1921 and a product of the British upper class, no small task indeed. His attempts to fashion a narrative of the Windsors' relevance to the people of Britain have defined the family to this day, with much difficulty for those inside and outside of the firm. With his passing, however, a power vacuum has been left behind. As the firm is reeling from one crisis to the next, it would seem that there is no current heir to his throne of support. In a time when Britain needs public service more than ever, the passing of Prince Philip is yet another reminder that institutions that the people hold so dear are in dire need of reform and rebuilding.