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Prince Philip recalled fondly by West Van monarchist as power behind the throne

Duke of Edinburgh Awards among best-known programs for youth
Queen & Prince Philip
The Queen and Prince Philip visited Cobourg, Ontario in 1973 during one of 22 official visits to Canada as a royal couple.

Local West Vancouver heritage buff and monarchist Carolanne Reynolds says she’ll remember Prince Philip for the excellent job he did in carrying out his duties and supporting the Queen, despite his occasional public gaffes.

“He played a very valuable role,” she said. “I think it’s a very difficult position to be in. I don’t think anybody can be prepared for that sort of role. I have a great deal of respect for him.”

Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh and husband of Queen Elizabeth II, who married into the British Royal Family in 1947, died Friday at 99, just two months short of his 100th birthday.

Rashid Fatehali, a North Vancouver resident and longtime group leader with the Duke of Edinburgh Awards program, said he was sad to hear the news.

The Duke of Edinburgh International Awards is among the prince’s best known programs, aimed at encouraging the development of young people between 14 and 25 by challenging them to complete a program including volunteer work, physical activity and outdoor adventure. An estimated 500,000 teens have taken part in the program in Canada.

Fatehali said he met the duke several times when he came to Vancouver to present certificates. “He was very pleasant to talk to,” said Fatehali. “He was very knowledgeable. Very sharp.

“He was happy to see young people when they received awards.”

The prince served as honorary patron of about 40 organizations in Canada.

The royal couple first visited Canada in 1951, one year before Princess Elizabeth became Queen. They visited 22 times since then. Prince Philip also visited Canada a number of times on his own. His last visit was in 2013, prior to retiring from public life in 2017 at the age of 96.

Earlier this spring, Prince Philip had been released from hospital after a one-month stay, and spent his final days at Windsor Castle with the Queen. The couple was married for 73 years.

Reynolds predicted Philip’s death will be a big blow to Queen Elizabeth. “It’ll have a huge impact on the Queen,” she said. “She obviously depended on him for many, many things.”

Older Canadians likely remember Philip’s record of making verbal gaffes in public, which over the years included a variety of sexist and racist comments.

But Reynolds insisted they were not the measure of the man. “He was irreverent about everything,” she said. “I don’t think you should judge a person by a few mistakes they make.”

Despite his public role as the Queen’s consort of many decades, many younger people have likely become more familiar with Philip through the fictionalized portrayal of him on the smash Netflix series The Crown.

Reynolds said she hasn’t watched it, but remains “a firm believer in a constitutional monarchy.”

“It’s the insurance policy for when politicians get out of hand,” she said.

Most summers, Reynolds hosts a public tea in honour of the royal family, although the 2020 event was cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions.

On Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement expressing “deep sadness" at the death of Philip. “The Duke always sought out the best in people and challenged them to strive for greater heights,” he said.

“He will be fondly remembered as a constant in the life of our Queen – a lifelong companion who was always at her side offering unfailing support as she carried out her duties.”

A mostly private funeral is planned for April 17.

The same day, a commemorative ceremony is to be held without a congregation and will be broadcast live in Canada from Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa.