I, like many other people, was saddened to hear the news of the passing of Prince Philip. Even if you are not a Royalist, you have to have a deep measure of respect for someone who has supported numerous charities, founded The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in order to give young people a sense of responsibility to themselves and their communities, has attended over 20,000 personal events and has walked two steps behind the Queen of England his entire life.
People of course, love scandals where they can learn about the worst in celebrities. I honestly have a high opinion of Prince Philip, even after the series The Crown, aired several years ago. The show certainly did not portray the Royals in a good light, but, according to the producers, a great deal of liberty was taken with the facts.
There must be a certain amount of difficulty in always being second to your wife, from the moment they met. Like the previous Dutch Consort, Prince Claus of the Netherlands, Prince Philip was not readily accepted by the people, largely due to biased views about foreigners. It did not take long, however, for both men to gain the respect and confidence through their deeds.
I had the opportunity to meet Prince Edward and his wife Sophie, the Countess of Wessex, when they came to Toronto in 2001. Although I have visited Windsor Castle, Holyroodhouse and Buckingham Palace several times the closest I came to meeting Prince Philip was the opportunity to photograph the Royal Yacht Britannia, just before it sold in 1997. Prince Philip was on board, but I suppose he was busy, as he did not come over to meet me.
Having all the money the Royal family has sounds appealing, but I am not sure if I would want my entire life and every action to be under a microscope. King Edward VIII, who abdicated to be with his sweetheart and is still chastised about it nearly ninety years later. Prince Harry stepped away and will probably be the centre of the tabloid press for many years to come. I won’t even begin to talk about the problems Princess Diana had during her time as a Royal. Unlike film or music celebrities, who can quit public life if they choose to, the Royals don’t have that option.
It may seem cool to travel the world, have access to unlimited funding and constantly be the center of attention, but I for one feel a certain degree of pity for people in that position.
Regardless of all the tainted news and information about Prince Philip, I have a deep respect for the man and all he has accomplished, serving the greater good of the British Empire for more than 70 years.
Jonathan van Bilsen is a television host, award winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Watch his show, ‘Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel’, on Rogers TV, the Standard Website or YouTube.