Duke of Edinburgh obituary

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His Royal Highness Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, was born on 10th June 1921 on the Greek island of Corfu.  He died at Windsor on 9 April 2021. 

He became an Honorary Member of RSFS in 1954, our centenary, and he later addressed the conference to mark 150 years of the Society.

His earliest formal contact with Scotland was when he attended Gordonstoun School as a teenager leaving in early 1939 to complete a term at Dartmouth College as a naval cadet prior to joining the Royal Navy in September of that year.

During the Second World War, Prince Philip had a distinguished career serving as first officer on destroyers in the Mediterranean and Pacific and was present at the surrendering of the Japanese forces in Tokyo Bay in September 1945.

After the war he commanded the frigate HMS Magpie and married Princess Elizabeth in November 1947, but his naval career came to an end when his wife succeeded to the throne in 1952.

However, his life and training at sea had taught him to value people for what they were, not what their titles proclaimed, and it was that “practical” approach that epitomised the Duke throughout his life.

The Duke took many of the decisions on land management policy at Balmoral and he vetoed any operation that he felt was not cost effective. This was all done in his no-nonsense style. It is said that at one meeting which was starting to drag on, HRH cut in with, “The answers to the next three items on the agenda are ‘Yes’, ‘Yes’ and ‘No!’

On another occasion the machine operators spotted the then Prime Minister (who will remain nameless) and his wife, who were staying at Balmoral, walking of an evening along the forest road through an active harvesting site. It was never proved but strongly suspected that it would have been the Duke who had told the Castle guests that the health and safety signage was not of any consequence and could be completely ignored.

Yet the other side of him was a dedicated man and patron to nearly 1,000 societies and he had special fondness towards conservation and to the wellbeing young people. The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award which he founded in 1956 has had over 6 million young people participating in the Awards during his lifetime.

He was President of World Wildlife Fund from 1961 – 1982 and as early as the 1960’s he warned with typical bluntness “If nature doesn’t survive, neither will man”.

He was a true hands on countryman and possibly was never happier than with his family at Balmoral enjoying the forests, rivers and moors.

We had the privilege of him speaking at our 150th anniversary where he gave an address and also planted a tree in front of an audience of foresters, when he was handed the spade he looked at us all and said "What's the matter with you lot? Have you never seen anyone planting a tree before?”

Despite all of the demands on his time his genuine interest in the work of RSFS shone through when he spoke to members whether at our stand at the Royal Highland Show or at Society events and he gave great support to the Society behind the scenes.   He will be sadly missed.

© 2021 Royal Scottish Forestry Society