HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
Remembering the royal consort’s incredible contribution to charities
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, has died at the age of 99. The sad passing of His Royal Highness will be particularly felt in the charity sector: between 1947, the year in which he married Queen Elizabeth, and 2017, when he stepped down from his public engagements, hundreds of charities benefited from his profile, his enthusiasm and his expertise.
The duke’s first national charity commitment was at Fields in Trust, then known as the National Playing Fields Association, which champions and supports the preservation of the UK’s parks and green spaces. Chief executive Helen Griffiths told Virgin Money Giving that throughout his 64 years as the charity's president Prince Philip was "hugely passionate and committed to the cause."
"He recognised the value and impact he could make," Griffiths says. "He played a very hands-on role. In the early years he kept an office at the charity. He was motivated by his passion for green space, and understood the benefits it could bring people." Griffiths met the duke on several occasions. "He was incredibly charming and always clued up on the work we were doing. He would really interact and engage with our volunteers," she says.
Griffiths says that Prince Philip was a trailblazer, not only in the way he changed the way charities viewed royal patronage, but also when it came to innovative fundraising ideas. "He was behind what is widely regarded as the first charity single," says Griffiths. Prince Philip was friends with Frank Sinatra, who in 1951 released ‘If Only She’d Looked My Way’ – complete with a spoken-word introduction by the duke himself. All the proceeds from the record went to the National Playing Fields Association.
Griffiths says that Prince Philip was keenly interested in creating opportunities for young people – he understood that parks and green spaces were particularly important for children and teenagers to play and exercise in. Indeed, the charity Prince Philip is best known for is the one he founded in 1956, which has helped an estimated 6.7 million young people in the UK alone. The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, which today operates in 141 countries and territories, helps young people gain life skills and experiences as well as confidence and resilience. Prince Philip played a hands-on role at the charity bearing his name well into his nineties, when he would continue to hand Gold Awards to talented youngsters.
The charity’s CEO, Ruth Marvel, says that her team will mourn its founder’s passing, but also celebrate his remarkable achievements. "The duke’s timeless vision for young people has never been more relevant or needed," said Marvel in a statement. "The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award has played a crucial role in supporting young people to survive and thrive despite the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic, and we will continue to build on his legacy."
While his work at Fields in Trust and the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award highlight how Prince Philip cared deeply about creating opportunities for young people, his impact over 70 years of charity work was extraordinarily far-reaching. The duke was patron, president or member of over 750 charities, which ran the gamut from culture to science, medicine, sport, conservation and technology. He was the royal patron of Shakespeare’s Globe theatre, Pentathlon GB (a charity supporting the Olympic sport of modern pentathlon), Muscular Dystrophy UK, the Chartered College of Teaching and the Cartoon Museum, amongst many others.
Today is a sad day for all the charities Prince Philip supported, and for the many thousands of people whose lives he helped improve through his charitable work.