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I hope you will not mind my quoting a couple of contemporary letters between you and your mother-in-law, the then Queen.

Soon after your engagement she wrote to express her love and confidence: “There is so much that can be done in the muddled and rather worried world by example and leadership and I am sure that you and Lilibet have a great part to play.”

Soon after your wedding, you wrote to her of your joy and said that your ambition was to make your marriage into a combined existence for the good: “Very humbly I thank God for Lilibet and for us.”

The Queen, who understood well your independent spirit, responded: “Dearest Philip, I do hope you will not find public life too trying but you will have the comfort of knowing that you are giving so much towards the happiness and stability of the country.

“I am certain too that as time goes on you will be able to help Papa VERY much. I do look forward to that for he has many and great burdens to bear.”

Alas, you hardly had time to fulfil that duty because in February 1952 the King died in his sleep, tragically young,  and your lives were changed for ever.

Princess Elizabeth, now Queen at only 25, had a hugely difficult new task, and you had to sacrifice your fine career in the Navy in order to give her all the support she needed. It was not easy for a strong-minded, independent person who had seen himself as something of a loner. But ever since you have always been there for the monarch — and therefore for us. It has been a life of service for you both.

You have also deployed your exceptional talents in a host of other interests. Nearly eight million young people throughout the world have benefited, often in life-changing ways, from your Duke of Edinburgh Awards scheme, now in its Diamond Jubilee year. That alone is an extraordinary achievement.

You have also encouraged closer relations between management and labour within the Commonwealth through your Study Conferences, also set up in 1956, and still going strong under the guiding hand of your daughter, the Princess Royal.

You played a leading role in the wildlife and conservation movement long before that became fashionable. And on your own computer, acquired in 1985, you completely rewrote the rules of your favourite sport, carriage-driving. Those are only a few of your many activities and interests, not to mention painting.

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