Following the sad death of Prince Philip, Members of Parliament gathered in the House of Commons to pay tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh. Here's the text of Liam's speech
“There is an appointed time for everything”, says the Book of Ecclesiastes. “A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance”.
This has been a brilliant tribute this afternoon, because amidst the mourning there has been warmth, joy and happiness, and many fond memories. I hope those memories will be of some comfort to the Queen and her family when they have a chance to read this debate. To remember the life of one is to remember the life lessons for all. When we celebrate the virtues of a life well lived, we affirm the values of what it means to live well. Today we remember not just an individual, but an ideal; not just a man but a marriage—a father who hated fuss and a husband who treasured humour.
I first want to offer the condolences of everybody in Britain’s second city, the city of Birmingham, to Her Majesty and her family today. The Duke was not always in Birmingham, but he was always there when we needed him. He was in Birmingham General Hospital to comfort the victims of the terrible Birmingham pub bombings, which ripped the heart out of families and the heart out of our city. He was there to open the Bullring in 1964 and to open New Street station in 2015. He was there to visit for the silver jubilee, to open the International Convention Centre, and of course most recently to inspect Jaguar Land Rover, that fine maker of what will be his final chariot.
The reason I think so many people in our country mourn the Duke of Edinburgh is because of the sense that an era is passing, but there is an ethos that we want to endure. It is an ethos that we want to protect, preserve and pass on.
As has been said, the Duke of Edinburgh was one of the last members of that greatest generation who protected us in our hour of maximum danger. A distinguished sailor, he was saved by the Royal Navy at birth and served the Royal Navy with brilliance, courage and fortitude. With his marriage to Her Majesty the Queen, his orders changed, but his duty never did. He came to epitomise a reserved resilience, a strength in putting another first. He became not simply a touchstone for the Queen, but a cornerstone for the Queen’s family and a key stone for the institution of monarchy in our country.
What distinguished him was not simply his backbone, but his banter. He understood that, in a difficult world, humour is often the oil that keeps the wheels moving, especially when those axles are frozen with nerves. He had grit and wit. Grit and wit are what the British Isles are made of, and grit and wit were what the Duke of Edinburgh was made of.
That is why the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme was so important to so many, certainly to the three poor children in my family. It encourages the ethos of service and adventure, which is the best of our national spirit. That is not always clear to those shivering in a tent on a windswept hillside, but character education is so important for our children because it teaches them not simply about the world around them but about the world inside them—the place where values are truly hammered out on the anvil of the soul. It teaches children those words of A.A. Milne:
“Promise me you’ll always remember: you’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.”
Millions of our children know that about themselves because of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme.
My final thought is for the Commonwealth. The Duke of Edinburgh made 229 visits to 67 countries over and above those visits that he made with Her Majesty the Queen. Next year, this country and my home city is host to the Commonwealth games. We know that our success will be judged not simply by the medals we win but by the lives we change. What a fantastic memorial it would be to the Duke of Edinburgh if we can find a way of getting the next Duke of Edinburgh Award winners to work with Commonwealth countries around the world to carry forward the inspiration and the lessons of Prince Philip for a new generation.
I conclude with my condolences to Her Majesty the Queen and her family. St Augustine said that those who have left us are invisible, but never absent. Prince Philip will not be absent to any of us here today. He was a Duke of duty who we will remember for the rest of our time. He got to live the blessing of Tobias. He lived with the Queen long. That was because he lived in the spirit of the Book of Ruth:
“Wherever you go, I will go.Wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people. Your God will be my God…We shall be together forever. And our love will be the gift of our God.”
As we remember Prince Philip today, that is a blessing to give thanks for.