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UK will never be the same without Philip’s wisdom- Prof. Chris Imafidon

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The Royal Family is mourning and the citizens of the United Kingdon in solidarity are also mourning.  since the announcement of the passing to glory of 

his Royal Highness Prince Philip, the mood of the people and the atmosphere in London has changed to gloom and sadness. 

Orient Daily’s Cyril Mbah, in an effort to capture the mood of the people spoke with an eminent Nigerian scholar, Professor Chris Imafidon who lives in Britain. Imafidon is a close confidant of the Royal Family, who has established intimate, cordial relationship with the family spanning several years. 

Professor Chris Imafidon, is a multi-Guinness World record holder; world renowned adviser to royalty, presidents and corporate leaders worked directly with HRH Prince Philip, through his education and empowerment initiatives and charitable programmes for the inner-city and underprivileged students.

He spoke on the achievements of Prince Phillip and his relationship with queen Elizabeth, and the future of the UK, which he said, will never be the same again without the wisdom and wit of the late duke. Excerpts.

Sir, how would you describe Prince Phillip?

Prince Philip, the United Kingdom’s patriarch, was a world renowned extraordinarily enthusiastic evangelist of education, ecology, equity, engineering and empowerment (youth & women) and ecumenicalism. It is painful that the Duke, the Queen Elizabeth’s Rock, – our longest serving royal leader, a brutally honest, humble, and humorous genius transitioned to heaven, while we were planning for his 100th birthday celebrations on earth. May he rest in peace, and rise in glory. From the first day when over 200 million people watched his wedding in 1947 to his final event, he was the Uncrowned King of unity and duty.

He totally redefined the role of a royal and he was truly a radical in thinking and a revolutionary in action but because of his modesty, he was very quick to rebuke you if you describe him in such terms yet, quietly he acknowledges that he is an innovator. I wonder which alpha male of the 1950s will give up his glistering naval career to become a “house-husband” looking after children and domestic activities while his wife accidentally becomes crowned as a ruling monarch. This role reversal alone spoke volumes on his radicalism in feminism. It did not just show female equality but true equity. And this happened over 70 years ago.  Apart from the role reversal, due to royal rules, his children did not bear his name. Rather, they bore his wife’s family name, leading to his assertion that he is the only father in Britain whose kids didn’t carry their mother’s family name.  

The country is deeply saddened by the passing to glory of HRH Prince Philip, the 73-year-old husband of HM Queen Elizabeth II and the longest serving father of the UK. It was totally unexpected because he had only just survived the longest stay in hospital and everyone was planning for his 100th birthday celebrations. His enthusiasm was revealed by the fact that he supported 800 different charities, 22,219 individual engagements and delivered more than 5,000 speeches. Through his extraordinary life, the Duke of Edinburgh taught us devotion, dedication, diversity, duty and he made selfless contributions to every aspect of national life particularly in ecology, education, empowerment, and equality.    

What will you say about his passion for education?

Despite his challenging childhood, he enjoyed learning in school and demonstrated this passion also in sports, in leadership by becoming the School’s Head-boy. He also captained the school’s cricket and hockey teams. He topped his class while studying at the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth. During our interactions at ExcellenceinEducation.org.uk in the commonwealth or charity functions, he expressed his conviction that every youth has a talent that must be developed. Prince Philip championed education for all irrespective of background.

Prince Philip was Chancellor of the University of Cambridge for 35 years, from December 1976 to June 2011.  This gave expression to his passion for education. The Duke of Edinburgh performed his university duties with the same insight, energy, and practical good sense that marked all his public and private work for the monarchy. The Chancellor’s principal public function, the conferment of honorary degrees in annual ceremonies, was only a part of the Duke’s involvement with the University. He visited Cambridge several times a year, and interacted with students and scholars.

In Oxford, he was a senior honorary Fellow of the University College; the Visitor of St Catherine’s College and was an honorary member of Edmund Hall Cricket Club. In 1958, His Royal Highness presented Royal Charters to St Edmund Hall and Nuffield College.  

Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, had a long and valued association with King’s College, University of London – dating back to 1955 when he became a Life Governor of King’s College. He gave King’s prestigious Commemoration Oration in 1969, based on position as a spectator of events and ‘the consequences of indiscriminate progress.’ He accompanied The Queen on her visits to King’s College on numerous occasions, one of the most recent was in 2012 for the opening of The Dickson Poon School of Law, and always took a keen interest in King’s College and our students. Prince Philip has also served as Chancellor of Edinburgh, Wales and Safford Universities. 

I can never forget an incident when I was privileged to attend a commonwealth reception for Heads of Government dubbed “Queen’s Reception.” A new national leader entered the hall and looking in the direction of the Prince, said “Where is the King? Everyone is talking about the Queen! Queen!!, Queen!!!. I want to see the King, the proper leader.” I was deeply embarrassed by this leader’s ignorance of the British female monarchy via birth instead of marriage and I looked in the direction of the Duke who politely answered: “I have often wondered when we will meet a King?” I fought to hold my composure as I nearly burst out in laughter. Sadly, many still think that every monarch has to be a man!   

Long before the global doctrine of gender equity, Prince Philip believed that Queen Elizabeth, a young lady can shoulder the huge responsibilities of a head of state and monarch. 

Prince Philip pioneered multi-specialism groups investigations into various natural environments. He was ahead of his time and showed passion for wild life and habitats. Without any doubt, he believed the biblical injunction to “tend the Garden of Eden.” He knew that humans were placed on the earth to nurture rather than torture the animals and plants to extinction. He enthusiastically called for conservation and better environmental practices. Prince Philip also used this conviction to reconcile many faith groups nationally and internationally.  

He did this with the fervour of an evangelist and successfully handed over the baton of ecology and the threat of climate change to his off-springs and children. His ecological zeal led him to become the Co-founder and first President of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) from 1961 to 1982.  This preceded the current global trend in pushing for sustainability or the green agenda. It protected both places and species that were threatened by human development. The biggest concern was the destruction of the habitat and wildlife in East Africa. He later assumed the President of the WWF International from 1981 to 1996.

Conservation was one of the main research interests of the Duke. He often met with Cambridge students and scholars to discuss progress. Cambridge University created the Prince Philip Professorship on Ecology and Evolutionary Biology to mark the 30th anniversary of his Chancellorship in 2007.

Professor Tim Clutton-Brock, the first Prince Philip Professor in Cambridge, believes that: “Prince Philip had a countryman’s love of nature and an intuitive understanding of animals and their habitats. His extensive involvement in the conservation of animal populations led to an acute interest in the ecological principles on which management and conservation practices need to be based.” Prince Philip campaigned for more studies in this area. It is widely believed that nobody who interacts with the Duke will forget the experience because, he had a keen intellect that rapidly focused on the kernel of important issues, and his probing questions quickly focus on the strengths and weaknesses of arguments.

It is interesting that even prominent Republicans who hate the monarchy celebrate HRH Prince Philip’s huge contributions in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). His keen interest was made manifest long before it became fashionable. He pushed away the old-fashioned typewriter and embraced the computer word-processor before most offices and he was an early adopter of internet and related technologies. He was one of the first royal converts of social media. He encouraged the palace to break down its barrier with the public by calling for the first live TV coverage of events including the coronation but will reject being described as a revolutionary, or a radical but a moderniser. 

The Duke strongly supported engineering, visiting Cambridge University’s Department of Engineering regularly both before and during his time as Chancellor. He was instrumental to the creation of the Royal Academy of Engineering, which has had several presidents from Cambridge, and he championed the establishment of the Regius Professorship in Engineering at Cambridge in 2011. Students and staff at the Department of Engineering recall his lively interest in discussing their work. Dame Ann Dowling, former Head of the Department of Engineering, remembers that the Duke “had much to contribute to conversations on aircraft noise, my own area of research, not only because he was a pilot, but because Windsor Castle is right under the approach to Heathrow!” 

Did Prince Philip make any impact of youth and women empowerment?

With extraordinary foresight and radical dedication to the development of the full potential of youths, Prince Philip gave all his energy to the empowerment of the next generation. Prince Philip initiated this unique programme, with religious zeal, with a club for youth development in the autumn of 1954. This has become the single most impactful legacy of Prince Philip – the “Duke of Edinburgh” (DOfE) Award, which is open to young men and women from over 130 countries. It has impacted over 6.7 million young people in the UK alone. He transformed the lives of many students around the world. It was initially to bridge the gap between age 15 and 18, but in 1980s, due to popular demand it was extended from aged 14 to 24.  It currently offers four categories of activities namely volunteering, physical, skills and expedition with residential component for the gold award. The awards are completed in schools, colleges, universities, youth clubs, churches, businesses, young offender institutions and charities, or voluntary organisations.  

It is to his youngest son, Prince Edward, that Prince Philip entrusted his greatest legacy – the Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards. Prince Philip once described the worldwide award programme for young people that he set up in 1956 as a “do-it-yourself growing up kit” that is heavy on practical skills acquisition. It trains young men and ladies in skills that are missing from traditional school curriculum and helped countless young people on their sometimes-difficult path to adulthood.” 

It is universally recognised that Prince Philip’s timeless vision for young people has never been more relevant or needed. The DoE is playing a crucial role in supporting young people to survive and thrive despite the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic. Prince Philip in a referral partnership with the ExcellenceinEducation.org.uk programme actively encourages all students to enroll on the programme as teenagers. The Duke was indeed a lifelong advocate for young people, believing in each individual’s full potential.

Although it is now used by universities in selecting students for admissions, the programme is great at ensuring that all young people – particularly those from inner-cities or marginalised groups – can benefit from the better educational outcomes, employment prospects, community ties and better mental health that are associated with doing Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards.” 

A previous participant in the programme once said “Even though I suffered many different challenges and setbacks along the way, I showed myself and others that no matter what mental health issues I face, it is possible to achieve anything I want. Even when others felt I would fail.” While another said that they first met Prince Philip, 40 years ago at Kensington Palace when they received their Gold Awards.

In 2006, Prince Philip accepted a Royal Charter from his wife, Queen Elizabeth II on behalf of his awards scheme during a reception at Buckingham Palace. He celebrated attending his 500th Gold Award Presentation in the UK in 2013 and continued carrying out engagements for the charity in the UK and around the world until his so-called retirement from public engagements in 2017. Much after retirement, he remained active in monitoring events.

Entitlements and titles

The true son of his mother, who became a Christian nun, Prince Philip’s humility forbade him from craving titles, personal attention, ceremonial honours or awards. But for the record, officially, He was His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, PC, KG, KT, OM, ONZ, GCVO, GBE, AK, AC, QSO. The Field Marshal of the New Zealand Army, Admiral of the Fleet of the Royal New Zealand Navy, and Marshal of the Royal New Zealand Air Force. The Knight of the Order of Australia. The Extraordinary Companion of the Order of Canada. The Lord High Admiral of the United Kingdom.

His Naval ranks and appointments include: 1940 – 1941: Midshipman, HMS Ramillies, HMS Valiant. 1941 – 16 July 1942: Sub-Lieutenant, HMS Wallace

16 July 1942 – October 1942: Lieutenant, HMS Wallace October 1942 – 15 Aug 1950: First Lieutenant, HMS Wallace, HMS Whelp, HMS Chequers. 15 August 1950 – 2 February 1952: Lieutenant Commander, HMS Chequers, HMS Magpie. 2 February 1952 – 15 January 1953: Commander, HMS Magpie 15 January 1953 – 9 April 2021: Admiral of the Fleet, RN. 10 June 2011 – 9 April 2021: Lord High Admiral of the United Kingdom.

Some of Prince Philip’s Royal and noble titles include: His Royal Highness Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark. Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten.  His Royal Highness, Sir Philip Mountbatten and His Royal Highness, The Duke of Edinburgh. 

In a memorable encounter with me, HRH Prince Philip attempted to make us relax, as a group of ethnic minorities. He had overheard our group members of African ancestry asking nervous questions about protocol. He surprised everyone by walking in and saying that he, (HRH Prince Philip and father of the next king), was “also an immigrant in Britain” (Referring to the fact that he was not born British, rather as a Greek). He went on to reassure other commonwealth guests of his radical views promoting diversity and inclusion of immigrants, from all backgrounds and nations. This prompted more smiles, as he asked, “Do you think you are a foreigner, how about me?”

Samantha Imafidon, paying tribute to him, said to the Sunday Times “HRH Prince Philip was a huge advocate for technology. He was more of a rebel, who wanted to shake things up. He was the one who pushed the Queen to give her first broadcast address etc.”) In 1961, Prince Philip became the first member of the royal family to be interviewed on television. Also, he was bilingual, as he speaks French very fluently – he lived in France for seven years as a kid.

In conclusion, it is proper to state how Prince Philip reigned without being crowned king. As husband of Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip was not the “King” in the traditional sense of the word. He was a consort but through his tireless charitable work, innovations and creativity, he played a monumental role as the true father of our nation. And by doing so, he inadvertently reigned.  Prince Philip’s influence went beyond Edinburgh and it reigned in the hearts of millions of youths world-wide through the DofE thanks to the broken education system. DofE is the world’s best leadership training, according to independent experts. 

Prince Philip reigned globally because of his prophetic foresight into sustainability and radical campaign for ecology. He reigned in the heart of every woman due to his support and submission to his wife, Queen Elizabeth by abandoning his successful naval career to become a “house-husband.” This action eloquently demonstrated female equity, decades ahead of time. He reigned in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) through his practical inventions and focused drive in technology – becoming the king of engineering.  He reigned in the hearts of the less privileged, migrants through his formal and informal identification and support for charities for this group as the king of equality. He reigned in the hearts of every married couple, through his over 73 years as a husband dedicated to the relationship decision he made as a young man and kept his word through hell and high water, – thereby becoming the king of marriage.  He will forever reign in our hearts!!

His private discussions and meetings showed a very different person from the public characterization. Although he will never admit it, he broke down the barrier between the public and the palace, via many initiatives including the 1970 first royal walk; charity musical solo album and technology among many others.  ENDS

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