Today’s columnist, James Taylor: Don’t forget Prince Philip

editorial image

Today a national service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral celebrates the Queen’s 90th birthday.

Although Her Majesty turned 90 on April 21 with a walkabout at Windsor, her official birthday is always held in June with the ceremony of Trooping the Colour on Horse Guards Parade.

I will be in London again for tomorrow’s ceremony.

This year there will also be the Patron’s Lunch organised by the Queen’s grandson, Peter Phillips, on Sunday and other celebrations up and down the country.

In all of these festivities, one thing which may be overlooked is that today is the Duke of Edinburgh’s birthday.

Given that the Duke carried out 250 engagements last year, you would be forgiven for overlooking or not realising that today he turns 95.

While many people his age would lead a quiet life, he remains alert and interested in the organisations he has supported over the years.

Married in 1947, the Queen and Prince Philip have the longest marriage in the history of our monarchy and next year will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary.

His support for her over the years should not be underestimated.

Being Queen must be a privileged life but a lonely one and having someone whom she can trust implicitly to discuss her work with and ask for advice must have been a great comfort to her.

At the time of their Golden Wedding in 1997, the Queen paid tribute to her husband by saying: “He has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years and I, and his whole family, and this and many other countries, owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim, or we shall ever know.”

Indeed, they are so much of a double act that, although they do carry out engagements together, we are far more used to seeing them together at ceremonies such as Trooping the Colour, the State Opening of Parliament and the Garter Service, on Monday at Windsor.

The pair of them still regularly travel around the country on what is known as an ‘away day’.

Prince Philip can often be found speaking to young children, many of whom will have been there for several hours, helping them to hand their flowers and gifts to the Queen by ushering them through a barrier or taking the gift and handing it on.

It’s a side of Prince Philip which is often not seen or recognised by many people.

He is someone who has added colour to national life and this birthday is a chance to recognise his contribution.