The loss of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, the longest serving consort in history, has been an event with worldwide significance. The funeral last Saturday, 17 April, was watched across every corner of the world, especially countries in the commonwealth group of nations. But although significant for the nation, how much more significant was his death and funeral to his immediate family, especially to his wife of 73 years, our Queen Elizabeth II? To her, he wasn’t just the public figure at her side for all of her reigning years, 1953 till the present day, but a dearly beloved husband, the only one to call her ‘Lillibet’. Quite simply, the love of her life. What words can answer that grief? She, who over the years has dispensed so many 100 birthday cards yet denied sending one to her beloved, dying just two months short of the date.
Perhaps only the poignant words of poet, W.H. Auden’s poem somewhat explain the inexplicable -:
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message ‘He is Dead’.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
Of course, there is still good. Prince Philip had a strong Christian faith, like the queen and so although she mourns his loss, she knows that one day she will see him again.
In my book, Waireka, Eliza loses the love of her life, Robert, to cancer at a much younger age but she is similarly distraught, especially as, unlike the queen, she can’t even attend his funeral to say ‘goodbye’. Informed after the event by his wife, Mary.
“Robert, dead or alive, would always be a part of her life. He would be in her every waking thought and prayers until she went up to be with him.” (p 218, Waireka)