How the reactions to Philip’s death reveal the royal family dynamics

Katherine Chatfield
·Columnist
·6-min read

In the days since Prince Philip died, all four of his children have given tributes to their father, either speaking directly to the press or releasing a statement. Although on the surface their statements might appear similar, each of them gives a hint at the values they uphold and the message they’re trying to portray.

Here, we take a look at what each tribute is telling us:

Prince Charles addresses the media, outside Highgrove House in Gloucestershire, England,
Prince Charles gave a poignant tribute to his late father outside his Highgrove House home. Photo: Getty Images

Prince Charles

Although Prince Philip and his eldest son had a notoriously tumultuous relationship, in recent years they had mellowed towards each other and “were the closest they’d ever been,” according to royal biographer, Robert Jobson's account for the Daily Mail.

When Prince Philip was in hospital a few weeks before he died, Charles visited him, and Prince Philip impressed on the future heir to the throne how to look after the Queen, and how he should lead the royal family in years to come. 

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This sense of duty, mixed with a personal reflection on his relationship with his father was evident in Charles’ tribute. 

His first comment was as a future monarch, referring to Prince Philip’s “remarkable, devoted service to The Queen, to my family and to the country.” However, then he refers to his “papa,” making his affection for Philip obvious. “My dear Papa was a very special person who I think above all else would have been amazed by the reaction and the touching things that have been said about him," he said. 

Charles’ tribute shows a deep respect for his father’s wishes, and as a result, a public acknowledgement that they came to understand each other in the last few years.

Princess Anne

For many years Princess Anne was dubbed as being the child that Prince Philip wished would be heir to the throne (instead of Charles). 

Anne and her father had a strong bond. They shared a love of sport and horseriding, and Philip is said to have encouraged her strong, often fearless nature as she grew up. 

Princess Anne and Prince Philip at the London Olympics 2012
Princess Anne shared a photo of her and Prince Philip at the 2012 London Olympics as part of her tribute. Credti: Getty Images.

“She’s as strong as he is, takes no nonsense, takes no prisoners,” according to royal reporter Ashley Walton. 

Princess Anne’s statement reflects their close bond. The photo she chose to accompany the statement was of the pair at the 2012 Olympics, enjoying their shared love of equestrianism. 

She began with the emotional line: “You know it’s going to happen but you are never really ready.” She reveals how she had looked up to her dad, and relied on his guidance and support – even when it wasn’t what she wanted to hear. 

“My father has been my teacher, my supporter and my critic,” she said. She made reference to his work but ended on a personal but pragmatic note – a quality which she reportedly inherited from Philip. “We will miss him,” she said. “But he leaves a legacy which can inspire us all.”

Prince Andrew

Prince Andrew hasn’t spoken publicly since his disastrous Newsnight interview talking about his relationship with convicted paedophile Geoffrey Epstein in 2019. However, the day after Prince Philip died, Andrew spoke to reporters outside the Royal Chapel of All Saints at Royal Lodge in Windsor. 

Prince Andrew and Prince Philip wearing suits together
Prince Andrew was thought to be very close with his late father, Prince Philip. Photo: Getty Images

He was careful to make his statement about family - perhaps as a way of showing that he’s still in the royal fold, and will remain there despite his association with Epstein. 

Believed to have been the Queen’s favourite child growing up, he made it clear that he was there to support his mother – and that the family remains a tight unit. 

“[The Queen] described it as having left a huge void in her life but we, the family, the ones that are close, are rallying round to make sure that we're there to support her,” he said. 

He referred to a conversation with his father, perhaps as an oblique way of making it clear the pair hadn’t fallen out over the allegations surrounding Andrew. 

"My father said to me on the telephone a few months ago, 'We are all in the same boat and we must always remember that, but occasionally we, the family, are asked to stand up and show compassion and leadership,” he said. The BBC received hundreds of complaints after they aired the short tribute piece.

Prince Edward

Prince Edward is the youngest of the Queen and Prince Philip’s children, and has reportedly always been close to both his parents. 

This closeness showed; when he spoke outside Royal Chapel of All Saints after a small memorial service for his father, he appeared visibly upset. 

Britain's Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex  Britain's Sophie, Countess of Wessex, and Britain's Lady Louise Windsor
Britain's Prince Edward, Sophie Wessex and Lady Louise Windsor were pictured on Sunday after a church service. Photo: Getty Images

"It has been a bit of a shock, however much one tries to prepare oneself for something like this it is still a dreadful shock,” he said. 

“We are still trying to come to terms with that. It is very very sad." Unlike his brothers and sister, he didn’t mention his dad’s service or duty, but simply referred to how his death will affect the people who knew him personally. 

“It just goes to show, he might have been our father, grandfather, father-in-law. But he meant so much to so many other people. Just being here this morning with everybody from Windsor Great Park. He was a ranger here for more years than any other ranger and he means so much to so many people here."

Not forgetting his grandchildren...

The statements released by Prince William and Prince Harry highlighted their affection for their “grandpa”, but also served to show the differences between their characters

William’s statement was much more formal than Harry’s and he pledged to continue Prince Philip’s legacy. 

"Catherine and I will continue to do what he would have wanted and will support The Queen in the years ahead," William said, in what many have interpreted as a veiled barb at Harry.

Harry’s statement was more personal, referring to the Duke’s playful nature, and revealing some of the values he upholds as important. “He was my grandpa: master of the barbecue, legend of banter, and cheeky right ‘til the end.”

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