Thu | Sep 23, 2021

Farewell ‘Captain of the Commonwealth’

Published:Monday | April 19, 2021 | 12:08 AM


The Duke of Edinburgh made an official visit to the University of Technology, Jamaica in February. The Royals were no strangers to the College of Arts, Science and Technology (CAST), and later University of Technology (UTech), Jamaica, as noted by the longest-serving principal of CAST and the university’s first president, Dr Alfred Sangster. The President Emeritus in his 2010 publication, The Making of a University: From CAST to UTech, comments on the preparation for the Queen’s visit, which coincided with the 25th Anniversary of CAST:

“The visit of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, on Thursday February 15, 1983, was a very special occasion for the College. Preparations were made long in advance for the visit. Her Majesty had consented to unveil a plaque to mark the launching of the Auditorium Project, and Prince Philip would plant a tree.”

The task is now mine to investigate what became of the tree that Prince Philip planted and, if identified, to ensure that proper signage to that effect is erected. However, a more important issue arises, which has to do with ‘the recording of history’. I have learnt more about Prince Philip after his death than during his lifetime, and was particularly shocked to learn about his early years.

On Saturday, April 17, I watched the military funeral of Prince Philip at the historic St George’s Chapel, Windsor, UK. It was reported that Prince Philip did not want a state funeral and that he was involved in the planning of his own funeral, including the design of the Land Rover which bore his body.

The funeral, was ‘choreographed beautifully’, depicting his sense of duty. There was no eulogy. All branches of the military participated with expert precision. His body will remain in the chapel’s Royal Vault until the passing of the Queen, and then they will be buried together. It was a relatively short ceremony, which one commentator described as ‘a blend of the personal and the ceremonial.’ The COVID-19 pandemic did not dampen the pomp and pageantry for which the British is famous, despite its best attempt.

A common theme throughout the ceremony was Prince Philip’s sense of duty, such as his important role of the commonwealth. He represented the World War II generation.

The event slogan of ‘patriotism in the crown, the armed forces, the church and the people’ could have been commandeered by none other than Prince Philip, who, in death, managed to have William and Harry on speaking terms with the help of intercessory Kate. Thus ensuring that the focus remained on the Prince. Nothing less was expected from the ‘Captain of the Commonwealth’.


Museum and Heritage Preservation Officer

Lecturer, Archival Appraisal and Access

University of Technology, Jamaica