Sunday Column: The Duke of Edinburgh represented a better era for Britain.



By Derek W Gardiner

The sad passing of HRH the Duke of Edinburgh marks the end of an era, as one of the last surviving veterans of the Second World War, he was part of the generation that saved this country and indeed the world from fascism. It's hard to talk about a second Elizabethan era as the time Her Majesty has reigned with the Duke always dutifully by her side is completely unrecognisable as we now near the close of it to those who would have been alive at the beginning of it. The 1950s were a different world to the 2020s and the culture and mannerisms of the people of those times completely foreign to each other.


Recent perceptions that the Queen and Prince Philip are "heartless" and their values "outdated" illustrates this point very well. The values of the generation that fought in and lived through the Second World War, also known as the "greatest generation" are very different to ours. When it came to matters of grief and loss, as Her Majesty has experienced much of in her life beginning with the premature death of her father in 1952, their attitude is to grieve in private and respectfully while maintaining continuity. The proclamation of "the King is dead, long live the King" or "keep calm and carry on" shows the level of resilience that generation needed in order to ensure the survival of the nation.


Faith, family and country meant everything to that generation and it is perfectly exemplified by the Duke's 73-year commitment to his wife and family, he was always there to support Her Majesty and knew the parameters of his constitutional role, he was not allowed to view the papers of state in Her Majesty's red box every morning, he was not allowed to sit with her during her meetings with Prime Minister's or discuss any points brought up in them and he never asked to be included in the affairs of state. He was always there to advise on family matters such as the education of Prince Charles at Gordonstoun, his own Alma Mater where he learned the values of self-betterment through the teachings of German educator Kurt Hahn and this eventually inspired him to create the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme, which has benefitted many generations of young people across many countries. While the Queen was head of state, the Duke was head of the family. He also spoke his mind and was intellectually curious, something very much acceptable in a less politically correct society.


A turning point however came at the tragic death of Princess Diana, the royal family approached this as a private family affair, however, the mood of public opinion coupled with the "modernising" effect of the newly elected Prime Minister Tony Blair forced them to join in a display of public grief. It was obvious to them at that point that things had changed.


People no longer value the building blocks of British society. Many people have lost their faith and now the Police can get away with raiding churches if they breach draconian COVID regulations, the decline of the married family has resulted in a higher dependence on state welfare and people have consented to a big brother state for a disease that would hardly have been noticed 50 years ago.


At one point being British meant that if you stayed within the law, you would never see the state beyond the postman and the policeman, instead people had strong family and community ties and were able to think beyond themselves, the monarchy was the embodiment of these values through giving their lives to public service. However, today we live in a society where most of that has disappeared and the state has stepped in to regulate our lives instead.