Last Friday the 9th April, Buckingham Palace announced the death of His Royal Highness, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, husband to Queen Elizabeth II and father of the Prince of Wales, who, in time, will become sovereign of the United Kingdom. The official announcement confirmed the Duke of Edinburgh died peacefully that morning at Windsor Castle where had been recuperating since the 16th March after a medical procedure on his heart performed at St. Bartholomew’s hospital in London earlier that month. As the Duke of Edinburgh had quite a close link to British coinage from the very start of his wife’s reign, the Royal Mint posted a message of condolence from the Chief Operating Officer, Anne Jessop, expressing their sadness just hours after hearing the news of the death of Prince Philip:
On behalf of everyone at The Royal Mint, I’d like to express our great sadness and heartfelt condolences at the passing of HRH Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh. The Royal Mint had a long and close relationship with The Duke of Edinburgh as he served as President of The Royal Mint Advisory Committee (RMAC) for 47 years between 1952 and 1999. During this period, the committee he chaired approved the Coronation medal, the coins needed for decimalisation, and four coinage portraits of Her Majesty The Queen. The thoughts of all of us at The Royal Mint are with the Royal Family at this difficult time.
— Anne Jessopp, Chief Executive, The Royal Mint
Many in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth had hoped the Duke of Edinburgh would this year reach his own milestone centenary birthday and as part of the celebrations receive a congratulatory telegram from the Queen on the achievement — as is customary in the UK. Prince Philip was just eight weeks away from this celebration, having been born on the 10th June 1921 — he would have been the second British consort to have celebrated a centenary birthday after his mother-in-law, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, who celebrated her 100th birthday in August 2000. At the time of his death, Prince Philip was the longest-serving consort of a reigning British monarch and the longest-lived male member of the British royal family.
The Duke of Edinburgh’s long association with the Royal Mint began when he assumed the presidency of the Royal Mint Advisory Committee (RMAC) in 1952. At the time, it was rightly believed he would represent the personal wishes of the Queen pertaining to the design and theme of new British coinage. It would be the responsibility of Prince Philip to approve the coronation medal in 1953, the reverse designs on new circulation coinage minted in time for the Queen’s crowning at Westminster Abbey, as well as her effigy seen on the obverse of the new series. The Royal Mint was confident the Queen herself was happy with the direction that new Elizabethan-era coinage was taking, as Prince Philip was most likely in close consultation with his wife.
During the Duke of Edinburgh’s tenure as president of the RMAC, the United Kingdom would usher in decimalisation, a total of four effigies of Queen Elizabeth II would be introduced as well as three new denominations for general circulation. Of special interest to coin collectors, more than a dozen new commemorative crowns would be minted from 1953 marking royal occasions which included wedding anniversaries, birthdays, the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, and the marriage of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981. Prince Philip himself would have his name integrated onto the design of a British crown in 1972, when he was befittingly the first British consort to have this honour.
His image was depicted a total of five times thus far on British commemorative coinage from 1997 and was the first serving royal consort to be seen on the coinage of the United Kingdom. The first instance was for the Golden Wedding Anniversary of sovereign and consort, and, on the occasion, double conjoined portraits of the royal couple were included on the obverse. This would occur twice more in 2007 for the couple’s Diamond Anniversary and in 2017 for their Platinum Anniversary. In between their Golden and Platinum anniversaries, Prince Philip celebrated his 90th birthday in 2011 and a special crown with his sole profile was issued. Before his Diamond Wedding, Prince Philip announced his retirement from public life on the 2nd August 2017 having completed 22,219 solo engagements and 5,493 speeches since 1952. In tribute to his life-long service to the nation as well as to the Queen, a commemorative crown was issued and perhaps the last numismatic project he personally approved. The crown’s reverse included a profile portrait of HRH the Duke of Edinburgh which was originally sculpted by Humphrey Paget OBE (1893–1974) first used on an award medal and which was Paget’s last major commission before his retirement. Below the image of Prince Philip, was the Latin inscription “NON SIBI SED PATRIAE,“ meaning “not for self, but for country.” And, in the case of the Duke of Edinburgh, an appropriate assertion.
My office had it on good authority that a commemorative celebratory crown for Prince Philip was planned for release just before what would have been his 100th birthday. It is possible this project may transition into a memorial coin and affirmation of the extraordinary life led by a most exceptional Prince.
The Duke of Edinburgh retired from the Royal Mint Advisory Committee in 1999 after 47 years of service. His Royal Highness made a lasting impression on the work of the Royal Mint while he was president of the RMAC — his legacy will carry on through the exceptional numismatic history he contributed to and his efforts will be well remembered.
As per the wishes of the late Duke of Edinburgh, his funeral will not be a state occasion but rather a final send-off with as little fuss as possible. This is seen by many as just another example of the humble man who the Queen once described as:
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.
These comments by the Queen were delivered in tribute to her husband during celebrations of the couple’s Golden Wedding Anniversary at Banqueting House in November 1997.
Prince Philip is survived by his wife the Queen, four children, eight grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren. The Royal family and UK Government announced an official mourning period of eight days. The palace has announced that in accordance with current pandemic restrictions, a maximum of 30 people may be in attendance at the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh. The service with royal observances will be presided over by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and take place on the 17th April at St. George’s Chapel. Following his funeral, The Duke of Edinburgh will be privately interred in the Royal Vault of St. George’s Chapel. In due time, he will rest next to the Queen and be transferred to the gothic church’s King George VI memorial chapel to lie alongside his wife of 73 years. The small chapel houses the remains of the Queen’s father George VI, her mother the Queen Mother, and sister Princess Margaret.