In the aftermath of His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh’s death and the publication of my review of her excellent biography about him, Editor in Chief of Majesty Magazine, Ingrid Seward kindly and generously accepted to respond to a few questions about the longest serving consort in the history of the British Monarchy. For anyone interested in knowing more about the life and times of Prince Philip, I could not encourage you enough to get a copy of Prince Philip Revealed (Simon & Schuster). Without any further introduction, here is the content of our exchange:
Lots has been said and written since the announcement of the death of the Duke of Edinburgh, but what would be, in your opinion, his main legacy?
His main legacy is his remarkable sense of duty which enabled him to do so many things. I suppose the Duke of Edinburgh awards are the main thing he will be remembered for.
As a biographer, you have certainly met with Prince Philip on several occasions. What is your best memory of those encounters?
So many and on many occasions, he was quite rude to me, but the one that made me laugh most was when I met him in Jordan at the beginning of a royal tour and he asked me if I was German and when he discovered I wasn’t he just turned around and walked away! He didn’t want to waste any more time with me and obviously had nothing further to say. I suppose that shows how shy in fact he was.
I have visited St. George’s Chapel myself on few occasions and this is one of the most beautiful and spiritual places I’ve been to. We even attended an evening prayer service there. Maybe I missed something in the news, but I was wondering if the choice of that place has anything to do with his attachment to St. George’s House?
St. Georges Chapel is where Philip was always to be interred as that is where the Queen will eventually be, so they will be side by side.
Because of my passion for books, could you tell us more about the Duke’s reading habits? How fond was he of military history?
I think he loved biography more than anything and it is the Queen that loves military history. He had an extensive library and also plundered the library at the big house at Sandringham. Remember the books he wrote himself and the many forwards he contributed to. He had just completed writing a forward to a history of one of the family houses in Germany.
Would you happen to know of a particular biography or book that left a particular mark on him?
I would say the most recent one on Lord Nelson (Nelson: The Sword of Albion, Bodley Head) by John Snugden, which was some time ago. He also liked poetry – things like Tennyson. He had a large collection of wildlife books and a library of 13 000 nonfiction books.
The Duke of Edinburgh retired from public life in 2017, but I am sure his influence was still felt in the Royal Family. Who can Her Majesty the Queen count on to provide her with a similar level of support from now on?
I think that the Duke of Cambridge and the Prince of Wales. Sadly, for her the companion she really liked at her side was the Duke of York, but I can’t see him taking such a high-profile role. But maybe I am wrong, and the Queen may see this as a way of rehabilitating him.
If we project ourselves in the future, do you think the Duchess of Cambridge will play a similar role to her husband as Prince Philip has assumed for the Queen?
Yes, I do. I think she has a similar sense of duty albeit it in a younger way
Do you have another book in the making and, if so, would you be comfortable telling us what it will be about?
My publisher wants me to do another book about the Queen, but I am not sure what format it will take as there will be a lot coming out next year.