A Tribute to the Greatest Royal
Last Friday, just after midday, the country received news that was both long-awaited and yet surprising and disorientating. His Royal Highness, Prince Philip, had died just a few months short of his 100th birthday. For some of us, this may be the first major royal death of our lifetime. For others, it will be the first we remember meaningfully.
The Duke, like us all, was a man with flaws and prone to the occasional gaffe - though, unlike mine (thankfully!), his were often caught on camera. And yet, his life was one overarchingly that people have rushed to commend. In the wave of tributes that have flooded in during the last few days of ‘national mourning’, one thing has struck me – Prince Philip’s life points us to a life of another, one that was lived better despite it being approximately one third of the length. Here then are 3 things in the Duke’s story that point us to Jesus.
The Royal Child Refugee
One of the most tragic and fascinating elements of the Prince’s life was the fact that very early on, despite being born into royalty, he was a refugee. His father was accused of treason in his native Greece and the family eventually escaped on a British ship, with Prince Philip aged 1 being carried on board in a box-turned-cot. For the Duke, life started with trauma and confusion with which most of us cannot associate. And yet, it’s a familiar tale for many in our world today. And for another royal child – though this royal’s kingdom is not of this world.
In Matthew’s gospel, we read of an angel appearing to Joseph and saying, “Get up… take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod [the ruler at the time] is going to search for the child to kill him.” (Matthew 2:13)
If it shocks us to think of a human prince being turned into a refugee by necessity, how much more the Son of God who became one willingly? He came to earth knowing He would face the trauma and upheaval of a night flight to Egypt to keep Him safe. And He did it for our sakes.
The Self-Sacrificial Husband
The Duke had a hugely successful time in the Royal Navy, becoming one of its youngest first lieutenants. He played a significant part in the British naval effort during World War II and is credited with saving the lives of many fellow naval officers. By all accounts, Prince Philip loved the Navy and would have gone on to have great success in it. However, he met our now Queen and they married. When King George died and Queen Elizabeth took the throne at the age of 25, it soon became clear to Prince Philip that his career and ambitions must be put to one side to support his wife.
Paul writes: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25)
Jesus came to earth for His bride, the church (that is, all the people He calls His own). In order to secure that bride, Jesus has to first sacrifice hugely. He gives himself up for her. Just as Philip gave up his ambitions and career for his wife’s good, Christ gave up even more, His very life, so that He might save His beloved bride and secure their marriage forever.
The Servant Leader
The recurring themes of the tributes paid to Prince Philip seem to be those of ‘service’ and ‘duty’. Here is a man who spent nearly 70 years as royal consort. Primarily that time was spent in service of others, either in diplomacy, in public appearances, or in investing his boundless energy into causes that he was convinced were for the benefit of others. Here was a man who needed nothing for himself, and yet (in his best moments) used his position not for his own advantage but for the good of others.
Again, Paul writes of Jesus: “who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6-8)
The earthly prince gave of himself for the sake of others, and the Heavenly Prince does so in a much more glorious way. Jesus gave up the comforts of heaven to experience the pain and brokenness of our world. And not just its pain and brokenness, but He tasted its bitterest aspect: death itself. None of this service was for his own advantage. Instead, all of that was done for us, so that He could make the undeserving into His most treasured possession. Christians, we truly have a glorious Saviour!
Prince Philip was an imperfect man, imperfections of which we are all aware. And yet, he is also a little picture for us. In his best aspects, the ones that are being praised this week, he points us to the One without any flaws. So, as you take time during these days of mourning to reflect on the life of Prince Philip and hear tributes, or as you sit down to watch the funeral at 3pm on Saturday, let your mind move to consider the perfect royal refugee, self-sacrificial husband, and servant leader. The one who did all those things for you and me – that He might call us His own.
- Ben Goldenberg, Church Member