INTERNATIONAL NEWS - Prince Philip, the longest serving royal consort in British history who was a constant presence at Queen Elizabeth II's side for decades, died on Friday aged 99, Buckingham Palace has announced.
The death of the Duke of Edinburgh is a profound loss for the 94-year-old monarch, who once described him as her "strength and stay all these years".
Queen Elizabeth announced his passing "with deep sorrow" after he died peacefully in the morning at Windsor Castle, west of London, the palace said in a statement.
"The Royal Family join with people around the world in mourning his loss," the statement said. The outspoken former navy commander devoted much of his life as the queen's husband to charity work -- but was notorious for numerous gaffes, some of them causing offence.
He was admitted to hospital on 16 February, and went home after a month during which he was treated for a pre-existing heart condition and an infection.
Announcing his death, BBC television played the national anthem over a picture of Philip in his prime, dressed in military dress uniform. Flags were lowered to half-mast on royal and government buildings and a notice announcing his death pinned to the gates of Buckingham Palace.
"We give thanks, as a nation and a kingdom, for the extraordinary life and work of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh," Prime Minister Boris Johnson said outside 10 Downing Street. Johnson said Philip had "earned the affection of generations" at home, in the Commonwealth and across the world after first serving in the Royal Navy and then over nearly eight decades beside the queen.
Tributes poured in from political and faith leaders in Britain, and from the United States, Europe and Commonwealth countries including Australia, India and New Zealand.
Condolences were also expressed by leaders in Ireland, where in 2011 the queen and Philip paid the first royal state visit for a century following generations of enmity with Britain.
Prior to this year's crisis over relations with the queen's grandson Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, the monarchy had to weather the 1997 death in a car crash of Harry's mother Princess Diana.
Tony Blair, who was prime minister then, lauded Philip "as a man of foresight, determination and courage" who was ahead of his time in the cause of environmental protection.
Chris Green, a 57-year-old local government officer, told AFP outside Buckingham Palace: "I came here when the Queen Mother (in 2002) and Diana died so I came here for a quiet thought and to pay my respects.
"With his age and his recent health problems it hasn't come as a massive shock, but it is one of those moments we will look back on and say it was a significant event," he said.
Philip retired from public duties in 2017 at the age of 96 and died just before his 100th birthday in June -- a milestone that for Britons is typically marked with a congratulatory message from the queen, who is now Britain's longest-serving monarch. Sarah Allison, 31, paid her respects at Buckingham Palace with her four-year-old daughter.
"He was a figure of history. It's really a sad day. He lived an amazing and varied life and it's such a loss to his family and his wife because they were inseparable," she said.
Few public appearances
The couple, who celebrated their 73rd wedding anniversary in November, had been living largely in isolation at Windsor Castle, west of London, because their age put them at heightened risk from Covid-19.
Philip and the queen -- isolated in what they called "HMS Bubble" -- received their first vaccinations against the virus in January. Philip was no stranger to health issues. He was previously fitted with a stent in 2011 after suffering from a blocked artery. He also had a hip operation in 2018 and in January 2019, he emerged unscathed after his vehicle was involved in a traffic accident that injured two people near the monarch's Sandringham estate in eastern England.
The prince then spent four nights in hospital in December that year, receiving treatment for what was described as a "pre-existing condition". He was discharged on Christmas Eve, in time to rejoin the rest of the royal family for the festive period. Since the pandemic, Philip had made few public appearances.
He was last seen at a staged appearance at a military ceremony at Windsor Castle in July, days after attending the wedding ceremony of his granddaughter Princess Beatrice. In November, he and the queen marked the latest anniversary of their 1947 nuptials by releasing a photograph of them together, again at Windsor.
The queen had four children with Philip -- Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward -- eight grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
Philip was born on the island of Corfu with Danish and Greek royal titles. He fled the country when he was just 18 months old with his parents and four sisters, after his uncle, king Constantine of Greece, was forced to abdicate.
The family initially settled in France. Philip was formally introduced to princess Elizabeth, the future queen, in July 1939 and they kept in touch during the war, meeting on several occasions.
The pair married in Westminster Abbey in London in 1947.
A rising star in the British navy, Philip had reached the rank of commander by the time Elizabeth ascended to the throne in 1952. He eventually shelved his personal ambitions to support his wife in the role. Over the ensuing decades he was involved in numerous charities, including the World Wide Fund For Nature and the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme for young people.