Prince Philip’s passing feels like it is the end of a generation but I hope that his spirit of duty, service and loyalty is more widespread than we think. I am an optimist given the genuine outpouring of grief and respect for a man whose life was more about the how than the what.
Prince Philip made no breakthrough inventions, he did not employ thousands through business, and he wasn’t a leader of a nation or party. He is an everyday man’s hero, however, because he approached the sacrifices he made with the good humour of an everyday, down to-earth man.
He was an example for us all on how to live a happy life content with the opportunities we have been granted and taking pride in how we fulfil them. As he remarked about his unfulfilled naval ambitions, “You have to make compromises. That’s life. I accepted it. I tried to make the best of it.”
It is understandable why many feel that this is the end of an era. Prince Philip was a veteran of World War II. He reminds us of a time when celebrities were known for what they achieved and rarely, if ever, complained about their own suffering.
Now often, the richest and luckiest among us, seem unable to avoid playing the victim.
Prince Philip expressed gratitude for what he had. Today, celebrities focus on how they have been mistreated. In a generation we seem to have gone from gratitude to grievance.
There is a trend here that has been growing throughout the modern era. A trend to promote the self as the centre of the universe. And to unlock life’s meaning, the view is you need to look inside yourself, not help others.
Carl Trueman makes this point in a new book titled The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self. As he says, in times past, “commitment was outwardly directed to those communal beliefs, practices, and institutions that were bigger than the individual and in which the individual, to the degree that he or she conformed to or cooperated with them, found meaning.” In Prince Philip’s case, he gave up on his dreams to be a senior naval officer, to the bigger institution of the Royal Family and the traditions of British government.
As Mr Trueman goes on to say, for the modern man “the commitment is first and foremost to the self and is inwardly directed”.
We have seen that in the Royal Family itself where the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, has made much of her perceived mistreatment by others and its impact on her mental state.
Prince Philip was often dubbed “Philip the Greek” by the unforgiving British press in his early days. I can’t find a single record of him complaining about the treatment. He just got on with the job.
We may fear that Ms Markle’s example is what dominates modern life. Playing the victim is an easy way to get coverage but Ms Markle’s contribution was met with widespread condemnation by everyday people. Whereas, the example of duty and sacrifice of Prince Philip’s life, has been met with universal regard.
I have trust that the majority of people continue to be thankful for how lucky we have it to live in a country as good as Australia, and want to spend their lives in cheerful duty to their family and friends as Prince Philip did.