The indefatigable 99-year-old was said to be “astute, combative, curious and very funny” by the Right Reverend Nick Baines, the Bishop of Leeds.
His tribute came in a special virtual service at Leeds Minster last night – just one of many church and civic events being held to honour Prince Philip’s lifetime of service.
Today the Great Peter bell at York Minster will toll for an hour from 2pm ahead of the funeral at Windsor which will begin with a nationwide three-minute silence at 3pm.
However Bishop Nick used his eulogy to praise the “visionary establishment of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards” for young people – he wished he had known about them when “growing up in a place (Liverpool) where aspiration was low” – and how little so many people knew about his wider work and contribution to history.
“In a culture that lauds self-fulfilment and success, he modelled – ahead of his time, I think – a willingness to sacrifice his own ambitions and potential in order to serve his wife, the Monarch,” he told worshippers.
“In doing so he also revealed in the eyes of some a different approach to masculinity.
“The choices he faced were not trivial, and the choices he made were not inevitable. Prince Philip decided to serve his country and the Commonwealth by serving – not always comfortably – the Queen.”
He went on: “I only met him a few times, but found him astute, combative, curious and very funny. He lived through so many social, cultural and political changes that his ability to keep abreast of it all seems even more remarkable.
“Yet, perhaps he earned the respect of many people around the world precisely because his wrestling with a changing world was not always hidden. Noted for his frank talking and acute – sometimes un-PC – observations, he always ran the risk of saying more than intended and opening a crack into which the light of realism might shine.
“In other words, he was a real human being who strove to fulfil his duties within the constraints of the particular times in which he lived.”
Bishop Nick described Prince Philip has a man of strong religious faith who relished theological discussions. “You couldn’t get away with superficiality because he would be onto you immediately,” he added.
“As a Northerner, I loved this. He talked straight, but, unlike some who can only give it but not take it, he thrived on challenge and argument rooted in mutual respect and curiosity. And he couldn’t help but be funny.”