On one wonderful occasion, we were talking about the things we had in common– my wife and I have four children, and they had four children.
The wonderful thing about the Duke of Edinburgh was that, from that time, I couldn’t meet him without him saying “How are the children? Are they doing the Duke of Edinburgh?”
He had a phenomenal memory.
I got to work closely with the Duke of Edinburgh because of his work with, and his great presidency of, the Royal Society of Arts, although he would say “It’s not the Royal Society of Arts. It’s the Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce” – he absolutely insisted on that full agenda.
There are two things that came out of the Royal Society of Arts that I worked with him on.
One was a very interesting group where we tried to look at the future of the British countryside. It met at the RSA the first time and then at Buckingham Palace.
What I learned from those meetings was that the Duke of Edinburgh could do public service with a sense of humour. He had wonderful sense of humour.
They must have minted the saying “Not suffering fools gladly” for him, because there was certainly that element to his way of chairing a committee.
He would do his research, and he loved teasing politicians.
There were three of us on that committee, and he would always find something.
I got teased by him because at one stage, when the current Prime Minister was editor of The Spectator, he awarded me the parliamentary speech of the year award for my speech on fox hunting.
The Duke of Edinburgh never ceased teasing me about my commitment to fox hunting. On the other hand, the Duke of Edinburgh would suddenly pick up on something and say “What is this Labour party policy, the ‘right to roam’?”
I said: “Well, it’s to encourage people to get out into the countryside and walk wherever they can very freely.”
He said: “It sounds like a licence to poach and interfere with good farmers to me.”
He always had an edge to him, and it was such a good committee. I learned that people can do public service with a sense of humour and with passion.
The other passion that I was lucky enough to share with the Duke of Edinburgh was design.
People have mentioned his commitment to science, but every year, in conjunction with the Design Council and the design profession, he presented the Duke of Edinburgh Award for young, successful designers, and the wonderful awards ceremony in Buckingham Palace did so much to change the culture, focus and priority of design in our country.
I remember him launching in and stating that the Design Council should be “more than a posh shop in Piccadilly” and that it had to reach out so that everybody understands the importance of design in changing lives.
I enjoyed the relationship I had with that great man and I will mourn him. I know that Her Majesty will miss him sorely, but, as in my family, the Royal family will come together and get through this.
I will mourn with them.