IT was perhaps prophetic that Prince Philip spent so much of the final year of his life with the Queen at Windsor Castle after the outbreak of the Covid pandemic brought them even closer together.
The longest serving Royal consort in history had become accustomed to spending extended time at Sandringham, a palace where he was able to enjoy many of his outdoor pursuits, after stepping back from public duties nearly four years ago.
But the creation of a tightly-controlled ‘bubble’ at Windsor enabled Her Majesty to spend precious time with her husband that was defined by the release of two particularly enchanting photographs that will become even more precious to the Royal Family at this time of sorrow.
The first, published on Prince Philip’s 99th birthday last June, showed the Queen, resplendent in a floral dress, standing by the side of Prince Philip with the castle in the background. They looked so at ease in each other’s company on this early summer’s day, contemplating his centenary year.
An even more touching and intimate image followed last November on the occasion of their 73rd wedding anniversary when they were pictured opening a special card from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s three children.
The homemade gift had been created by Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, three of their much-loved great-grandchildren, and was emblazoned with the number 73.
This photo, taken in the Oak Room at Windsor Castle, was emblematic of the experiences of so many grandparents and great-grandparents touched by the kindness of friends and family during the lockdown a period in history like no other.
Both poignant and personal, it was also to be the last official photo of Prince Philip before his death.
He was admitted to King Edward VII’s Hospital in London, where had previously undergone medical treatment on several occasions, on February 16 after feeling unwell.
He later underwent a successful procedure for a pre-existing heart condition at another London hospital – St Bartholomew’s – but was carefully shielded from the cameras when he finally returned to Windsor exactly four weeks later.
It was the final time he was spotted in public and his face, briefly caught on camera, looked exceedingly frail as he was whisked back to the privacy of Windsor.
The past year’s events did mean, however, that Philip was by the Queen’s side to offer counsel on how to respond to the pandemic – they both had Covid jabs – and a number of Royal controversies.
There was the continuing fallout, and lurid speculation, over the Duke of York’s alleged links to the Jeffrey Epstein sex scandal in the United States.
More recently, the rift over the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s move to Los Angeles, and a controversial and hurtful TV interview with Oprah Winfrey, will have caused great heartache.
But there were also happier times – the Queen and Prince Philip pose proudly with their granddaughter Princess Beatrice as she married Eduardo Mapelli Mozzi in a low key ceremony because of Covid.
And Windsor, where the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral will almost certainly take place, was to be the scene of his last official engagement.
Beaming with pride on a glorious day last July, and just a month into his centenary year, he made his first public appearance in over a year as he handed over the role of Colonel-in-Chief of The Rifles to the Duchess of Cornwall.
Appearing on the castle’s steps near the forecourt, and waving briefly to those present, he was greeted by four buglers before taking part in a simple ceremony while Camilla was at Highgrove House in Gloucestershire.
This was further testament to the Royal family’s ability to adapt to the Covid lockdown, and embrace new technology, in order to fulfil their public duties – the pandemic would not stop royalty in action.
During the Windsor ceremony, Philip was thanked for his 67 years of support for The Rifles, and their forming and antecedent regiments, by Assistant Colonel Commandant, Major General Tom Copinger-Symes.
He fulfilled his duties with great dignity, even sharing a joke with those present, before taking his leave and walking unaided back into the Royal residence - his job done.
It was, perhaps, the most fitting of ways to end such a distinguished lifetime of public service.