Dr John Sentamu said he and the Duke of Edinburgh, who died on Friday aged 99, had first discussed faith when His Royal Highness was deeply troubled about his children and their troubled marriages.
He recalled how they prayed together at an official event – and joked that Prince Philip would have appreciated his shortened funeral service, because “the duke could not stand what he called ‘long church’”.
“I think it was the ambassador’s dinner at Buckingham Palace and he really was feeling very, very sorry for some of the things that were happening in his family – particularly his sons,” the retired Archbishop told the Andrew Marr Show.
“He said ‘What would you say to me about the trouble that was happening with all my family?’ I said ‘Well, your royal highness, you are a family like any other family, and every family goes through good times and bad times. “‘The important thing for me is that you should realise that if people are married they are not just a couple, there is a third and that’s Jesus Christ, and they should begin to go to Jesus Christ’. He said ‘Of course, the Queen and I are so strong in Jesus Christ’.” Dr Sentamu, long regarded as the Royal family’s favourite clergyman because of his force of personality and practical wisdom, said Prince Philip asked him to pray for his children, and that they did so at the dinner.
“There was this unbelievable depth of his rootedness, because (Philip) was so rooted in Christ, he didn’t have any problem in relating to people about their faith or people who didn’t believe at all,” he went on. “Her Majesty is exactly the same.”
As tributes continue to be paid from around the world, he said the Royal family are proving they are no “different in grief to anybody else” by keeping to a small funeral for the duke. “They want to be part of the grieving for the nation, for the many people who died from Covid-19 and for those who have not been able to be present when their loved one is being buried.”
Dr Sentamu also said it is a “pity” the Duke will be remembered for his gaffes, saying “behind those gaffes was an expectation of a comeback”. “I am sure he regretted some of those phrases, but in the end it is a pity that people saw him simply as somebody who makes gaffes,” he said.
“Behind those gaffes was an expectation of a comeback but nobody came back and the gaffe unfortunately stayed. He would make an off-colour remark but if somebody challenged him you would enter into an amazing conversation.
“The trouble was that, because he was the Duke of Edinburgh, the husband of the Queen, people had this deference.”
He said that with the duke “there were no conversations that were off limits” and that Prince Philip had also closely followed the inquiry into the death of Stephen Lawrence in Eltham in 1993.
“Whenever I met him we would get into a conversation and then he would also give a very robust reply,” added Dr Sentamu.
Referring to the Lawrence inquiry, he said: “(Philip) came and ask me about how it all was and he said ‘You must have had a very tough time listening to evidence - it really was appalling’. Then we had a conversation of about three or four minutes.”
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