Obituary for HRH The Duke of Edinburgh KG KT OM GBE HonFRSE

Professor Michael Keating, General Secretary of the RSE, said:

“It was with great sadness that we learned of the death of His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh.

“The RSE has been honoured to recognise His Royal Highness as one of our Honorary Members for the past 70 years. During his many visits he showed a keen interest in, and understanding of, the RSE and its activities; and demonstrated a remarkable appreciation of the contributions and achievements of our Royal Medallists”.


His Royal Highness was appointed an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1951. The RSE’s Royal Medals were first awarded in 2000 by Her Majesty The Queen, to mark the occasion of the Millennium. Since that time, His Royal Highness has visited Edinburgh to present the Medals on eight occasions, to 22 eminent individuals: twice at The Palace of Holyroodhouse; once at Telford College, at a commemorative conference marking the 250th Anniversary of the birth of Thomas Telford FRSE; and five times at the RSE. During his visit in 2009, His Royal Highness also unveiled a plaque marking the RSE’s 100 years in George Street. The plaque still adorns the wall in the RSE Wolfson Theatre.

Among those honoured to receive their Medals from His Royal Highness for their outstanding contributions in their fields of expertise, were: the late Professor Sir Michael Atiyah, who was RSE President 2005–2008; the Right Reverend Richard Holloway; Baroness Helena Kennedy of the Shaws QC; Sir James MacMillan; and Sir Ian Wood.

In 2012, His Highness was the first person to view the RSE exhibition From Maxwell to Higgs, accompanied by Professor Peter Higgs, whose contribution to discoveries in the field of particle physics were celebrated in the display. His Royal Highness appeared fascinated by the exhibition, studying each poster closely and asking probing questions which demonstrated a remarkable grasp of the complicated theories on display.

Known for his wit and humour, His Royal Highness often made impromptu speeches on the occasions of his visits, sometimes to the apparent concern of his retinue but always to the delight of the audience.

His Highness was the longest-serving consort of a reigning British monarch and the oldest-ever male member of the British Royal Family. In 2017, at the age of 96, Prince Philip retired from his royal duties, by which time he had completed 22,219 solo engagements and was Patron of some 800 organisations, mainly focused on the environment, industry, sport and education. The Prime Minster at the time, Theresa May, thanked him for “a remarkable lifetime of service”.