One of the hallmarks of greatness is to do good for its own sake. A huge amount will be written about the Duke of Edinburgh over the coming weeks celebrating his life, his achievements, and doubtless his personal idiosyncrasies. As with any major figure on the national – in this case, world – stage these accounts will capture the public record, but how much will they capture of the man himself? I had the privilege of seeing something of the Duke at close quarters during the ten years I worked for the Prince of Wales. He was a towering presence at any event and any meeting, not just because he was the Duke of Edinburgh, but also by the way he made his presence felt. He spoke his mind. He had a deep sense of humorous irony. His observations might often cut against the grain of the argument in train. They could be blunt, trenchant, sometimes acerbic. But they were always insightful, informed, and adept at opening up the unthinkable or laying bare what had been imperfectly thought through. Few conversations with him followed easy or accepted lines. To find yourself approached by him at a reception was always a moment to be on your mettle: his opening line would invariably be unexpected, and he could always meet a witty response with one even wittier. “Are you still here?” he would often ask when he saw me yet again in a receiving line at Westminster Abbey. The style was a hallmark, and one which never failed to raise a, sometimes nervous, smile. The Duke’s wry sense of humour gave him over the years a reputation for misjudged remarks. At times they caused offence to those who wanted to be offended. But his humour was intended not to offend but to lighten the atmosphere. Many people meeting a senior member of the Royal family for the first – or only – time in their lives would lose both confidence and reason. I recall a very senior Egyptian businessman on meeting the Prince of Wales during a visit to Cairo dropping to the floor in a perfect curtsy as he was introduced. The Duke was only too well aware of the problem. Humour could lance the intimidating atmosphere of a brief conversation and make possible, as no other gambit could, a more productive talk on things that actually mattered. It was a style perfected by the Duke, which other members of his family use to great effect. This was entirely different from his approach to the serious issues about which he was well informed and cared deeply – young people, the environment, the Armed Services, technology, the role of monarchy, the spiritual. As the Duke himself explained, there was no formal role laid down for the husband of the Monarch. He spent his life in devoted support of the Queen – both as consort and husband. I have a fond memory, early on in my time in the royal household, of the Duke leading the Queen on to the dancefloor at the annual Ghillies Ball at Balmoral. But his life was much more.