A tearful Prince Charles makes first public engagement since Prince Philip's death as he inspects flowers and tributes

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Victoria Ward
·6 min read
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The Prince of Wales visits the gardens of Marlborough House, London
The Prince of Wales visits the gardens of Marlborough House, London

The Prince of Wales appeared close to tears as he inspected the many flowers and tributes left for his father, the Duke of Edinburgh, by well-wishers today.

Prince Charles, 72, accompanied by the Duchess of Cornwall, was clearly moved as he paid an emotional visit to Marlborough House Gardens to read some of the messages left by members of the public, his first engagement since the Duke’s death.

Dressed in a blue suit with black tie, he bent to read the tributes, at times looking almost overcome by grief.

The Duchess, dressed in black, also looked solemn as she bent to look at the messages, paying particular attention to a model Land Rover with the words “The Duke R.I.P” written on the roof.

The flowers are among those left at Buckingham Palace and other royal residences.

Although the Royal family asked members of the public to make a donation to charity in the Duke’s memory, rather than leave flowers, many opted to pay their respects in the traditional fashion.

Each evening, the tributes are taken, with great care, to the private gardens at Marlborough House at St James’s Palace to be laid out by police officers.

The Prince of Wales looks teary as he visits the gardens of Marlborough House - Jeremy Selwyn
The Prince of Wales looks teary as he visits the gardens of Marlborough House - Jeremy Selwyn

The Grade I-listed mansion, former London home of the Queen’s grandmother, Queen Mary, is now the headquarters of the Commonwealth of Nations and where the Commonwealth Secretariat is based - a fitting location given the Duke’s long association with the club of 54 member states.

During his many years of public duty and service, Prince Philip undertook 229 solo visits to Commonwealth countries between 1949 and 2016 and many more alongside the Queen.

Watch: Prince Philip death: The Duke of Edinburgh dies, aged 99

He also made two round-the-world voyages aboard HMY Britannia visiting some of the remotest parts of the Commonwealth as the Queen’s representative.

Prince Charles was the first member of the Royal family to publicly inspect the floral tributes, which are moved each evening to discourage crowds from gathering.

They included the model Land Rover similar to the one that will bear his coffin on Saturday.

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall visit the gardens of Marlborough House, London, to view the flowers and messages left by members of the public outside Buckingham Palace following the death of the Duke of Edinburgh  - Jeremy Selwyn
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall visit the gardens of Marlborough House, London, to view the flowers and messages left by members of the public outside Buckingham Palace following the death of the Duke of Edinburgh - Jeremy Selwyn
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall visit the gardens of Marlborough House, London, to view the flowers and messages left by members of the public outside Buckingham Palace - Jeremy Selwyn
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall visit the gardens of Marlborough House, London, to view the flowers and messages left by members of the public outside Buckingham Palace - Jeremy Selwyn

Next to it was a card, from “Marian & Marum” reading: “Your memory will never fade. Rest in Peace.”

Another read: “Words cannot even begin to express our sorrow. You are in our prayers.”

Another was to Queen Elizabeth: “Sending our love and condolences on the loss of your beloved Prince Philip, yours always, love Layla, Lis and Neil xxxx”.

“HRH A True Gentleman. Thank you for your devoted service to our country. We shall miss you," read another. 

Another to the Queen read: “We are so sorry for your profound loss Your Majesty’s “strength and stay” will endure in our hearts always.

Another read: “Wishing Your Majesty peace in the days ahead and sending our deepest condolences. Yours sincerely, The Kohler Family, Annapolis, Maryland USA”

The Earl of Wessex also today acknowledged the outpouring of public support relating to the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme, on which he worked alongside his father.

In a statement released online, he said the “wonderful” memories shared about the award and, in some cases, about meeting his father had been “truly uplifting.”

He added: “I think I may have said once that he was a man that once met, never forgotten. He had a unique ability to make a lasting impression in a remarkably short time. I, like all my family, have a lifetime of lasting impressions, inspiration, shared passions and love. He may have departed this world, but his spirit and ethos lives on through his Award, through each and every life touched, transformed, inspired; then, now and in the future. Thank you one and all for helping to create such an extraordinary tribute.

Despite officially being in a two-week period of mourning, on Wednesday the Princess Royal, carried out the first royal public engagement since the Duke’s death after being given special permission from the Queen.

The Princess, 70, appeared a little teary-eyed as she fondly reminisced about learning how to sail with her father during the visit to two yacht clubs on the Isle of Wight, where the Duke of Edinburgh used to enjoy racing during Cowes Week.

The Princess Royal at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club, on the Isle of Wight. Picture date: Wednesday April 14, 2021. - Ben Birchall
The Princess Royal at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club, on the Isle of Wight. Picture date: Wednesday April 14, 2021. - Ben Birchall

The Queen too, has performed two royal duties since her husband of 73 years died on Friday, formally bidding farewell to the Royal Household's most senior official, Earl Peel, who was Lord Chamberlain for 14 years and appointing Lord Parker of Minsmere, the former MI5 chief, in his place.

On Saturday, the Prince paid a touching tribute to his father in an unscripted televised address, saying: “My dear Papa was a very special person.”

Speaking on behalf of the whole Royal Family from his Highgrove estate in Gloucestershire, he added: “As you can imagine, my family and I miss my father enormously. He was a much loved and appreciated figure.” 

He said the Duke had “given the most remarkable, devoted service” to the Queen, the Royal Family, his country and the Commonwealth.

Prince Charles, speaking from Highgrove, his Gloucestershire estate, recorded the family tribute to his father at 4.30pm yesterday.

A source close to him said the Prince was “deeply sad” about the Duke’s death, adding: “Just because you know a family member is not well does not mean it is any easier when the time comes.”

The Prince said: “I particularly wanted to say that my father, for I suppose the last 70 years, has given the most remarkable, devoted service to the Queen, to my family and to the country, but also to the whole of the Commonwealth. 

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall visit the gardens of Marlborough House, London, to view the flowers and messages left by members of the public outside Buckingham Palace following the death of the Duke of Edinburgh on April 10 - Jeremy Selwyn
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall visit the gardens of Marlborough House, London, to view the flowers and messages left by members of the public outside Buckingham Palace following the death of the Duke of Edinburgh on April 10 - Jeremy Selwyn

“As you can imagine, my family and I miss my father enormously. He was a much loved and appreciated figure and apart from anything else, I can imagine, he would be so deeply touched by the number of other people here and elsewhere around the world and the Commonwealth, who also I think, share our loss and our sorrow.

“My dear Papa was a very special person who I think above all else would have been amazed by the reaction and the touching things that have been said about him and from that point of view we are, my family, deeply grateful for all that. It will sustain us in this particular loss and at this particularly sad time. Thank you.”

Sources close to Prince Charles have described the special bond he had enjoyed with his father, a relationship that had become ever closer in recent years, dismissing a long-held view that it was difficult and strained.

Watch: Prince Philip's funeral: The planned procession to St George's Chapel