Prince Philip’s death ‘ideal opportunity’ to heal royal rifts, says John Major

Former prime minister calls for any ‘friction’ within royal family to be swiftly resolved

Grief and emotions surrounding the death of the Duke of Edinburgh represent “an ideal opportunity” to mend rifts in the royal family, the former prime minister John Major has said, as he called for “friction” to be swiftly resolved.

His comments came as Prince Harry prepared to fly from California to the UK for his grandfather’s funeral on Saturday, where he will be reunited with his relatives for the first time since he and Meghan, his wife, laid bare their anger and pain at alleged treatment by the royal family in an interview with Oprah Winfrey.

“The friction that we are told has arisen is a friction better ended as speedily as possible and their shared emotion and shared grief at the present time because of the death of their grandfather I think is an ideal opportunity,” Major told the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show.

“I hope very much that it is possible to mend any rifts that may exist.”

His remarks came after Cardinal Vincent Nichols said: “Many a family gather and get over tension and broken relationships at the time of a funeral, something very profound unites them all again – that would be true of this family, I am sure.”

Major also said he hoped the Queen would be given time and space to grieve in privacy following the death of her husband of 73 years. “I know she is the monarch, I know she has responsibilities, but she has earned the right to have a period of privacy in which to grieve with her family,” he said.

“It think it might be a nice legacy for Prince Philip if we began to return to the Queen some of the support that she has given to the country, to the Commonwealth, to the family and to the nation, during this difficult period of time. I think it is something we owe the Queen.”

The former Conservative prime minister supported the royal family during a difficult few years in the 1990s, including the 1992 “annus horribilisthat saw the breakdown of three royal marriages and a fire at Windsor Castle.

The former archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, reflected on his conversations with the Duke of Edinburgh, who he said never wanted “to be let off” in difficult discussions.

He also addressed Philip’s reputation for making racist or sexist remarks, insisting the prince always wanted someone to challenge him.

“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,” Sentamu said.

John Sentamu
John Sentamu: ‘There were no conversations that were off-limits.’ Photograph: AFP Contributor/AFP/Getty Images

He recalled meeting Philip at the conclusion of the inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence, on which Sentamu served as an adviser.

“I met him at Buckingham Palace and he comes and asks me about how it all was, and he said, ‘You must have had a very tough time listening to evidence which really was appalling’, and then we had about three to four minutes of real conversation,” Sentamu said. “He thought that the Steven Lawrence inquiry was really, at the heart of it, going to change the way we do our policing.”

Sentamu, who once described Philip as his “sparring partner”, told Marr: “There were no conversations that were off-limits.”

On Sunday morning, the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, led a service of remembrance for the prince, praising his “remarkable willingness to take the hand he was dealt in life”.

He said Philip’s life had “practical applications of inspiring” but, in a nod to the duke’s typically gruff exterior, added: “We should not exaggerate. The duke would have been the first to harrumph strongly at over-spiritualisation of the world he found, let alone of himself.”

He called for prayers for the royal family, as well as others who were grieving, saying “for the royal family, as for any other, no words can reach into the depths of sorrow that goes into bereavement”.


Jessica Murray

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Philip’s death leaves Prince Charles as patriarch of royal family
Analysis: Prince of Wales will be increasingly at Queen’s side as he takes role at a time of internal divisions

Caroline Davies

12, Apr, 2021 @4:02 PM

Article image
Queen says Prince Philip’s death has left ‘a huge void’
Duke of Edinburgh’s family say his death was ‘peaceful and gentle’ as they prepare for funeral on Saturday

Caroline Davies

11, Apr, 2021 @2:51 PM

Article image
BBC flooded with complaints over coverage of Prince Philip’s death
Corporation opened dedicated complaints form on its website to deal with high volume of comments

Jim Waterson and James Tapper

10, Apr, 2021 @5:42 PM

Article image
Boris Johnson pays tribute to Prince Philip’s ‘ethic of service’
Duke of Edinburgh helped to steer royal family so it remains ‘indisputably vital’ to national life, says PM

Peter Walker

09, Apr, 2021 @2:21 PM

Article image
The Queen alone: how Prince Philip’s death will change the monarchy
With the poignant sight of the widowed Queen, the world glimpsed not just the era that is ending, but the one that is inevitably on its way

Jonathan Freedland

18, Apr, 2021 @2:30 PM

Article image
Two Downing Street parties held evening before Prince Philip’s funeral – reports
About 30 people said to have been at social events night before the Queen mourned her husband alone

Peter Walker and Harry Taylor

13, Jan, 2022 @11:04 PM

Article image
The chequered legacy of Prince Philip’s notorious ‘gaffes’
He could be disarmingly funny, but the Duke of Edinburgh’s erratic quips often caused genuine offence

Luke Harding

11, Apr, 2021 @7:19 AM

Article image
What are the plans for Prince Philip’s funeral?
Key questions answered around arrangements to commemorate life of duke, who has died aged 99

Ben Quinn

09, Apr, 2021 @2:14 PM

Article image
Prince Philip’s funeral: timeline of events at Windsor Castle
The ceremony will reflect the duke’s military affiliations and personal elements of his life

Rhi Storer

17, Apr, 2021 @7:53 AM

Article image
Harry could face quarantine to attend Prince Philip’s funeral
Royal observers say Meghan unlikely to travel from couple’s US home owing to pregnancy

Ben Quinn

10, Apr, 2021 @9:53 AM