On what would have been his 100th birthday, we look back over his time as MBA Royal Patron and share some of our favourite memories.
For over 60 years, the MBA had the privilege of having HRH Prince Philip appointed as Royal Patron. During this time, the Prince showed a keen interest in raising public awareness of the relationship of humanity with the environment, and was passionate about scientific and technological research and development. In 2014, he was awarded an Honorary Fellowship by the MBA, the greatest honour bestowed by the Association, given to persons of distinction who have made significant contributions to the MBA.
HRH Prince Philip played an active role as Royal Patron, joining us at a variety of events where he made a point of engaging with MBA staff and students. A selection of memories from staff include:
- At the Royal Charter event, he made a beeline for the Royal Charter that was on display and pointed out that the seal on the charter was plastic; he said that was his idea because the wax ones crack over the centuries! Over the course of the evening, he made sure he chatted to everyone, staff and students, and was so engaging and incredibly knowledgeable.
- We were regularly invited to the garden parties held at Buckingham Palace. During one such event, after being told about MBA research into satellite tracking of basking sharks, the Prince told a story of how he loved to look for basking sharks off the Royal Yacht Britannia on summer holiday voyages around the western Isles of Scotland.
- After hearing about MBA research on the genetics of marine viruses, His Royal Highness responded by discussing the theory of the Selfish Gene because he had just read Richard Dawkin’s book on it, showing genuine interest and enthusiasm on this topic.
- On one occasion, a student told him she worked on impacts of climate change on marine life, to which he replied “Climate Change? That’s a load of rubbish isn’t it, hasn’t the climate been changing for millions of years?”; but far from being intimidated she quickly replied, “yes, but rarely as fast as it is now Sir”; He just smiled and said “Well done”.
Prince Philip showed a real interest in the running of the MBA, on one occasion enquiring about how our laboratory had held up in the bad storms a few years back. It was as recent as February 2021 that we received a communication from His Royal Highness thanking us for providing him with a copy of our Annual Report and magazine, The Marine Biologist (see February edition of the Water Column LINK). MBA President, Gill Rider said “He has been an excellent Patron for the MBA and we have valued his contributions over the years enormously”.
Looking ahead, as the MBA is incorporated by Royal Charter, we will have a new Royal Patron appointed, and details will be announced in due course.