A tribute to our patron HRH Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh
19 April 2021
Professor Michael Griffin OBE, President of The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, reflects on HRH Prince Philip’s time as patron of the College following the sad news of his passing.
HRH Prince Philip played a very significant part in the College’s history during his 66 years as patron and we are very proud of his association with our College.
Prince Philip extended his patronage to the College in June 1955, accepting an Honorary Fellowship at the 450th College anniversary celebrations. This was his first visit to Surgeons’ Hall and was the jewel in the crown of the College’s anniversary celebrations. During that evening, his Royal Highness was presented with a silver replica of a barber surgeon’s bleeding cup.
His Royal Highness retuned again, 50 years later, to help mark our 500th anniversary, when he was appointed a Companion of the College. During this speech, much to the delight and amazement of the Members, Fellows and College staff in the audience, Prince Philip produced that very same bleeding cup which he had brought with him in a plastic John Lewis bag.
HRH returned the following year in 2006 to formally open Quincentenary Hall, and on this occasion, it was the College that presented his Royal Highness with a John Lewis bag!
At the President’s Triennial Dinner, President John Smith gifted Prince Philip a silver replica of Syme’s amputating knife and expressed his hope that his Royal Highness would never need to use either of his gifts from the College.
Prince Philip’s last visit to the College was in 2015 to open the newly-renovated Surgeons’ Hall Museums and the Prince Philip Building.
Prince Philip’s characteristically witty speeches at each of these occasions were something all our Members, Fellows and College staff thoroughly enjoyed. And the John Lewis carrier bag anecdote perfectly represents the warm relationship we had with our Patron.
It is a story I enjoy telling to this day and will remain one of the College’s fondest memories of Prince Philip. It is very fitting that the very same bleeding cup is pictured in our portrait of Prince Philip painted in 1958 by Sir Walter Oliphant Hutchison (1889-1970) depicting his first visit to the College, which proudly hangs alongside past College Presidents.
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