Australia has marked the passing of Prince Philip with a 41-gun salute in the nation’s capital, as Prime Minister Scott Morrison paid tribute to the “towering figure” whose life was one of duty and service.
In a solemn but loud ceremony, six ceremonial guns from the Australian Defence Force were fired on Saturday afternoon as a crowd watched on – a tradition that is being followed in other Commonwealth countries.
The Duke of Ediburgh, Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, died on Friday, two months before his 100th birthday and only a short time after a month-long stay in hospital.
Flags across the country – from Sydney Harbour to Parliament House – were flown at half-mast as a mark of respect for the late Prince.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison led Australia’s tributes, remembering him as a man of candour and compassion hwo dedicated his life to service.
Addressing the Queen, Mr Morrison said Australia and the rest of the Commonwealth “family” joined in her sorrow and mourning.
“Today, we think of our Queen. While your strength and stay, your Majesty, may now have passed, Jenny and I pray that you will find great comfort in your faith and your family at this time,” Mr Morrison said.
“But we also, your Majesty, say to you as a Commonwealth, let us also now be your strength and stay, as you continue to endure, as you continue to serve so loyally and so faithfully, as you have done over so many generations.
“She has been there for us over such a long time. Let us be there now for you, your Majesty, and allow us to send our love to you on this, I am sure, one of your saddest days. I am sure her Prince would join me in saying, God save our gracious Queen. Long live our noble Queen. God save our Queen.”
The prime minister recalled how the Duke comforted bushfire victims in 1967 in Tasmania and visited Australia more than 20 times.
Australians knew of the Duke’s loyalty and commitment given his patronage of 50 organisations Down Under and his legacy through the Duke of Edinburgh Award program, he said.
“There are many towering figures that the world has lost and known, but few have been before us in our lifetimes for such a long time,” the prime minister said.
Mr Morrison said Australians could send a virtual message to the Queen through the website of the Prime Minister’s office.
The messages will be sent to Buckingham Palace and archived by the Commonwealth and could be displayed at the National Library of Australia.
Former prime minister John Howard said his death would end “a partnership for the ages”.
“This is an occasion, obviously, of sadness but it’s also an occasion to salute and honour a remarkable marriage, a remarkable partnership in service,” Mr Howard said.
He reflected on the late Prince’s “great sense of humour” which he said gave “short shrift” to political correctness.
“And that endeared him to millions of people,” Mr Howard told reporters in Sydney.
“From those responses constituting gaffes, they were things that people warmed to.”
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese also remarked on the Prince’s “famously irreverent sense of humour”, and recalled how his son participated in the Duke’s award program.
“On behalf of the Australian Labor Party, I extend my sincere condolences to Her Majesty and to the Royal family on what is a sad day, a solemn day, but one in which, and I conclude we do celebrate such a long and fulfilling life,” he said.
The Australian Republic Movement offered its condolences to the royal family, as did former Australian prime minister and republican Malcolm Turnbull.
Mr Morrison and Governor-General David Hurley signed a condolence book on Saturday, and will on Sunday attend St Andrews Cathedral in Sydney.
With additional reporting by AAP