Palmerston remembers Prince Philip’s 1971 visit

Saturday 10 April 2021 | Written by Supplied | Published in Features, Weekend

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Palmerston remembers Prince Philip’s 1971 visit
Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, during his visit to the Cook Islands in 1971. OPM/21040906

The people of Palmerston Island took a day off from work yesterday to pay respect to the late Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.

Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, died aged 99 at Windsor Castle on Thursday night.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s death sent Britain, and much of the Commonwealth, into a period of mourning ahead of his funeral next weekend.

The southern group island of Palmerston which has strong links to England through their forefather, the late William Marsters, born in Leicestershire, UK, was visited by the Duke in 1971.

The Duke of Edinburgh, together with his uncle, the late Admiral Earl Mountbatten of Burma and his daughter Lady Patricia Brabourne and her husband visited the Cook Islands in February 1971 on board the Royal Yacht Britannia.

They visited the Cook Islands Library and Museum, schools and inspected uniformed organisations.

Travelling north, the Royal party visited Palmerston Island where, according to one report – “their path through the palms was carpeted with cloth. The Duke invited the whole island to tea on board the Britannia. There, Lord Louis confided that there was a Marsters in his family. The Duke shrewdly allowed a probable connection.” (National Geographic, July – September, 1991)

Island executive officer Arthur Neale yesterday said they were saddened to hear about the passing of the Duke of Edinburgh.

The Union Jack and the Royal Naval Ensign flag were taken out and flown at half-mast yesterday, said Neale.

People spent the day indoors as a “token of respect” for the Duke and the Royal family.

Neale said the islanders, especially those who were on the island in 1971, still talk about the Duke’s visit and share stories of the momentous day with their children.

To celebrate his visit to Palmerston, the island holds Duke’s Day every year on February 28.

Neale said various activities are organised on the day where everyone gets together to celebrate and cherish the memories of the Duke of Edinburgh’s visit.

“The Duke’s Day has become part of Palmerston culture and I don’t think it will ever change; people will still continue celebrating this special event in years to come.

“Every home on the island has a portrait of the Royal family.”

During his visit to the island, the Duke of Edinburgh also swam in a sea pool which is now named after him, Neale said.

PM Mark Brown pays tribute to Royal family.

In a statement, Brown said: “On behalf of the people and the Government of the Cook Islands I join other Commonwealth and world leaders in offering condolences to Her Majesty The Queen, the Royal Family and the people of the United Kingdom on the passing of their much-loved and adored Duke of Edinburgh,” Brown said in a statement.

“The Duke served his Queen, country and the Commonwealth for more than 80 years which he started his service in the Royal Navy in 1939 as a naval cadet and is one of the last surviving people in the United Kingdom to have served in the Second World War at Cape Matapan.”

In 1952, when the Queen ascended her throne the Duke ended his military service to serve the Queen, not only as a consort but as a husband for over 70 years. As described by Her Majesty, the Duke was her “strength and say”.

“What an extraordinary life lived by The Duke who leaves behind a great legacy built from being a naval hero in the Second World War, a highly respected, adored public figure and a dedicated husband, loving father, grandfather and great grandfather,” the Prime Minister said.

“Our thoughts are with the Queen and her family, who on the occasion of their golden wedding anniversary said it best when she said of her husband and the longest-serving consort in British history “we owe him a debt greater than he will ever claim or we will ever know.

“As a sign of respect and to mark the death of His Royal Highness, I have asked for the Cook Islands flag on all Government and public buildings to be flown at half-mast.”