A speech by The Duchess of Edinburgh at the Community Sport and Recreation Awards, at Headingley Stadium, Leeds, ahead of The Duke of Edinburgh’s 60th birthday.


He is the best of fathers, the most loving of husbands and still is my best friend.

First may I say how wonderful it is to be here with so many people who are doing so much to change lives through grassroots sport. There have been some remarkable stories that have been honoured today and a particular congratulations to Fulham Reach Boat Club for being recognised as Community Club of the Year.

If I may, I beg your indulgence for a few minutes, as I wanted to also take this opportunity to recognise another great milestone and share a small tribute to my darling husband as he celebrates his 60th Birthday, this Sunday.

Now I know from the many years of marriage we have chalked up, 25 years in June to be precise, he will be horrified at seeing me up here speaking about him in public. Without looking at him, I am guessing he will now be sitting back with slightly narrowed eyes, possibly with his arms folded, or one arm stretched out across the table and to all intents and purposes looking identical to his father when I made speeches about him.

I twice spoke about The late Duke of Edinburgh in his presence, on both occasions feeling like I was about to launch myself out of an airplane without a parachute, but holding on to the vague hope of a soft landing. You have to appreciate that my father-in-law never liked anyone to pay him compliments, believing that it was the organisations he supported that were important, not him.

However, the fact that I wasn't in the doghouse after either of the speeches reassured me that I hadn't at least committed any major faux pas and I was therefore able to stand the getaway cars down.

So, like then and with my husband of the same opinion as my father-in-law, and with fresh fully fuelled cars at the ready here goes – as I give you more of an insight of the man to whom I am so proud to be married.

Edward is probably best known for his support of the youth organisation the DofE, founded by his father which takes much of his time as he chairs committees, writes strategies as he helps to guide and shape the current activities and future of the charity in the UK and across the world. He challenges those who lead it, encourages others who work within it or support it, and loves meeting and chatting with those who benefit from it. You can only guess the number of hours he devotes to this, the most inspiring of youth charities.

Beyond the DofE, he passionately supports an array of other charities and organisations, each of which he takes as seriously. Whether it be focussing on the sporting endeavours from athletes around the Commonwealth both able and disabled; encouraging organisations offering opportunities for people to gain access to sport and activities such as the fantastic work of the Sport and Recreation Alliance, which we are celebrating today; working throughout the arts with young talented musicians, or seasoned professionals who enrich our society, or visiting and encouraging the wonderful Central Caribbean Marine Institute which does so much to protect and enhance our unseen and vital underwater world. The list is long and a reflection of just some of his interests.

I encourage you to take a walk through his CV of affiliations and marvel at the breadth of them, each doing their part to make our world a better place and to understand that he is not just a name on a piece of paper, but that he commits of himself to them all and cares deeply for each of them.

He takes undoubted pride in his military affiliations too. Not only do I think that he wears a uniform extremely well, he takes an enormous interest in their vital work and loves nothing better than to go offline and spend happy hours talking one-to-one with those who do so much to serve our country.

He has been my guide and shown me the way over the years. He has given me much help and advice (not always taken I admit), and his knowledge and instincts that have been honed over decades of service are invaluable - so we share speech notes (not this one, sorry darling!), chat through issues our patronages may be tackling, and together I think we make quite a good team.

Like an iceberg, what is seen above the water or in public is only a small proportion of what goes on behind the scenes. What is never seen or can ever be quantified is the effort spent on ensuring good governance for his patronages, encouraging people to support worthwhile causes, chairing committees, meeting chief executives and think tanks, writing papers, speeches, forewords, introductions, the list goes on.

But whatever he is doing he gives 150% of himself, and if all else fails he gives any energy he has left out to our exhausted dogs or laying waste to the garden. Like my father-in-law, my husband never seeks compliments for himself. So when acknowledgment has come his way it has always been a total surprise to him, which is why I am grateful for this chance to, for once, be able to publicly celebrate and compliment him.

He was so happy and humbled when Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth made him a Knight of The Garter in 2006 and was equally delighted and moved the day His Majesty The King – who we are both incredibly proud to support – made him Duke of Edinburgh. Both he deserves in equal measure and I am so proud of the man he is.

He is the best of fathers, the most loving of husbands and still is my best friend.

So here's to you my darling Edward and may I along with all your family and so many friends and many others wish you the Happiest of Birthdays!