I want to use this post as a tribute to HRH, Prince Philip, to recognise the difference the Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards has made to millions of young lives. Like anything in life, it is easy to take what is openly accessible for granted and forget how early generations fought for today’s freedoms.
It seems that sport, military service and the great outdoors have been indelibly linked with the British royal family throughout its many generations. From the swashbuckling tales of jousting knights, falconry, hunting deer across grand estates and leading their troops into war, the royal household has been at the centre of the action. In recent times, culture and tastes have switched the focus to pursuits like dressage, horseracing, polo, and lending enthusiastic support and patronage to tennis, rugby, football, and more. And serving time in the armed forces continues as a tradition among today’s royals, even if frontline action is less common than in the days of yore.
When you study the history of class culture, position and influence in the UK or any other nation, it is clear that the royals always had duties to fulfil, and sport was a privilege of the wealthy. From the earliest iterations of today’s popular participation and spectator sports (football, rugby and the like), the membership of teams was exclusively accessible to the good and the great of society. And it is only through persistence, petition, and persuasion that commoners were eventually allowed to join the professional sportsperson’s ranks.
Using position and privilege to promote personal betterment
Perhaps that history and the duty of position influenced Prince Philip to start the Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards in February 1956. Reading about the organisation’s background over the last week, however, I believe his heart and personal experiences drove the innovation and passion behind the scheme. I think he recognised the privilege of his position and the opportunities he’d had to travel, experience and get involved in projects and endeavours greater than himself or even his title.
And I like to imagine he realised it was getting out in the world, exploring, adventuring, working closely with peers and challenging yourself to go beyond the ordinary that made life worth living – far above the advantages of rank and riches.
That is the legacy I will forever associate with the late Prince and his Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.
The DofE 65 years on…
In interviews, the Duke talked about the idea that the skills learned through orienteering, camping and canoeing, right through to dance and Wii-fit and quidditch (yes – that is on the list), were transferable across other areas of your life.
DofE’s programmes can also expose participants to things like electronics, money management, and entrepreneurial skills.
For me, one of the greatest gifts to emerge from being involved in working with other people is simple friendship, confidence, belonging and realising that you as an individual have value and importance.
Ninety-nine years old is what most of us would describe as ‘a good innings’. And I think the DofE Award’s success must rate among the royal (very nearly) centenarian’s proudest achievements across his long life.
But while all lives must eventually come to an end, the legacy can and will live on. And that is what we celebrate today. Young lives continue to be enhanced, better prepared for the future, and introduced to the natural world’s wonders by joining the scheme. And their ambitions continue to grow.
By the end of 2021, the organisation plans to enrol 350,000 new starters and ensure that at least 20% of those are children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
I think that is a legacy worth celebrating and fighting to support.
What could you do to get involved or help people apply?