Like countless others, I have a personal reason for wishing to pay tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh as he finally steps back at the age of 96 from many of his more obvious royal duties.
In 2009 I published The Real Global Warming Disaster, a history of the the great panic over climate change, which soon ranked with one by Al Gore as one of the three top-selling books on the subject published in this century.
This prompted notably contrasting responses from two members of the Royal family. The Prince of Wales protested that he was quite “bemused”’ by my views on global warming, struck me off his Christmas card list, where I had been ever since was one of his advisers on environmental matters back in the Eighties.
I was, however, startled and delighted to have a long, thoughtful and sympathetic letter from his father, who also wanted to correct a mistake in my book. I had said he was still a supporter of the World Wildlife Fund, which he co-founded in 1961. In fact, he said, he had withdrawn from the WWF after it switched from its original focus on saving endangered species to relentless campaigning against global warming.
Back in the 1960s, I wrote a far from kindly profile of Prince Philip in Private Eye. But over later decades, like many others, I came to have ever more admiration for him, not least since he has represented those values of robust masculine common sense which in the post-war years when I grew up were taken for granted but which in public life today are little more than a distant memory.
In 2011 one newspaper marked his 90th birthday by publishing a whole page of his more “notorious gaffes”. I later met several people who, like me, had gone through that list ticking off every one of his supposedly embarrassing remarks with a nod of amused approval. How fortunate we have been to have such an extraordinary man at the centre of our national life for 70 years.