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The University of Southampton

Memories of Prince Philip and the University of Southampton

Published: 16 April 2021
Duke of Edinburgh speaking
Prince Philip delivered the Fawley Foundation Lecture at the University of Southampton in 1967.

The death of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, has brought back memories of his association with the University of Southampton over many decades.

His Royal Highness made his first formal visit to the University’s Highfield Campus in 1966, accompanying Her Majesty The Queen. The royal couple viewed an exhibition of kinetic art as well as work in the Departments of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, Oceanography, Civil Engineering and Electronics.

The following year, His Royal Highness returned to accept an honorary degree from the University and to deliver the Fawley Foundation Lecture.


Prince Philip opened the Southampton Oceanography Centre in 1996
Prince Philip opened the Southampton Oceanography Centre in 1996.

Memorable visits to the Oceanography Centre

In 1996, Prince Philip came to the University’s Waterfront Campus to formally open the then Southampton Oceanography Centre and returned in 2005 as Guest of Honour for the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Summer Soirée held at the Centre. During this second visit, Prince Philip officially renamed the facility the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton.

On both occasions, Dr Simon Boxall, Principal Teaching Fellow within Ocean and Earth Science met and spoke to Prince Philip recalling his great interest in their discussion and his remarkable attention to detail.

“The first time, when he came to open the Centre in 1996, he was there for pretty much half a day talking to people and doing a tour, and I was responsible for spending something like 90 seconds talking to him about flooding and the effects of storm surges in the North Sea. It was all very carefully timetabled and I remember getting into terrible trouble with our Director at the time because I ended up spending about six or seven minutes in discussion.

“Prince Philip’s level of understanding and his level of interest in science, in nature, the impact it had was really quite outstanding – not just on  the people but also on the wildlife of the area and on his own estates, obviously, and the Queen’s estates in Norfolk.

“What surprised me was when he came back in 2005. I wasn’t on the schedule to speak to him and he was only there for a very brief time but I happened to be there standing by an education stand, looking busy, and as he passed, he stopped and said, “I spoke to you some years ago about storm surges” and I was absolutely astonished.”


ISVR delegation congratulated by The Queen and Prince Philip.
ISVR delegation congratulated by The Queen and Prince Philip.

Congratulations for the Queen’s Anniversary Prize

In early 2006, a small delegation from the University travelled to London to receive the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education for the work of Southampton’s internationally-renowned Institute of Sound and Vibration Research.

Professor Steven Elliott, then Director of the Institute, attended the presentation with then Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Bill Wakeham, and were met by Her Majesty The Queen, and Prince Philip who offered their congratulations.

Student thrilled to meet ‘the man himself’

More recently, Southampton student Mohammed Leily was “thrilled” to meet “the man himself” during one of Prince Philip’s final presentation events for the Duke of Edinburgh Awards in 2017 – just prior to the retirement of His Royal Highness from his royal duties.

Mohammed arrived in the UK from Syria in 2013, as a 17-year-old refugee, and decided to sign up for the Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award as a way of meeting new people and improving his English.

He says he revelled in the opportunity to volunteer for the Red Cross and help other refugees and asylum seekers settle into new homes. He also credits his Gold Award with helping him to get a place to study medicine at Southampton - and says he still can't believe he got to meet Prince Philip.

"When I left Syria I would never have imagined I'd do what I’ve done, or see him," Mohammed recalled. "He went around and had a chat with each group. I remember he told us to make sure we are as active as we could possibly be, and to make sure we made use of our youth now while we have the energy."


Mohammed Leily with his Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award.
Mohammed Leily with his Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award.
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Then Chancellor, Lord Murray, greets The Queen and Prince Philip on a visit to the University of Southampton in 1966.
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Prince Philip helped to formally open the Southampton Oceanography Centre and later formally renamed the facility as the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton.
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Prince Philip formally opens the Southampton Oceanography Centre in 1996 with then Chancellor, Lord Selborne, looking on.
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