Do you exercise your right to exercise? I hope you do. I did a push-up today. Actually, I, uh … fell down. But I had to push myself back up, so technically that counts.

Much of the exercise I engage in now is unintentional. For instance, hopping around the living room after stepping on Lego pieces was unexpected and a far more rigorous activity than I had planned. Picking an ice cube off the floor sounds easy. It’s not. I got a six-minute cardio workout chasing one around with my fingers until it melted.

But seriously, I walk about eight kilometres a day—I really do—and I jog when I badly need to. Like when the ice cream truck is speeding past.

Royal Toast

Prince Philip would not have approved. When he passed away two months short of his 100th birthday, those watching his funeral learned that the prince followed the 5BX physical fitness plan.

That requires 11 minutes a day of rigorous stretching, sit-ups, push-ups, extending your back and running in place. Afterward, you follow it up with diddly squats.

OK, that part I made up, but the rest is true.

I often heard my mother hum God Save the Queen. She never pretended the royals were perfect, but she prayed for them and looked for praiseworthy things to report.

We can all learn from Prince Philip’s life. His blunders delighted many, but I wonder how any of us would fare if our every sentence was recorded and the tabloids hounded us. We’re wise to watch our words, of course, and usually the prince did.

Once, while sitting beside a woman at a university dinner, he asked why she was there.

“I’m the wife of the college rector,” she replied.

Philip said, “I believe that’s the least interesting thing about you.” What an approach. What a way to enhance relationships. Surely this is the great friendship secret, taking an active interest, listening. He often downplayed his own story.

“It’s a big mistake to think about yourself,” he said. “What counts is what you do for others.”

Recent portrayals cast the prince in a negative light, but his most credible biographers challenge such reports. Those close to him and the Queen label their 73-year marriage rock solid. Biographer Gyles Brandreth writes of seeing the Queen surrounded by dignitaries in a crowded room. Standing far off by the huge windows was Prince Philip. When she caught his eye, he raised his glass to her and smiled.

Princely Faith

Prince Philip knew that the best way to overcome unwelcome change comes in service to others. He rose above a childhood scarred by turbulence and family tragedies, and served in the Royal Navy for nearly 14 years, six of them during wartime. Devotion to duty and service, he insisted, outweighed fear, something that should inspire all of us in a world of increasing uncertainty and change.

The language of his faith may be different from ours, but I appreciate the author and columnist John Musgrave’s take: “Key to the House of Windsor’s success is the Christian idea of the servant king working to release the creative good in us all.”

The couple attended Crathie Kirk, Balmoral, where Reverend Ian Bradley often preached. The prince took notes so the two of them could discuss doctrine over lunch. The former Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, told The Yorkshire Post that Prince Philip openly discussed with him his Christian faith, saying, “The Queen and I are so strong in Jesus Christ.”

His library contained 11,000 books, many on theology. According to Reverend Ian, it was Prince Philip who encouraged the Queen to speak more openly of her Christian faith during her Christmas broadcasts.

After Prince Philip’s death, Paul Williams, chief executive of the Bible Society, said: “We join with millions in giving thanks to God for his contribution to the life of our nation, and his long and loving partnership with our Queen.”

May we all be challenged to practise Prince Philip’s faith and friendship. And get some exercise, too. I, for one, am about to walk through a Lego minefield on my way to look for ice cubes.

Photo: Dallas Callaway

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