A PROFESSOR from Essex University has been recalling the “inspiring” day he met Prince Philip.

Prof James Raven met the Duke of Edinburgh after winning the national final of the English Speaking Union’s schools public speaking competition, in 1976.

He was representing the Gilberd School in Colchester and the pair met at a reception at Dartmouth House in London.

Prince Philip was president of the English Speaking Union (ESU) of the Commonwealth from 1952 until 2011.

He was a staunch supporter of the charity’s work in promoting global understanding through better communication, speech and debate.

Prof Raven, 62, said: “What I remember most is how quickly the prince put everyone at ease, certainly including myself.

“What was so obvious was his exceptional commitment to young people and the ESU charity.

“It was a commitment that was obviously genuine and extraordinarily well informed. He knew so much about what it was achieving and why it was important and that was really inspiring.

“I was then in the sixth form at the Gilberd and about to be sent by the English Speaking Union on a visitor exchange to America.


“It was something that transformed my life.

“It was my first visit abroad and a trip that set me up for university.”

Prof Raven, who was born and grew up in Colchester, is Emeritus Professor of Modern History at Essex University and a fellow of Magdalene College Cambridge and of the British Academy.

Behind Prof Raven and the prince in the picture are Native Americans in traditional dress from the English Speaking Union of Canada.

“Dartmouth House is still the headquarters of the English Speaking Union of the Commonwealth,” added Prof Raven.

“It’s a charity for which I’ve been working for more than 40 years, serving on its national board and becoming its chairman between 2019 and 2021, in succession to Lord Boateng.”

* A memorial service for Prince Phillip was held in Colchester at the Church of St James the Great with St Paul.

The touching tribute was officiated by the rector, Fr James McCluskey and saw prayers led by Colchester mayor Robert Davidson. The lesson was read by Sir Bob Russell, who is High Steward of Colchester.

The Colchester Civic Society was also represented by its president John Burton and the St James’s singers rounded off the service with the National Anthem.