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In Memoriam: FEI Pays Tribute to Prince Philip – Longest FEI President

Lausanne, Switzerland – April 10, 2021 – Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, passed away peacefully yesterday morning at Windsor Castle in England. His death, at the age of 99, was announced according to a statement released by Buckingham Palace.

He was the longest serving FEI President (1964-1986) and was succeeded in this role by his daughter Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, for the following eight years.

Some of Prince Philip’s own greatest sporting achievements came in the sport of Driving which he introduced as a new discipline in the FEI and helped to develop during his FEI Presidency. He helped standardise international rules and became a hugely successful competitor himself, winning team gold at the 1980 World Driving Championship and bronze in 1978, 1982 and 1984. He also placed sixth individually in 1982.

Prince Philip strongly supported the FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ series, which is now one of the crown jewels in the Jumping calendar, and was hugely supportive of the launch of the FEI Jumping World Cup™ in the 1970s. He was also instrumental in the creation of the FEI World Equestrian Games™, having lobbied for such a competition for many years before it was finally staged for the first time in Stockholm (SWE) in 1990.

Born in Corfu, Greece in 1921 and educated in France, Germany and Great Britain, he was just 18 years old when he joined the Royal Navy in 1939. During World War ll he served with the Mediterranean and Pacific fleets, and by the time he left the service in 1952 he had reached the rank of Commander. At the age 26 years, he married the then Princess Elizabeth (Queen Elizabeth ll) in November 1947.

An all-round horseman, he played polo during his time in the Royal Navy in the 1940s and became one of Britain’s top-10 players. His passion for all things equestrian was shared by his wife and passed on to their children, particularly Prince Charles who was also a keen polo player, and Princess Anne, who claimed individual gold at the FEI European Eventing Championships in 1971, and individual and team silver four years later, before becoming the first British Royal to compete at an Olympic Games when she rode in Montreal 1976

Prince Philip had been a keen sportsman throughout his life, having enjoyed cricket, hockey, rowing and sailing before his service in World War II. In the late 1940s he began an active polo career that lasted 20 years before his retirement from the sport in 1971.

By now he had developed a love for Driving, and took that up competitively when it became an FEI discipline in the 1970s.

For practice, he had access to plenty of antique carriages, horses, grooms and land. In 1973, Prince Philip competed in his second competition, the European Championships held at Windsor. He recalled: “I came in not quite last, but very nearly.”

He ultimately represented Great Britain in no fewer than six World and three European Championships in a career that spanned more than 10 years.

As well as his Team gold in the 1980 Worlds he also helped Great Britain to bronze medals in the 1978, 1982 and 1984 World Championships. He placed sixth individually at the 1982 event.

His passion for all things equestrian was shared by his wife, Queen Elizabeth, and passed on to their children, particularly Prince Charles who was also a keen polo player, and Princess Anne, who claimed individual gold at the FEI European Eventing Championships in 1971, and individual and team silver four years later, before becoming the first British Royal to compete at an Olympic Games when she rode in Montreal 1976.

Prince Philip’s grandchildren have also inherited a love of horse sport. Princess Anne’s daughter Zara Tindall took the Eventing world title in 2006 and was a member of the British silver medal at the 2012 London Olympic Games. Princes William and Harry are also regularly spotted on the polo field.

His Royal Highness Prince Philip The Duke of Edinburgh

FEI President Ingmar De Vos has paid tribute to Prince Philip, one of the most influential figures in the history of equestrian sports, who has sadly passed away aged 99.

Mr. De Vos said: “The passing of Prince Philip is a huge loss for equestrian sport and his legacy, particularly at the FEI, will live on for many many decades to come”, FEI President Ingmar De Vos said. “I first met him in London at the FEI General Assembly in 2005, and again at the FEI Eventing European Championships in Blair Castle in 2015.

“He was a man of incredible energy and a great sense of humour and the FEI was honoured to have him as our longest serving President.

“His dedication to equestrian sports cannot be underestimated and will never be forgotten, especially in the Driving community. He was born in the same year the FEI was founded and sadly he will not be with us to celebrate his own and the FEI’s centenary this year. We will celebrate his life and remember him as a great ambassador of our sport.”

Prince Philip was already one of the most famous people in the world when he became the President of the FEI in 1964. But while his celebrity brought a new level of prominence to equestrian sports, it was his passion for horses and drive to develop competitions that made his 22 years in charge such a success.

The FEI extends its deepest sympathy to the British Royal Family and joins the equestrian community in mourning the loss of this remarkable man.

“Not only was Prince Philip a good athlete in a lot of disciplines, he was also a real leader and managed to turn the equestrian sports into something more professional,” Marie de Pellegars, the equestrian historian and author of An Illustrated History of Equestrian Sports, told FEI.org last year.

“Really involved in equestrian sports thanks to his true love for horses, Prince Philip changed the sport. He made it the way he is: passionate and competitive.

“Furthermore, his royal title, popularity and celebrity brought a massive spotlight to the equestrian sports, in the UK first — where equestrianism became part of the national traditions — in all the other countries of the Commonwealth and in the rest of the world.

“Having such an important person leading the FEI and developing it drew attention on it from a lot of people who may previously have not been interested.”

While his impact on equestrian sport as a whole is remarkable, Prince Philip is especially revered in the Driving community, according to Ijsbrand Chardon.

Speaking last year to FEI.org, Ijsbrand said: “Prince Philip’s involvement has been of great significance for our Driving sport.

“His commitment at the administrative level and the extensive work he has done to properly regulate the sport has ensured that the four-in-hand sport could develop professionally.

“His high-level participation in the international competitions gave our sport an extra dimension, as a result of which extra audience, media attention and sponsors became interested.”

Source: Press Release Fédération Equestre Internationale – FEI

Photos: © FEI / Vickusin


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