Edward’s tribute to father as he meets Duke of Edinburgh’s Award winners

The Duke of Edinburgh paid tribute to his late father as he met gold award winners from Prince Philip’s personal challenge programme for the first time since becoming the charity’s patron.

Edward became patron of the Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) awards, set up by his father, in March.

He described his new role at the charity as “a huge, huge honour”.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme celebratory event
Edward during a game of ‘cornhole’ in the garden of Buckingham Palace (Victoria Jones/PA)

He said it is “a huge space to fill as well, given all the interests that my father had over many years and so many organisations that he supported – but this one was probably the closest to his heart”.

Edward was speaking to hundreds of gold award holders and their supporters, who were special guests at a celebration in the Buckingham Palace garden.

Edward, who completed the programme and received his gold award from his father in 1986, said: “It is a true honour to go on to try and encourage, enthuse and inspire young people, volunteers and leaders to continue to deliver this as long as there are young people out there who want to do it.”

Actor and comedian Jon Culshaw, television presenter Rav Wilding, athlete and presenter Ade Adepitan, property expert Kirstie Allsopp and journalist Alice Beer were also on hand with inspirational talks on careers and life skills.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme celebratory event
Edward hosted young people from the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme (Victoria Jones/PA)

Edward talked to the award holders and joined in some games in the garden.

The DofE awards are open to people from all walks of life aged 14 to 24 and aims to inspire them to develop skills, resilience and self-belief.

It aims to help them take on their own challenges, follow their passions, make a difference to their communities and discover talents they never knew they had.

Footballer-turned-TV presenter and silver DofE award holder Jermaine Jenas told those gathered: “The grit that enabled me to trade stadium lights for studio lights is in each and every one of you.

“It’s what kept you going when your friends were doing other things and you did not feel like showing up for your volunteering shift.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme celebratory event
Edward with former professional footballer and TV pundit Jermaine Jenas (Victoria Jones/PA)

“When you were trudging through the rain on your expedition, you could have given up but didn’t. Outside of your comfort zone is where a gold DofE award is truly earned.

“The next time life throws you a curve ball you have already shown you have the resilience to do whatever you imagine.”

Jenas grew up on a council estate before signing for Nottingham Forest and having a 15-year football career.

He said he is lucky to be “living my passion but grew up being constantly judged and tested, knowing I was only as good as my last performance”.

He was helping to pay the family mortgage, which meant “failure was not an option”.

When Jenas retired from football, he knew he had to “challenge himself” and found a skill for communication – though this meant “taking a chance in a new career”.

“If you think that presenting would be easier than playing football in front of hundreds of thousands of fans, then think again,” he said.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme celebratory event
Edward talks to guests at Buckingham Palace (Victoria Jones/PA)

“There have been some seriously tough moments, whether that is tackling politics on Question Time or forgetting Graham Norton’s name on TV – in front of Graham Norton.”

He added: “I could never have guessed I would be speaking years later in the presence of royalty and, trust me, it is still pretty nerve-racking.”

More than 9,000 youngsters will visit the palace this week during four special celebration events over two days to mark their achievements as part of the awards scheme.

There are 537,759 young people currently taking part in the scheme, including 323,676 starting their DofE in 2022/23.

They are carrying out 3.5 million hours of volunteering, equivalent to £17 million in paid working hours, the DofE said.

The DofE is run in schools, youth clubs, hospitals, fostering agencies, prisons, sports clubs and more, all over the UK.

England lioness Jill Scott, explorer and gold DofE award holder Levison Wood, broadcaster Charlotte Hawkins, DJ Vick Hope, actress Katherine Kelly, presenter Ore Oduba and Strictly Come Dancing professionals Aljaz Skorjanec and Janette Manrara are among those set to attend other DofE celebrations at the palace this week.