NZ salutes 'unchanging star' Prince Philip

NZ Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy has paid tribute to Prince Philip at a memorial service.
NZ Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy has paid tribute to Prince Philip at a memorial service.

New Zealand has farewelled Prince Philip in a reverential memorial service at Wellington Cathedral of St Paul.

Around 500 people attended a service rich in pomp, song and prayer on Wednesday in a cathedral adorned with British and Kiwi insignia.

Prince Philip, who visited New Zealand 10 times as the Queen's husband and consort, died at Windsor Castle on April 9 at the age of 99.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern did not eulogise the Duke, who she never met in the job, instead delivering a reading titled "Memories".

Governor General Dame Patsy Reddy gave the tribute, saying he was a bedrock of the monarchy.

"His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, was a loyal companion and beloved support to Her Majesty the Queen for more than 70 years," Dame Reddy said.

"For many of us, he has, like the Queen, always been there.

"We could perhaps be forgiven for seeing him as one of the unchanging stars in our sky."

The venue was a fitting one: the Queen laid the foundation stone to the cathedral in 1954, and the couple visited three times more on official visits, most recently on their final trip to 2002.

In the pews sat a veritable who's who of New Zealand life, including Ms Ardern, opposition leader Judith Collins, and members of the diplomatic corps including British High Commissioner Laura Clarke and Australian High Commissioner Patricia Forsythe.

Dame Reddy, known for her colourful dress sense but clad in all black for the occasion, said Prince Philip delighted in engaging outside of high society.

"On his visits he travelled throughout the motu (nation) to meet people from every culture, walk of life, and region," she said.

"Many New Zealand families will have stories about a time when when one of their members met the Duke.

"He was well known to be a frank and engaging conversationalist. I'm sure those stories are being fondly retold now."

The memorial was televised across New Zealand by television network Three and screened in cathedrals across Aotearoa.

"Grieve. Acknowledge. Farewell. Rest now. Rest in peace," Dame Reddy concluded.

Australian Associated Press