There was magic to the man – charisma which didn’t overshadow, warmth which so obviously drew everyone in.
The Duke of Edinburgh and the Queen were visiting various places in Worthing and press coverage, as always for these things, was very carefully choreographed.
I had to turn up at Durrington High School at a certain time where I learnt to my disappointment that I would be following the Duke around for the day and not the Queen.
I hadn’t expected to be impressed by him, and I probably didn’t particularly want to be. After all, my generation was the generation that squirmed on behalf of us all at the Duke’s famous faux-pas, those slips of the tongue which somehow suggested he wasn’t quite of our world.
And yet he was. How quickly can our preconceptions crumble.
My job was to cling to the background, not to be seen, not to be heard, simply to pass in the Duke’s wake as the royal entourage moved from class to class at the school.
A picture taken by one of our photographers captures me as the perfect wallflower.
But even at that distance, it was impossible not to admire the way the Duke chatted, the way he drew the youngsters in, the way he seemed to speak at their level. You could see them smile and respond.
There was nothing remotely haughty or autocratic about him. All I saw was the sheer naturalness of a born communicator. I was impressed. By the end of the day, I was very very very impressed.
We shouldn’t be shocked at the passing of a 99-year-old, and yet we are. Our shock is a measure of what he meant to our nation, of what he means to our history – of the work he enabled the Queen to do and of the work he did in his own right.
All I can think, on this saddest of days, is how glad I am that I saw him in action – warm, engaging, friendly and inspiring. A remarkable man indeed.