Okill Stuart, 96, has a remarkable connection to the Queen’s husband that dates back 80 years: they were classmates at Gordonstoun School in Scotland as teenagers in the 1930s.
“He was Prince Philip of Greece and proud of it,” Stuart said from his home in Saint-Lambert, in Montreal’s south shore.
“He was very much athletic, very much a sailor. Oh, a fantastic sailor. He was in charge of our ship that had 20 or more children running this sailing vessel. It was his cup of tea.”
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Thursday morning, the Royal Family announced the Duke of Edinburgh will be stepping down from public engagements later this year.
Stuart’s apartment is filled with mementos of his friendship with the prince.
The two lost touch through the war, but reconnected in London in the 1950s for a high school reunion.
“Philip walks in with a young student at his side, probably 10-12 years of age — Prince Charles,” recalled Stuart.
“Prince Philip turns to me and he said, ‘You know the school wasn’t famous in our day, was it? But it is now.'”
After the reunion, the duo kept in touch, with Stuart attending several functions at Buckingham Palace.
He was instrumental in convincing the prince in 1989 to inspect the cadet corps of Bishop’s College School in Lennoxville, a school Stuart attended.
“Anytime I have had anything to do with him with regard to Canada, I have found him very gung-ho.”
WATCH BELOW: Buckingham Palace announces Prince Philip will be stepping back from public duties
A decade ago, the Queen and Prince Philip invited Stuart and the Fraser Highlanders pipe band to Balmoral Castle, their summer home in Scotland, for a private performance.
“Prince Philip drove the Land Rover from the main building to the outbuilding,” Stuart recalled.
“He pops out from the front seat, he opens the back door, and out pops the Queen.”
Stuart wrote to the prince a few months ago, telling him he was slowing down, and perhaps it was time he did too.
He isn’t surprised Philip is retiring.
“You know, 96, you are beginning to feel your age. I know how he feels,” Stuart said, adding he isn’t sure he will ever see Philip in person again.
Nevertheless, he said he’ll always cherish the memories he has of his old friend.