Australian leaders commemorate life of Prince Philip at Sydney cathedral | Sydney

Australian dignitaries have commemorated the life of Prince Philip at a church service in Sydney.

The Duke of Edinburgh died in his sleep on Friday, two months before his 100th birthday and a short time after a month-long stay in hospital.

The Australian governor general, David Hurley, the prime minister, Scott Morrison, and his wife, Jenny, and the New South Wales premier, Gladys Berejiklian, were among those who prayed for the royal family at St Andrews Cathedral in Sydney.

The Very Reverend Kanishka de Silva Raffel, who led the Sunday service, praised the duke as a loyal and loving husband, father, and grandfather.

“On Prince Philip’s many visits to Australia, we have come to know him as a man of compassion and service, personal warmth, intellectual curiosity and generous spirit,” he said.

Australians was deeply saddened by his passing, and were praying for the Queen and her family in their grief, he said.

A photo of the Queen and Prince Philip was displayed throughout the service, after which guests were invited to sign a condolence book, to be passed to the monarch.

St Paul’s Cathedral in Melbourne and St Peter’s Cathedral in Adelaide will hold special services in coming days.

The husband of Queen Elizabeth II was on Saturday lauded as a man of candour, compassion and service to others by past and present leaders in Australia.

Australians have sent thousands of condolence messages online via the government website, which will be forwarded to Buckingham Palace.

The duke’s passing was marked with a 41-gun salute in Canberra on Saturday, in keeping with tradition being observed by other Commonwealth nations.

Flags were flown at half mast across the country and will be again next Saturday for Prince Philip’s funeral in the UK.

Anecdotes and fond memories of the prince flowed from Australian leaders including the former prime minister John Howard, who said his death marked the end of a “partnership for the ages” – his marriage to the Queen – that lasted more than 70 years.

“Prince Philip was always destined to be two or three steps behind [the Queen], but he did that with extraordinary grace and flair and intelligence,” Howard told reporters.

A choirboy looks on as dignitaries leave the cathedral
A choirboy looks on as dignitaries leave the cathedral. Photograph: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

The prince visited Australia 21 times, the first in 1940, before his marriage, as a midshipman aboard the battleship HMS Ramillies.

Some of his trips to Australia drew international headlines for controversial comments. On one occasion he asked an Aboriginal elder: “Do you still throw spears at each other?”

Howard said it was his so-called “gaffes” that made people warm to him, particularly Australians.

“He gave short shrift to political correctness when he encountered it, and that endeared him to millions of people,” he said.

The former prime minister Tony Abbott, who was criticised for appointing the duke as a Knight of the Order of Australia said the world seemed “a little emptier”.

“He combined great character with being a dutiful royal and demonstrated over eight decades there is no better life than one lived in service to others,” Abbott wrote.

The Australian Republic Movement offered its condolences to the royal family, as did the former prime minister and republican Malcolm Turnbull.

Asked for his reflections on the man, Turnbull shared how Prince Philip once identified him as “the Republican fellow”, then quipped: “You should have been a republic years ago!”

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