On Friday 9 April 2021, a certain gentleman died. His full name/title was:
His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth, Baron Greenwich, Royal Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, Extra Knight of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, Member of the Order of Merit, Grand Master and First and Principal Knight Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, Knight of the Order of Australia, Additional Member of the Order of New Zealand, Extra Companion of the Queen’s Service Order, Royal Chief of the Order of Logohu, Extraordinary Companion of the Order of Canada, Extraordinary Commander of the Order of Military Merit, Lord of Her Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy Council, Privy Councillor of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada, Personal Aide-de-Camp to Her Majesty, Lord High Admiral of the United Kingdom.
That’s 133 words. In the time it takes you to read it, at least 100 people will have died somewhere in the world. For the average daily death toll around the globe is 150,000 people. How many of their names will we know? How many of them will attract the media feeding frenzy that the passing of certain 99-year-old gentleman did?
How much media or other scrutiny will fall on the 800+ women who died on that very same day from what the World Health Organization describes as “preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth”? How many pub conversations about that particular gentleman’s legacy will pause to consider that in high-income countries a woman’s lifetime risk of maternal death is one in 540; in low-income countries it is one in 45?
We don’t know exactly what the 99-year-old gentleman expired from, though old age is clearly a suspect. We do know he suffered heart problems. That puts him in strong company – nearly one third of the other 149,999 deaths on 9 April resulted from cardiovascular disease.
The gentleman’s family, especially his wife—a woman of some renown—will mourn him deeply. That is as unremarkable. Will their sorrow be any more heartfelt, any more profound, than that of all the other wives, husbands, children, mothers, fathers, siblings, friends, companions who lost a loved one on Friday 9 April 2021?