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Former Associate Maria Victoria Monsalve shares her memories of HRH the Prince Philip.

Maria Victoria Monsalve, M.Sc., Ph.D., (Former Lucy Cavendish College Associate, 1996-7) is an Associate Professor of Teaching, Faculty of Medicine, at The University of British Columbia. In 2017 she was appointed to the rank of Commander in the Colombian National Order of Merit by President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia, in recognition of her achievements in the application of genetics to anthropology, pathology and medicine during her time in Canada.

In this article she shares her memories of HRH the Prince Philip, and also shares insights into her research on human evolution.

While living in the United Kingdom in two separate instances of my life, from 1984 to 1988 and from 1995 to 1997, I became enthused and embraced some of the interests and activities of British people such as following the life of the British monarchy. The most recent opportunity to see Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh during my time as visitor scholar at the University of Cambridge was in an event where he was present. This was in 1996. Other opportunities to see him and other royal family members were due to invitations to events for my husband and myself from 1984 to1988.   

In Vancouver (Canada) part of the Commonwealth, the news of the death of the Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh was widely publicized. My husband and I arose early to see the funeral ceremony on TV. While I was watching this event many memories came to my mind about the Duke and Royal Family events that I had the privilege to attend.

I attended the Presentation of The Recipients of Honorary Degrees during my time in Cambridge as a Lucy Cavendish College Associate, by invitation of the Cambridge Society for Visiting Scholars on June 26, 1996. This presentation was to The Chancellor, the Duke of Edinburgh. He was Chancellor from 1976 until he retired in 2011, shortly after his 90th birthday. This event was held in the Senate House. Instructions for attendees included: Ladies are asked to remove their hats inside the Senate House.

Members of the Cambridge University were required to “wear the academic dress of the highest Cambridge degrees. Hoods are worn and Doctors wear scarlet. Lounge suit, national dress or day dress is worn”. Specific seats were assigned in the Senate House for the “Conferment of Honorary Degree”. The reserved seat Gallery allowed me to see the Duke of Edinburgh up close.  

The Order of the proceedings covered: Entry of the Processions and The Challenging Procession. They entered during the last procession to end with the entrance of a list of nine graduands (honoris causa).

Antony Hewish, M.A., Ph.D., F.R.S Doctor of Science Nobel Prize winner/Fellow of Churchill College/ Honorary Fellow of Gonville and Caius College/ Emeritus Professor of Radio Astronomy, was for his work in pulsars.

Rosalyn Higgins, D.B.E., M.A., of Girton College, Judge of the International Court of Justice at The Hague. She was the first woman ever to hold such office. Dame Higgins expanded the offerings in international law, personally teaching courses on the United Nations, the International Law of Natural Resources and, most notably, International Human Rights. 

Music during the Congregation included Music for His Majesty’s Cornett and Sagbutts by Matthew Locke. An arrangement by Thomas Augustine Arne and songs by the choir. The National Anthem harmonized The Chancellor’s procession, which included the Honorary Graduates leaving  the Senate-House . The Choral Music performed by the Choir of St. John’s College, Cambridge and the music performed before and after the Congregation was performed by the King’s Trumpets.

Watching the funeral procession of the Duke in Edinburgh also triggered memories of when my husband and I went to Windsor Castle to celebrate the Knights of The Garter in 1987. This was due to my husband’s position in BC House in London. Sir Leonard Callagan. was knighted at the Saint George chapel in Windsor castle.  

Now a Canadian citizen, I feel proud of the visits that the Duke of Edinburgh made to Canada. He undertook 22 Royal tours and held many honorary Canada military positions. As an educator to young people in Canada, I admired his interest in the development of young people through the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, which helped many Canadian young people to advance their pursuits.

The Duke of Edinburgh proudly stood alongside Her Majesty, The Queen on several occasions. I was able to observe one of his great attributes. It has been recognized that he accepted to provide services to the Queen and to the Commonwealth. He fulfilled this role admirably.

I have vivid memories of the last time that I saw the Duke of Edinburgh. This was at the funeral of Princess Lady Diana Spencer in 1997, whom I previously had the pleasure of meeting in a Garden party at Buckingham palace. My location in front of the palace allowed me to see the Duke of Edinburgh in company of Her Majesty The Queen and members of the Royal family.                                                             

About Dr Monsalve’s research

One of my areas of interest is human evolution, specifically early migrations to the American Pacific Rim. I have been working in the analysis of ancient DNA from human populations since 1991. Past work included the retrieval of ancient DNA from artificially and naturally mummified soft tissues in Colombian museum mummies radiocarbon dated 1,500 BP to 400 BP.  As a Research Associate at the University of Cambridge, UK1995-1997), I worked with ancient populations in the Americas to establish ethnic origins.  Studies with DNA derived from ancient bones allowed me to clarify phylogenetic relationships between the Aymara people living during the pre-Tiwanaku and Tiwanaku period (ca. 1700-900 BP) in the Atacama Desert of Northern Chile. A study with mitochondrial DNA from dogs from Melanesia and Indonesia allowed us to gain insight into prehistoric human settlement and dispersal among the Pacific islands.

I was privileged to work with a unique discovery in a remote area of Canada where it borders Alaska. Kwāday Dān Ts’ìnchį (Long-Ago Person Found) was the name given by the Champagne-Aishihik people to the male human remains found in a glacier by hikers in 1999.  Radiocarbon dating of a hat and fur garment indicated the remains were around 550 years old. I led a team of scientists at UBC (Canada), University of New Mexico (USA) and University of Bradford (UK), to establish his genetic makeup. Mitochondrial DNA allowed us to determine his affinities with contemporary Native Americans and Asian groups. My contribution was noted in the journal Science vol. 296, (19 April 2002) and in the magazine Canadian Geographic vol. 122, (July/August 2002).  In addition, I led: 1) a team composed of academics at UBC, University of Victoria, University of Manitoba, University of Saskatchewan (Canada) and Hebrew University of Jerusalem to analyze micro-organisms in bone and muscle tissues in the Kwāday Dān Ts’ìnchį to study cellular structures in his tissues to predict DNA retrieval and  to study protein structure of soft tissues,  and 2) a team of academics  at UBC, and the University of Victoria to identify organic and non-organic deposits in his lungs. Some of our findings were published in chapters in the book “Kwāday Dān Ts’ìnchį -Teaching from Long Ago Person Found” released by the Royal BC Museum in 2017.

At present as a docent member of the Faculty of Medicine, UBC one of my special interests is a project that I initiated “Hands-on the Archaeological and Historical Medical Collections” as a part of The Foundations of Scholarship and Flexible Enhance Learning (FLEX) course for medical students.