It’s been a tough old year, what with a global pandemic taking away our liberty and much of the life we once considered normal.
We have stood united when we could – applauding our NHS workers, following the rules for a greater good – but there has been much that has separated us too.
Class, race, gender and politics have all at some point reared their heads, spilling over into protests and creating a sense of a divided nation.
And then, on Friday, Prince Philip died, two months short of his 100th birthday, and like most of the country I watched as the news unfolded.
Newsreaders changed their outfits to wear black; television schedules changed to reflect the enormity of the occasion.
And as the summary of his life was told – a child abandoned by an adulterous father and mother with mental health issues, who rose to naval hero in the Second World War – I was floored by his achievements.
Too easily, aristocratic can be assumed to mean born with a silver spoon but his was a story of fighting back against adversity.
It was the story of a boy with no home of his own who found one in Scotland, and found purpose at Gordonstoun boarding school in Moray.
He crossed paths with many people during his 73 year marriage to the Queen – including plenty of Dundonians. I watched once as they waved to delighted crowds from the City Chambers, Philip behind the Queen as ever.
And how many youngsters rose to the challenge of his Duke of Edinburgh Awards?
His love affair with Scotland was a lifelong affair and he never looked happier than in the family footage showing him playing with his children at Balmoral.
In a lot of ways, he was the last man you could picture playing second fiddle to his wife’s career. But in a time when men just didn’t give up their jobs for their wives, that’s exactly what Philip did and for the next seven decades, he followed two steps behind her at almost every public outing.
Famously, he wasn’t always a ray of polite sunshine.
Broadcaster Andrew Marr put it well when describing his occasional short-temperedness with the press, saying: “He was often just very bored.”
For Philip was a man who did, who led and who fought and yet spent his life waiting for people to give speeches; for photographers to take pictures; for his wife to do her duty so he could follow her home.
It’s said he was head of most family decisions behind closed doors. I’ve often wondered if the Queen made sure he had this place to make up for the authority he handed over to her in public life.
The actress Joanna Lumley who knew him well, said no one she met had ever been offended by his gaffes – that people passed on the things he said to the media and the world became offended.
He saw himself as an ice-breaker, at occasions to lighten the mood and make people laugh.
The day after his death, the newspapers offered blanket, respectful coverage with moving images and headlines.
And it struck me that you didn’t have to be a royalist to be moved by how things had played out – from the flowers laid to the dignified coverage and a nations’ response.
Something – perhaps many things – brought us together in the death of Prince Philip.
I liked him but it was what he stood for that was so important.
His service – for the country both in war time and then as prince; a marriage where he agreed not to ‘shine’ and put his love for his wife first. His gaffes and everything he represented.
And I like that finally, on his death, he was allowed to shine. And in doing so he provided a final service, reminding us of how special is is to come together as a country; to be British.
He’d have been mortified by the fuss but he deserves it.