Bafta host Clara Amfo praised the Duke of Edinburgh for helping to guide the academy through “difficult times” during the event’s opening night.
This year’s awards are being handed out over two nights in largely virtual ceremonies, with behind the camera categories, including casting and make-up, announced on Saturday.
Philip, who died aged 99 on Friday, became Bafta’s first president in 1959, one year after the British Film Academy and the Guild of Television Producers and Directors merged to create the Society of Film and Television Arts (SFTA), a forerunner of Bafta.
Opening the evening from an empty Royal Albert Hall in London, Amfo said: “Before we start tonight we want to say that on behalf of Bafta we are extremely saddened by the passing of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, on Friday.
“The duke was Bafta’s very first president over 60 years ago and was the first of a line of royal patronage all the way through to Bafta’s current president, his grandson, the Duke of Cambridge.
“It was Prince Philip and Her Majesty the Queen’s support throughout these years that in many ways allowed Bafta, a leading charity in the arts, to continue in difficult times and to be here today in 2021 celebrating another outstanding year of achievement in film.”
The Duke of Cambridge, who is president of Bafta, was due to feature in a pre-recorded conversation with costume designer Jenny Beavan and make-up and hair designer Sharon Martin, but withdrew following the death of his grandfather.
On Sunday, he was to deliver a speech via video, celebrating the resilience of the film industry over the past year.
As well as serving as president, Philip was also present at the official opening of Bafta’s headquarters in London, after he and the Queen gave their share of the profits from the 1969 documentary Royal Family to the SFTA.