DEATH? HANG AROUND THIS SITE, NO WONDER
Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, has died after a long period of failing health. You might have heard of him. Philip was born in 1921 as part of the Greek royal family, in a period so stable his grandfather had just been assassinated and his family were about to be overthrown. When he was one year old he was banished from Greece, narrowly avoiding death, thus starting as he meant to go on.
By 1939, despite a number of personal losses (including his sister and niece in a plane crash), he joined the Royal Navy, and swiftly moved up the ranks as an adept officer. As midshipman, he was on the front line protecting convoys from u-boat attack. He was involved in the Battle of Crete, and took control of a battleship during a crucial battle in the Mediterranean. He remained involved in a number of Naval battles during the war, and was present when the Japanese surrendered in 1945.
His Navy career was such that eventual promotion to First Lord of the Admiralty seemed on the cards, but with war over, Philip preferred to chase his teenage sweetheart instead. They had met when he was 13 and Elizabeth Windsor was 8, and started exchanging letters five years later. When Philip was first taken to Balmoral to meet the family, he was wearing the full kilt and gear, and when King George VI appeared, Philip curtseyed. This upset the hangers on (who were to find themselves easily upset quite often) but amused the King. Philip and the future Queen were married in 1947.
In 1952 the King died, from complications of cancer, and Philip found himself consort to the Queen. By this time he was already father to Charles (a relationship which struggled) and Anne (her father’s daughter), and the exact concept of what power a prince consort has took decades to fully sort out, as it had with Victoria and Albert a century earlier. Instead in his role, he took up the promotion of various charities, and created the Duke of Edinburgh Awards, which schools still try and encourage kids to go on. Aware that the patronage of the Duke of Edinburgh could “speed up red tape”, he promptly gave it to over 800 organisations and things. He was also famously protective of his grandchildren and was regarded as a rock of support during the various tragedies and losses in recent royal history.
However, you’re here for the gaffes, aren’t you? As suggested above, Prince Philip was the type of man who couldn’t go ten minutes without saying the one thing you weren’t meant to say in the situation. He became famous in later life for a long serious of quips and fluffs which ranged from the genuinely funny (“how do you keep the natives off the booze?” to a Scottish driving instructor), to those the recipients found funny (claiming a blinded IRA bomb victim must be blind with the tie he was wearing), to the badly timed (“do you still throw spears?” is that joke you think is funny in your head) to the somewhat frankly dodgy (the slitty eyes remark in China). The latter of course led to his casual racist reputation. Which is a shame, to be frank, as calling Prince Andrew home “a tarts bedroom” was legit funny. Or the classic murdered above, in a speech to young deaf students in Cardiff while he tried to be heard over a loud brass band: “Deaf? Near here, no wonder you are deaf!” These sit side by side with the less defendable ones like “it looks as if it was put in by an Indian.” Oddly many of his online critics about the more racist comments tended to refer to him as Phil the Greek, which is an odd bit of hypocrisy.
Philip lived to a grand old age, fought Nazis when many of his family turned to them, helped many charities and promoted child exercise. He was a man of his time, for good and bad, and as the other half of a reigning monarch, despite his flaws, he was alright. Hey, we could have had Prince Henrik, or Princess Michael of Kent.
Ending our musings on the biggest death of the year so far (by notability), as he’s now dead, we can point out that Philip used to be notorious for allegedly having a thing with Zsa Zsa Gabor. In the weeks leading up to Philip’s death, there was a lot of handwringing about Philip’s reactions to Prince Harry’s recent flounce to America. Knowing Prince Philip, we can only assume his reaction was: “An actress, eh? Go on, my son!”
He was number one on the Drop 40, with 173 teams picking Phil. This includes eejit Eternity Tours, Evil Grimace, En Passant and many others whose names do not start with the letter E.
10 June 1921 – 9 April 2021