In the decades that Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, acted as the Queen’s consort, he had always found ways to distinguish himself during royal visits.
Prince Philip was famed for his plain-speaking, as well as his witty and sometimes controversial remarks. He always sought to make those he spoke to, dignitaries and members of the public alike, to feel comfortable, sometimes making off-the-cuff or risque comments to show those he met they could stand easy.
When discussing tartan with the then-leader of the Scottish Conservative Party, Annabel Goldies, at a papal reception in 2010, the Prince asked: “That’s a nice tie… Do you have any knickers in that material?”
Speaking to wealthy locals in the Cayman Islands in 1994, he asked them: “Aren’t most of you descended from pirates?”
Britain’s tabloid press often leapt upon these remarks, characterising them as “gaffes”, but the Duke’s enduring success as a senior working Royal was a testament to a success of the contextual humour enjoyed by those present — but perhaps not always understood by literally minded observers from afar.
During his more than six decades in service of the country, Prince Philip had become an expert at opening ceremonies, and sought ways to make the otherwise dry occasions interesting, such as during a visit to Canada in 1969, when he stated: “I declare this thing open, whatever it is.”
While at Hertfordshire University in 2003, opening a new campus which architecturally saw whole building sides open as giant windows the Duke of Edinburgh said: “During the Blitz, a lot of shops had their windows blown in and put up notices saying, ‘More open than usual’. I now declare this place more open than usual.”
The Duke was also famously down-to-earth, and was known to don a cap and drive his black cab in disguise through London.
But it seemed at times that his life was not as rustic as he may have liked, bemoaning in 1987: “I never see any home cooking – all I get is fancy stuff.”
“Bugger the table plan, give me my dinner!” he had said at a party in 2004.
And after a long day in 2000 after meeting with Italian Prime Minister Giuliano Amato, he rejected a glass of wine, saying: “I don’t care what kind it is, just get me a beer!”
He was also frank in matters of taste, saying of plans of his son Prince Andrew’s, the Duke of York’s, house in 1988: “It looks like a tart’s bedroom.”
Though also never afraid to make fun of himself, saying on turning 90 in 2011: “Bits are beginning to drop off.”
Prince Philip was a loving family man, and parallels have been drawn between the Duke and his only daughter Princess Anne for their dry wit and commitment to service. The Prince had said of his no-nonsense daughter’s love of horses in 1970: “If it doesn’t fart or eat hay, she isn’t interested.”
And of the 1974 IRA kidnap attempt made against his strong-willed daughter: “If the man had succeeded in abducting Anne, she would have given him a hell of a time while in captivity.”
Prince Philip was a devoted husband who deeply appreciated his wife, saying on marriage in 1997: “You can take it from me the Queen has the quality of tolerance in abundance.”
No matter how outrageous the remarks, the Duke of Edinburgh always managed to get away with it. Prince Philip said in 1956 of his mannerisms: “It’s my custom to say something flattering to begin with so I shall be excused if I put my foot in it later on.”
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. 10th June 1921 – 9th April 2021.
Read more tributes to Prince Philip here.
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