Prince of Wails

I woke up yesterday to discover that Prince Philip would not. Well, so said the world of Twitter. But I wanted to hear of his death from a better source than the hysterical mass that is social media. Places where you find the most vocal complaints of #fakenews tend, in my experience, to be the places you’re most likely to find #fakenews. You know the ones. Twitter. Breitbart. The White House.

He wasn’t dead, it so turned out. Just retired. Both seem to be pretty similar events from my perspective. We’ll see a lot less of the chap. It’s just the former might have gotten us a Bank Holiday. Which would have been nice. But it did have me thinking about ole Prince Philip.

I am almost going to miss his casual racism. The sharp, misogynistic quips. The profound elitism delivered with an unblinking and outdated belief in class. His fans will call him a ‘man of his time’. His opponents, ‘an unwanted relic of the past’. I’ll just play it safe and call him Prince Philip and hope that no one asks me to come up with a birth certificate. I don’t want to have a cheap dig at his age, but birth certificates are easier to produce when they’re written on paper, not chiselled into a stone tablet.

It did occur to me that we might be witnessing the departure of the last living vestiges of early 20th century thinking. But that would be wrong. We do still have Nigel Farage, alive and kicking to provide us with backward thinking discourse. But Prince Philip was the original article, not a Johnny-come-lately pretender like Nasty Nigel. Farage will never be able to claim that he was simply a ‘man of his time’. He’ll actually need to apologise for his unforgiveable deeds.

What to do with Prince Philip when he actually does kick the royal bucket? The royal family have been ever so keen these last couple of decades to innovate and keep up with the times. A standard burial seems just oh so 1900s. Perhaps instead of a standard interment, his embalmed body could be seated in the Tower of London or Windsor as a tourist attraction.

Or perhaps we could simply replace his aged joints with some motors and have him carry on as normal for all eternity. I’m not convinced many people will notice the difference. In fact, I’d bet a pound that there’s a conspiracy theory out there that claims this happened twenty years ago.

My preferred option would be to string his skeleton up in the main hall of the Natural History Museum. People will soon tire of the blue whale that has replaced Dippy the Diplodocus and start demanding the return of a dinosaur.  Give the people what they want. But until the day comes, we can but speculate what might happen. Till then, here is a selection of Prince Philip’s finest public moments.

  • “I declare this thing open, whatever it is.” (on a visit to Canada in 1969).
  • “Everybody was saying we must have more leisure. Now they are complaining they are unemployed” (during the 1981 recession).
  • “If it has got four legs and it is not a chair, if it has got two wings and it flies but is not an aeroplane, and if it swims and it is not a submarine, the Cantonese will eat it.” (at a 1986 World Wildlife Fund meeting).
  • “It looks like a tart’s bedroom.” (on seeing plans for the Duke and Duchess of York’s house at Sunninghill Park in 1988)
  • “Yak, yak, yak; come on get a move on.” (shouted from the deck of Britannia in Belize in 1994 to the Queen who was chatting to her hosts on the quayside).
  • “We didn’t have counsellors rushing around every time somebody let off a gun, asking ‘Are you all right? Are you sure you don’t have a ghastly problem?’ You just got on with it.” (about the Second World War commenting on modern stress counselling for servicemen in 1995).
  • “How do you keep the natives off the booze long enough to get them through the test?” (to a driving instructor in Oban, Scotland, during a 1995 walkabout).
  • “If a cricketer, for instance, suddenly decided to go into a school and batter a lot of people to death with a cricket bat, which he could do very easily, I mean, are you going to ban cricket bats?” (in 1996, amid calls to ban firearms after the Dunblane shooting).
  • “It looks as if it was put in by an Indian.” (pointing at an old-fashioned fusebox in a factory near Edinburgh in 1999).
  • “Deaf? If you are near there, no wonder you are deaf.” (to young deaf people in Cardiff, in 1999, referring to a school’s steel band).
  • “You are a woman, aren’t you?”(In Kenya, in 1984, after accepting a small gift from a local woman).
  • “If you stay here much longer, you’ll all be slitty-eyed.” (to British students in China, during the 1986 state visit).
  • “Your country is one of the most notorious centres of trading in endangered species in the world.” (in Thailand, in 1991, after accepting a conservation award).
  • “Oh no, I might catch some ghastly disease.” (in Australia, in 1992, when asked to stroke a Koala bear).
  • “You can’t have been here that long – you haven’t got a pot belly.” (to a Briton in Budapest, Hungary, in 1993).
  • “Aren’t most of you descended from pirates?” (to a wealthy islander in the Cayman Islands in 1994).
  • “You managed not to get eaten, then?” (suggesting to a student in 1998 who had been trekking in Papua New Guinea that tribes there were still cannibals).
  • In Germany, in 1997, he welcomed German Chancellor Helmut Kohl at a trade fair as “Reichskanzler” – the last German leader who used the title was Adolf Hitler.
  • “You’re too fat to be an astronaut.” (to 13-year-old Andrew Adams who told Philip he wanted to go into space. Salford, 2001).
  • “I wish he’d turn the microphone off.” (muttered at the Royal Variety Performance as he watched Sir Elton John perform, 2001).
  • Do you still throw spears at each other?” (In Australia in 2002 talking to a successful aborigine entrepreneur).
  • “You look like a suicide bomber.” (to a young female officer wearing a bullet-proof vest on Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, in 2002).
  • “Do you know they’re now producing eating dogs for anorexics?” (to a blind woman outside Exeter Cathedral, 2002)
  • “Well, you didn’t design your beard too well, did you?” (to designer Stephen Judge about his tiny goatee beard in July 2009).
  • “There’s a lot of your family in tonight.” (after looking at the name badge of businessman Atul Patel at a Palace reception for British Indians in October 2009).
  • “Do you work it a strip club?” (to 24-year-old Barnstaple Sea Cadet Elizabeth Rendle when she told him she also worked in a nightclub in March 2010).
  • “Bits are beginning to drop off.” (on approaching his 90th birthday, 2011)
  • “How many people have you knocked over this morning on that thing?” (meeting disabled David Miller who drives a mobility scooter at the Valentine Mansion in Redbridge in March 2012)
  • “I would get arrested if I unzipped that dress.” (to 25-year-old council worker Hannah Jackson, who was wearing a dress with a zip running the length of its front, on a Jubilee visit to Bromley, Kent, in May 2012)
  • “The Philippines must be half empty as you’re all here running the NHS.” (on meeting a Filipino nurse at a Luton hospital in February 2013)
  • “Most stripping is done by hand.” (to 83-year-old Mars factory worker Audrey Cook when discussing how she used to strip or cut Mars Bars by hand in April 2013)
  • “(Children) go to school because their parents don’t want them in the house.” (prompting giggles from Malala Yousafzai, who survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban after campaigning for the right of girls to go to school without fear – October 2013)
  • “Just take the f***ing picture.” (losing patience with an RAF photographer at events to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain – July 2015)
  • “You look starved.” (to a pensioner on a visit to the Charterhouse almshouse for elderly men – February 2017)
  • “I’m just a bloody amoeba.” (on the Queen’s decision that their children should be called Windsor, not Mountbatten).
  • “Are you asking me if the Queen is going to die?” (on being questioned on when the Prince of Wales would succeed to the throne)
  • “If the man had succeeded in abducting Anne, she would have given him a hell of a time while in captivity.” (On a gunman who tried to kidnap the Princess Royal in 1974).
  • “If it doesn’t fart or eat hay, she’s not interested.” (on the Princess Royal)
  • “When a man opens a car door for his wife, it’s either a new car or a new wife.” (on marriage).
  • “It’s a pleasant change to be in a country that isn’t ruled by its people.” (to Alfredo Stroessner, the Paraguayan dictator).


6 thoughts on “Prince of Wails

  1. Ah, yes. You remember them. We met them on holiday in Malta. Phil and Betty, that nice German lady with the frighteningly rude Greek husband. We don’t see much of them any more. He seemed to be a cross between Oscar Wilde and that nasty old man at the end of the bar in the Queen’s Arms in Blackpool — the fellow who voted Socialist, but sounded as if he was once Oswald Mosley’s batman.

    Retired, you say? Isn’t that a little bit like my grandson Basil, who has never worked a day in his life, claiming that he is retired?

    Ah, well. I wish them well. She is going to have a devil of a time with him under foot all day. All I can say is God save that queen. Betty, that is. And, no, I did not mean anything else by that comment. But Bessie might.


    • Good one!

      If being a full time ambassador for the United Kingdom is a little too much for Phil these days, perhaps he might look for a part-time hobby job. Perhaps in customer service at United Airlines. He couldn’t do any worse, surely? At least the news headlines will contain the word ‘hilarity’ instead of ‘outrage’. That’s what a bit of regal charm buys you.


  2. Philip Kirkland says:

    “It did occur to me that we might be witnessing the departure of the last living vestiges of early 20th century thinking.”
    No,sorry, I hope I have many years left on Earth yet! Class is permanent, silly regress… I mean “progressive” (haha) thinking comes and goes like so many fashions.


    • Some people have class, some fall sadly short. But, unlike money and noble titles, it’s something that one is born with rather than born into…

      Progressive thinking is easy to knock, thanks to progressive thinking. Without it, you and I would be tilling fields for his lordship, not engaging in digital dialogue. And our wives would be strangers to us, either be in nunneries or in servitude in Mexico.


      • Philip Kirkland says:

        I agree when that progress really is progress, but so much is given that name these days when people see politicians pandering to their minority interests for political gain, causing them to invent more “causes” … and winning those, too. The examples you give above are for the greater good of humanity. The agenda of many so-called “progressives” is not. I have some acquaintances that call themselves progressive, which in their case seems to be a matter of finding problems which don’t exist, even to the extent of appealling for “justice” for various groups that haven’t even found any problem themselves.


        • Every type of thinking has its extremist fringe. There are no exceptions. But I’d struggle to think of a type of thinking that has benefitted either of us more than progressive thinking. Not least because it is so wide ranging. Pretty much any other type of social, economic or scientific development over the last few centuries has piggy backed progressive thinking into the 21st century.

          The tabloid is modern society’s true champion of ‘silly regress’ thinking. One of their favoured tactics is to repeatedly promote that extreme fringe as some sort of ‘norm’…


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