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The man who wouldn’t be king: the wicked wit of that grumpy Greek, Prince Philip

“I’m prepared to take advice on leisure from Prince Philip. He’s a world expert on leisure. He’s been practicing it for most of his adult life.” — former leader of Her Majesty’s ‘Loyal’ Opposition, Neil Kinnock

Ooh, get her. 

In a recent article I authored on a rather more successful Welsh windbag, the legendary Dame Shirley Bassey, I made mention of an airline staff forum site called PPRuNe, which asked cabin crew from around the world what their in-flight experiences with celebrities was like. Among your Joan Collins (“haughty”) and your Naomi Campbells (“nightmare”) there were three royal class passengers that stood out with the dollies of the trolley. And I quote…

The Queen: “Goodness, she has a warm bottom if her seat was anything to go by.”

Prince Philip: “Hilarious! I loved him.”

Prince Andrew: “Buffoon.”

Make no mistake, whatever your views on monarchy versus republicanism, Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh was like most humans: rather more complex and rounded than the one dimensional stereotype perpetrated in the press. He was an immensely formidable character, possessed of a razor sharp mind and a ferocious, forensic intellect with a meticulous attention to detail and a hatred of mediocrity. He could also be a bit of a prat. His quick wit and teasing sense of fun didn’t endear him to everyone, and he upset many with his ‘jokes’, his hunting and his driving. He was a modernist who hated formality, as well as an old school colonial curmudgeon with an impatient foul mouthed temper, an infectious optimism and iron strong sense of duty. Put all that together and it’s easy to see why he rubbed some people up the wrong way, the irascible old bastard.

On the 95th birthday of Her Maj — her first as a widow — here’s a bit of a myth-slaying feature on her recently deceased husband. In other words, it was fun while you lasted but bye bye Baron Greenwich, Earl of Merioneth, you’re dead but you were never boring.


To the world.

Oh, you must have heard. The chap born Philippos Andreou Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, husband to the longest reigning monarch in British history, and the richest and most famous woman in the world, Queen Elizabeth II in other words,has died. You will have heard, because the media went completely OCD about it, and for hours and hours and hours (repeat ad nauseam) that was all that happened in the world. Or so the establishment would want you to believe. 

Never mind that for over a year the planet’s been in paralysis, as countries try to get to grips with a pandemic that’s slain millions, the likes of which the world hasn’t seen since… well, just a year before the blond Apollo Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark was born on a dining room table in Corfu.

Prince Philip was my maternal grandmother’s favourite member of the British royal family. She liked his spirited no nonsense approach, and I can imagine him being rather easy on the eye when he was young probably helped too. That they were both born in Greece just a few years apart in the Roaring Twenties makes her fondness for him even less of a surprise.

But come on, man dies at 99 is not really a shock, is it? He lived longer than any member of my family, ever. I concede, on a human level, my first reaction on the news was that it was shame he didn’t manage to hang on to become the first spouse of a monarch to receive the customary centenary telegram from HM. See, not completely heartless. 

Nonetheless, Phil the Greek had a very, very long life, not to mention a privileged and fulfilled one. To put that in perspective, my gran, Πολύμνια Σταμάτης, to give her her birth name, passed suddenly at 54. Age difference apart, there were a couple of other quirky parallels, though: both of them married Brits in the autumn of 1947, and both had their first-born a year later, in the autumn of 1948, within three weeks of each other. Hello Mum, and, well, the other one would be Prince Charles, jug-eared squatter-inheritor of major Devonian lands such as Dartmoor that by rights should still belong to my father’s family. 

Both Πολύμνια and Φίλιππος died within miles of each other in the neighbouring English home counties of Buckinghamshire and Berkshire. However, the similarities stop there. My maternal family has Greek blood, while the red stuff (or should that be true blue?) that coursed through Philip’s veins did not have one corpuscle of Hellenic origin, his family merely being parachuted in from the Danish dynastic royal house of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg. 

Philip’s maternal grandmother, Princess Victoria of Hesse, was a German granddaughter of Queen Victoria, while his father was also descended from Russian emperors. Indeed, not only was Britain’s longest-serving consort linked by blood and marriage to most of Europe’s royal houses, but a bemused grin spread across my face writing this from France and reading he was also related to Napoleon. As Basil Fawlty once famously asked, who won the bleedin’ war anyway?

When I was the tender age of ten, Mr Pearson, my middle school teacher at Springfield encouraged me to write a letter to Buckingham Palace. It wasn’t anything to do with the town of Buckingham being mere minutes away, or even that I was born on William IV Street in London on the anniversary of William IV’s ascension to the throne. (For the record, as the monarch immediately prior to his long reigning niece Queen Victoria, William isn’t a particularly well remembered king, though, curiously, he was known for his startling informality, drawing many parallels with Philip.) No, I must have told teacher that I had a scroll-like poster of all the kings and queens of Great Britain on my bedroom wall. Well, the ones since 1066 at least.

Before I discovered pop music, obviously. Or saying what I think.

Vaguely knowing a little of his and my Greek family heritage, the subject of my hand-scrawled query wasn’t Her Maj, but her hubby, Phil the foreigner. I simply asked why Prince Phillip was just that — a prince and not a king, knowing all too well by the chronological chart by my bed that women become queens on their betrothed’s ascension to the throne.

Within a week I was in receipt of a reply. A personal secretary to The Queen stated with requisite formality the perfunctory response that it was merely a matter of following historical precedent and royal tradition, passed down through the ages. There were many instances where protocol and tradition has been weighed heavily towards the male sex but this was certainly not one of them.

I’m not in possession of the letter, though I have an inkling it’s ensconced in the under-stairs cupboard of my parents’ house. The same house we’d just moved to when I dashed off the enquiry. Doubtless it’s buried among a plethora of school reports, holiday snaps and my father’s cassette collection (hmm, cassette tapes: remember them?). Me, once I discovered the joys of popular music I left the royals behind, and any related correspondence.

Other than a few photos, I think the only item from my childhood I still have is a fancy brown embossed leather wallet, a present gran brought back from Greece on her last trip back to her homeland. I would’ve preferred plain black but, of course, the sentimental attachment of receiving it close to her passing means I can never part with it. 

I was too young to understand her death — certainly too young to be allowed to attend the funeral declared my grandfather, the fearsome Serbian who no one dared disobey. Consequently I never felt like I was able to mourn her, though I’ll be buggered if I am going to be forced to mourn a man I never actually met.

My dad's boss Lord Campbell introduces his wife to HM at CMK, 27 June '79

For the record, we observed the Queen and the Duke twice at fairly close quarters — when they visited our Bletchley town during the 1977 Silver Jubilee and again two years later when HM officially opened the Central Milton Keynes shopping centre the day after my tenth birthday — but there was no excruciating small talk, no jaw on the floor ‘gaffes’. 

What do I remember? How tiny the Queen was, and how striking Philip was in the flesh. Imposing even. Despite almost 60, he was ramrod straight, that iron posture he picked up as a dashing naval officer had served him well. Indeed, it was one of the physical characteristics Matt Smith got scarily spot-on in The Crown, along with the rheumy, steely stare that could burn through you like a blow torch through butter.

It was interesting to study up close was what a Darby and Joan act they often resembled, almost a good cop bad cop routine in some ways, yet undeniably, partners, allies, friends. Two sharply contrasting characters with wholly different natures, Elizabeth is a much more diffident and placid character than gregarious, physical Philip was, and less changeable in mood too. 

He had a disarmingly fruity, mischievous sense of humour, but as a way to cope with his permanent outsider turned helper status, he developed the prickly disciplined carapace under the vulturine brow we knew so well — that puts duty above all, and reserves personal vulnerability and insecurity for the privacy of the inner circle. 

The Queen obviously adored him, too.

In Perth on the couple's final tour of Australia

Fifteen years ago, I was dating a former Buckingham Palace footman, who loved to regale me with tales of the royals. I got the sense that like a lot of HM’s British subjects, he had a personal fondness for Phil and Liz and rather less for their offspring. As with many of the staff, John would decamp to the other royal residences when required: summer at Balmoral, Christmas as Sandringham — the latter by all accounts a slightly run-down home where it was not uncommon to witness sections of worn carpets stuck together with sticky tape.

John recalled one occasion where a function was taking place at Buck House, if I remember correctly, and Philip turned up late and the moment he walked in the room and smiled at her the Queen’s face completely lit up, literally beaming from ear to ear. “After so long together, it was heartwarming to witness the love they still have for each other. It made me want to melt,” he gushed.

Of course, there were controversies. Why was Prince Philip still driving at the age of 97 — without spectacles — especially when he has access to a fleet of royal chauffeurs? 

You’d have to be a superhero for your mental acuity not to have slowed down, but he was fiercely independent, of course. By all accounts, there was no security detail tailing him. Which rather makes a mockery of his response when quizzed about the extra marital affairs alluded to in the early seasons of The Crown.

“Good god, woman,” he exclaimed to a female journalist who raised the subject of possible infidelity. 

“Have you ever stopped to think that for years, I have never moved anywhere without a policeman accompanying me? So how the hell could I get away with anything like that?”

Probably by driving yourself and not letting anyone in the passenger seat perhaps? Either way, the car crash episode was far from his finest hour, especially when he was seen driving again just days later… until the furore forced him to hand in his licence. 

To think, it could have easily happened to the Obamas instead of that woman in Norfolk. A few years earlier, the American President and First Lady got into a car with Prince Philip behind the wheel and looked somewhat less than at ease.

When the Duke’s death was announced, being told with nauseating regularity that it was a day of national sadness disturbed me. That village-like mentality that’s often Britain’s achilles heel — that it’s a small country and everyone is or must  be talking about the same thing — frequently enrages me. Quite honestly, when the nation’s broadcasters went so completely over the top it sounded something straight out of North Korean state television. 

It’s one thing for the Beeb to suspend normal programming on BBC One, but to inflict exactly the same simulcasted transmission on three channels and take BBC Four off the air and replace it with a message instructing everyone to tune into BBC One or Two was utterly preposterous and downright fascist.

Coverage of this event took up the entire evening broadcast to the exclusion of all other topics, including the ongoing topic of the pandemic. Some coverage was justified, but not to this extent. This was a very elderly man who had been unwell. It was not a constantly developing story that justified staying on air because of shocking, tragic and horrific circumstances. There were no paparazzi, speeding drunk drivers or shady hotel owners involved in this death. 

The channels badly misjudged the public mood, and, quite rightly, their ratings fell off the cliff as viewers switched off altogether. 

The interminable wall-to-wall coverage has become the most complained-about moment in British television history, with over 110,000 people contacting Aunty turned Matron to express their displeasure at the decision to turn most of the corporation’s TV channels and radio stations over to rolling tributes to the Queen’s husband.

I heard someone comment that it was a mark of respect to the royal family to deviate so much programming to Philip. Well, hello, what about showing some respect to the poor sods faced to pay the hated TV licence? Do the Windsors pay into that pot? Somehow I very much doubt it. 

Naturally, I took to social media to voice my displeasure, and was met with a mixed response. “I’ve been sobbing all day,” said a grown woman, about the death of a 99-year old man she never knew.

We are no longer Facebook “friends”. In fact, I was culled by a handful of snowflake nationalist types, one of whom, a ‘lady’ of basic interests whose only claim to fame is that Dannii Minogue once came on to her in a club (obviously a very, very dark club), attempted to tell me in a fit of comedy pique that “France is a shithole,” to get even. You really couldn’t make it up. 

Hypocritical grief is the worst kind.

The truth is that his death gives diversion from people’s lives, particularly in these times of punishing lockdowns and isolation. They are not necessarily ‘sad’. But suddenly something they are used to always being around isn’t there anymore. That’s not grief. It’s just a reminder that life goes on and we all get older and eventually die ourselves. 

Sobbing one’s heart out for something you have never actually met, owned or really know on a personal level is taking the compassion level to ridiculous length in a banal attempt at proving it’s affected you more than some other person you probably haven’t met either. That actually shows a very empty life.

I can think of no soundbite that sums up this ridiculous fakery more than Edina Monsoon’s rant in the Death ep of Absolutely Fabulous.

“What’s the point of grieving if there’s no one to see you do it.”

Welcome to social media. Hey, it’s great to grieve!

I moved to The Netherlands in 2002 just as Queen Beatrix’s husband Claus ended his days. After Philip died, I asked a couple of Dutch friends what they remembered of the coverage marking Claus’s passing. It was uniformly along the lines of “A couple of documentaries and a bit on the news, and that was about it. I don’t remember much else but then in Holland we are not so interested in our royals.”

That pretty much says it all.

Why are so many people interested in the Windsors?

Bunch of hangers on with an ancestor.

Yes, it was sad to see Her Maj forced to sit on her own in a face mask as her husband was lowered into the ground. But then again, in these plague-ridden times many less fortunate people weren’t even allowed to attend the funerals of their loved ones. Go figure. 

OK, here’s where I lay my cards on that dining room table, because despite my brief schoolboy interest it’s fair to say that with my inbuilt suspicion of authority and establishment I’m not a royalist by any stretch of the imagination. The institution of monarchy is an anachronism that really should have been guillotined a long time ago. 

Having said that, as I’ve grown into middle age I’ve found it difficult not to have a grudging respect for Phil and Betty. I harbour no ill will towards HM as a human being in the slightest. I’ve always suspected behind the stony faced mask is a thoroughly warm and decent member of our race being bound by the strictures of her position. Strictures that a part and parcel of the role she agreed to undertake for life, with absolutely no thought of abdication. Thankfully these constraints rarely applied to her rather more opinionated husband.

Mind you, their children are hideous — a prat, a pervert, and a horse and closet.

But how much can we lay the blame at the parents? And alright, perhaps Anne, despite her criminal dress sense, is usually the most hardest working (and until ill health forced him to slow down, Philip wasn’t far behind her), and she’s a great lover of nature in spite of what it did to her.

If you decide to be a working royal then that’s what you do. You work. The public service and intense scrutiny is the trade off for a life of unparalleled wealth and privilege, as part of a family with endless palaces and castles in virtually every corner of a tiny island. If you decide that’s not for you then you get out, and either live a private life or trade on your royal celebrity and become ubiquitous telly stars with a bipolar attitude to attention. Can’t live with it, can’t live without it.

When Harry and Meghan told Oprah Winfrey that a member of “The Firm” queried what possible skin colour their future child might sport, social media was awash comments, the main one being “It was Philip!” 

Such was the speculation that the couple were forced to issue a disclaimer through Winfrey, stating that it was neither The Queen nor Phil. I haven’t the foggiest who it was, though I still haven’t ruled Philip out, despite what the California cretins claim or disclaim. So much of their excruciatingly self-pitying interview has now been proven to be gross manipulations of the truth that anything is possible. 

However, if it was Phil the foreigner then one imagines it was said as a crass but light-hearted, jovial way rather than with racist intent. He wasn’t a hateful man, just one from another time, and heroically out of touch with modern sensibilities that if he said the alleged comment it wouldn’t have even occurred to him that someone might take offence.

The two things that Philip was known for was his humorous quips, however colonial they came across, and speaking his mind with a refreshing straight-talking candour almost unheard of in the aloof buttoned-up monarchy. Even his own son, the husband of croc-faced Cowmilla complained about his dad’s “forceful personality.”

Despite his golden lineage, before he met HM he was a prince without a home or a kingdom. Even so, one of his Greek cousins, Alexandra, the last queen of Yugoslavia, described the teenage Phil as “very amusing, gay, full of life and energy and a tease.”

The ‘T’ word, I think was key to his humour. 

He shocked and sometimes delighted the public with his outspoken remarks and clangers, often regarded as a ‘national treasure’ for his inability to curb his off-the-cuff remarks.

Alright, we’re into ‘gift of the gaffe’ territory now.

You don’t need me to point out that Philip could be abrasive, outspoken and largely insensitive to any hurt or discomfort his much reported remarks may have caused. He wasn’t above issuing gratuitous insults, safe in the knowledge that he would not get an answer back, either because of the victim’s fear or defence to that thing called royalty. 

These verbal volleys were usually interpreted or misrepresented by the press as ‘gaffes’ or even racist remarks. They weren’t. He knew exactly what he was doing, and often said things for effect, to cause a stir or to lighten the mood. 

Many of his ‘jokes’ were at the expense of the person he was sparring with, or if not, then poking fun at stereotypes, particularly “the natives” in the country he found himself having to visit in the line of duty. Then again, he was born in 1921, and grew up in an era where it was commonplace to make jokes about people’s colour, sex or gender. The world has changed but he hadn’t. 

Also, as an equally proud man, if I had to walk three paces behind the Queen on some of these mind-numbingly boring tours I think I’d want to liven things up a bit. I know I would. And knowing full well from the other side how the media can twist a quote to make a story, I’d probably hate the press as much as he did. 

He claimed he was misunderstood. In fact, the duke was “misunderstood” almost everywhere he went.

“I have frequently been misrepresented,” he once told my former employers The Independent. “I don’t hate the press; I find a lot of it is very unpalatable. But if that’s the way they want to behave, well…” 

Take the infamous visit to Far North Queensland in 2002. His spear-chucking quip (featured in the list below) sent heads shaking and jaws dropping not just across Australia but the entire Commonwealth, if not the world.

Before the Duke died, Warren Clements, one of the indigenous individuals the so-called “racist remark” was directed at gave an interview to the ABC. (For the record, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is funded directly by the federal government — whenever I’ve mentioned the UK’s TV licence to an Aussie they generally laugh with a mixture of bewilderment and astonishment.)

“They were coming down the skyrail and we were putting on that special performance. They waved and we were showing off, throwing spears and boomerangs around. And I think he took that in and that’s why he said it. So he didn’t say it outright because of wrong reasons, he said it because of what he saw.

“He’s been taken out of context. When I shook his hand, there was so much energy that radiated from him … you don’t build fellas like that these days. He was tough as nails. His hand was rock solid and from that moment I had a deep respect for him.”

99 change hands? More like 99 open your mouth to change feet.

To commemorate his incredibly long life, here’s almost a hundred quips courtesy of the Duke of Edinburgh. Whether you’re laughing with him or at him, I defy you not to cry with laughter at many of these. It sure as hell is a lot better than crying over the death of an old man you never knew.

1. “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 a Radio 4 interview in 1996, amid calls to ban firearms after the Dunblane shooting). He said to the interviewer off-air afterwards: “That will really set the cat among the pigeons, won’t it?”

2. “British women can’t cook” (winning the hearts of the Scottish Women’s Institute in 1966).

3. “What do you gargle with? Pebbles?” (speaking to Tom Jones after the 1969 Royal Variety Performance. He later clarified that by saying “It’s difficult to see how it’s possible to become immensely valuable by singing what are the most hideous songs”). 

4. “So who’s on drugs here?… HE looks as if he’s on drugs.” (to a 14-year-old member of a Bangladeshi youth club in 2002).

5. “If you stay here much longer, you’ll all be slitty-eyed.” (Perhaps his most notorious comment – to British students in China, during a 1986 state visit).

6. “Ghastly.” Phillip’s opinion of Beijing, during that same 1986 tour of China.

7. “Ghastly.” Philip’s opinion of Stoke-on-Trent, as offered to the city’s Labour MP Joan Walley at Buckingham Palace in 1997.

8. “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 World Wildlife Fund meeting in 1986). 

9. “And what exotic part of the world do you come from?” (asked in 1999 of Tory politician Lord Taylor of Warwick, whose parents are Jamaican. He replied: “Birmingham”).

10. “You managed not to get eaten, then?” (suggesting to a British student who had been trekking in Papua New Guinea that tribes there were still cannibals, during an official visit in 1998).

11. “You can’t have been here that long — you haven’t got a pot belly.” (to a Briton in Budapest, Hungary, in 1993).

12. “It looks as if it was put in by an Indian.” (pointing at an old-fashioned fusebox in a factory near Edinburgh in 1999). He later clarified his comment: “I meant to say cowboys. I just got my cowboys and Indians mixed up.”

13. “Aren’t most of you descended from pirates?” (in the Cayman Islands, 1994). “You have mosquitoes. I have the Press.” To the matron of a hospital in the Caribbean in 1966.

14. “The man who invented the red carpet needed his head examined.” (while hosts made effort to greet a state visit to Brazil, 1968).

15. “During the Blitz a lot of shops had their windows blown in and sometimes they put up notices saying, ‘More open than usual.’ I now declare this place more open than usual.” (unveiling a plaque at the University of Hertfordshire’s new Hatfield campus in November 2003).

16. Philip: “Who are you?”

Simon Kelner: “I’m the editor-in-chief of The Independent, Sir.”

Philip: “What are you doing here?”

Kelner: “You invited me.”

Philip: “Well, you didn’t have to come!”

(an exchange at a press reception to mark the Golden Jubilee in 2002).

17. “No, I would probably end up spitting it out over everybody.(Philip declines the offer of some fish from Rick Stein’s seafood deli in 2000).

18. “Any bloody fool can lay a wreath at the thingamy.” (discussing his role in an interview with Jeremy Paxman).

19. “Holidays are curious things, aren’t they? You send children to school to get them out of your hair. Then they come back and make life difficult for parents. That is why holidays are set so they are just about the limit of your endurance.” (at the opening of a school in 2000).

20. “People think there’s a rigid class system here, but dukes have even been known to marry chorus girls. Some have even married Americans.” (in 2000, clearly getting in a dig at Edward and Mrs Simpson).

21. “Can you tell the difference between them?” (on being told by President Obama that he’d had breakfast with the leaders of the UK, China and Russia).

22. “I don’t know how they are going to integrate in places like Glasgow and Sheffield.” (after meeting students from Brunei coming to Britain to study in 1998).

23. “Do people trip over you?” (meeting a wheelchair-bound nursing-home resident in 2002).


25. “It’s not a very big one, but at least it’s dead and it took an awful lot of killing!“ (speaking about a crocodile he shot in Gambia in 1957).

26. “Damn fool question!” (to BBC journalist Caroline Wyatt at a banquet at the Elysée Palace after she asked Queen Elizabeth if she was enjoying her stay in Paris in 2006).

27. “I declare this thing open, whatever it is.” (on a visit to Canada in 1969).

28. “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).

29. “You’re too fat to be an astronaut. You could do with losing a little bit of weight” (to 13-year-old Andrew Adams who told Philip he wanted to go into space, Salford, 2001).

30. “I wish he’d turn the microphone off!” (groovy granddad expresses his opinion of Elton John’s performance at the 2001 Royal Variety Show, in response to The Queen’s rather more diplomatic “I wish he’d turn the microphone to one side.”

31. “It doesn’t look like much work goes on at this University.” (overheard at Bristol University’s engineering facility. It had been closed so that he and the Queen could officially open it in 2005).

32. “They must be out of their minds.” (to Solomon Islanders in 1982, after he was told their annual population growth was 5 per cent a year).

33. “You ARE a woman… aren’t you?” (in Kenya, in 1984, after accepting a small gift from a local woman).

34. “You look like a suicide bomber.” (to a young female officer wearing a bullet-proof vest on Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, in 2002).

35. “It looks like a tart’s bedroom.” (on seeing plans for the Duke and Duchess of York’s house at Sunninghill Park in 1988). 

36. “Get me a beer. I don’t care what kind it is, just get me a beer!” (on being offered the finest Italian wines by PM Giuliano Amato at a dinner in Rome in 2000).

37. “I would like to go to Russia very much – although the bastards murdered half my family.” (when asked if he would like to visit the then Soviet Union, 1967).

38. “Oh, it’s you that owns that ghastly car is it? We often see it when driving to Windsor Castle.” (to neighbour Elton John after hearing he had sold his Watford FC-themed Aston Martin in 2001).

39. “The problem with London is the tourists. They cause the congestion. If we could just stop the tourism, we could stop the congestion.” (at the opening of City Hall in 2002).

40. “A pissometer?” (the Prince sees the renamed the piezometer water gauge demonstrated by Australian farmer Steve Filelti in 2000).

41. “Don’t feed your rabbits pawpaw fruit – it acts as a contraceptive. Then again, it might not work on rabbits.” (giving advice to a Caribbean rabbit breeder in Anguilla in 1994).

42. “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).

43. “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).

44. “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).

45. “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). 

46. “Young people are the same as they always were. They are just as ignorant.” (at the 50th anniversary of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards scheme).

47. “Oh no, I might catch some ghastly disease.” (in Australia, in 1992, when asked to stroke a Koala bear).

48. “There’s a lot of your family in tonight.” (after glancing at the name badge of businessman Atul Patel at a Buckingham Palace reception for 400 influential British Indians in October 2009).

49. “You bloody silly fool!” (to an elderly car park attendant who made the mistake of not recognising him at Cambridge University in 1997).

50. “Oh! You are the people ruining the rivers and the environment.” (to three young employees of a Scottish fish farm at Holyrood Palace in 1999).

51. “If you travel as much as we do you appreciate the improvements in aircraft design of less noise and more comfort – provided you don’t travel in something called economy class, which sounds ghastly.” (to the Aircraft Research Association in 2002).

52. “The French don’t know how to cook breakfast.” (after a breakfast of bacon, eggs, smoked salmon, kedgeree, croissants and pain au chocolat – from Gallic chef Regis Crépy in 2002).

53. “If it doesn’t fart or eat hay, she’s not interested.” (on his daughter Princess Anne, 1970).

54. 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.

55. “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). “Aren’t most of you descended from pirates?” (to a wealthy islander in the Cayman Islands in 1994).

56. “The Philippines must be half empty as you’re all here running the NHS.” (on meeting a Filipino nurse at a Luton hospital, 2013).

57. “Where’s the Southern Comfort?“ (on being presented with a hamper of southern goods by the American ambassador in London in 1999).

58. “Were you here in the bad old days? … That’s why you can’t read and write then!“ (to parents during a visit to a secondary school that had suffered poor academic reputation: Fir Vale Comprehensive in Sheffield, 1998).

59. “Ah, you’re the one who wrote the letter. So you can write then? Ha, ha! Well done.” (meeting 14-year old George Barlow, who’d invited to the Queen to visit Romford, Essex, 2003).

60. “Do you know they’re now producing eating dogs for anorexics?” (to wheelchair-bound blind Susan Edwards, and her guide dog Natalie outside Exeter Cathedral, 2002).

61. “Well, you didn’t design your beard too well, did you?” (to designer Stephen Judge about his tiny goatee beard in July 2009).

62. “Just take the fucking picture!” (losing his patience with an RAF photographer at events to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, 2015. He probably needed the loo).

63. “Do you work in 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).

64. “That’s a nice tie… Do you have any knickers in that material? (discussing the tartan designed for the Papal visit with then-Scottish Tory leader Annabel Goldie in Edinburgh, 2010).

65. “It was part of the fortunes of war. 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.” (on the issue of stress counselling for servicemen in a TV documentary marking the 50th Anniversary of V-J Day in 1995).

66. “It’s a vast waste of space.” Philip entertained guests in 2000 at the reception of a new £18m British Embassy in Berlin, which the Queen had just opened.

67. “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).

68. “(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). 

69. “Gentlemen, I think it is time we pulled our fingers out.” (to the Industrial Co-Partnership Association on Britain’s inefficient industries in 1961).

70. “You look starved.” (to a pensioner on a visit to the Charterhouse almshouse for elderly men – February 2017).

72. “I’m just a bloody amoeba.” (on the Queen’s decision that their children should be called Windsor, not Mountbatten).

73. “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).

74. “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).

75. “I hope he breaks his bloody neck.” (when a photographer covering a royal visit to India fell out of a tree).

76. “When a man opens a car door for his wife, it’s either a new car or a new wife.” (on marriage).

77. “It’s a pleasant change to be in a country that isn’t ruled by its people.” (to Alfredo Stroessner, the Paraguayan dictator).

78. “Where did you get that hat?” (supposedly to the Queen at her Coronation). 

79. “People usually say that after a fire it is water damage that is the worst. We are still drying out Windsor Castle.” (to survivors of the Lockerbie Pan-Am disaster in 1993).

80. “We don’t come here for our health. We can think of other ways of enjoying ourselves.” (during a trip to Canada in 1976).

81. A few years ago, everybody was saying we must have more leisure, everyone’s working too much. Now that everybody’s got more leisure time they are complaining they are unemployed. People don’t seem to make up their minds what they want.” (a man of the people shares insight into the recession that gripped Britain in 1981). 

82. “Do you get bonus points if you knock her off?” – after spotting a toddler sat on an inflatable ball during at activity class at a care home in 2013). 

83. “Well, I can’t stand up much longer” (to mathematician Sir Michael Atiyah, who told him was sorry to hear he was standing down from public duties, in 2017).

84. “You all should be locked up” (to Royal Marines who had completed a 1,664-mile trek in 2017 on his final official royal engagement as he began his retirement).

85. “Is that a terrorist?” (pointing at a man with a long beard in the crowd at Sandringham on New Year’s Eve 2017). 

86. “Are you all one family?” (to multi-ethnic Britain’s Got Talent 2009 winners Diversity).

87. “You’re not wearing mink knickers, are you?” (to a fashion writer in 1993). 

88. “I don’t think a prostitute is more moral than a wife, but they are doing the same thing.” (1988).

89. “They’re a damn nuisance – I’ve got one in my bathroom and every time I run my bath the steam sets it off.” (on smoke alarms to a woman who lost two sons in a fire, 1998)

90. “Bits are beginning to drop off.” (on approaching his 90th birthday, 2011). 

91. “Are we going to need ear plugs?” (after being told that Madonna was singing the James Bond theme for Die Another Day in 2002). 

92. “You look like you’re ready for bed!” (to the President of Nigeria, who was in national dress, 2003). 

93. “We go into the red next year… I shall have to give up polo.” (1969).

94. “Bugger the table plan, give me my dinner!” (at a party in 2004). 

95. “I thought it was against the law for a woman to solicit.” (to a woman solicitor, 1987). 

96. “It looks like the kind of thing my daughter would bring back from school art lessons.” (on Ethiopian art, 1965). 

97. “What about Tom Jones? He’s made a million and he’s a bloody awful singer.” (on how difficult it is in Britain to get rich).

98. “I have never been noticeably reticent about talking on subjects about which I know nothing.” (addressing a group of industrialists in 1961). 

99. “In the event that I am reincarnated, I would like to return as a deadly virus, to contribute something to solving overpopulation.”

Compiled by Steve Pafford

Vive la République!


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