Saturday 10 April 2021

R.I.P The Duke of Edinburgh (1921-2021)

A Romanian femme fatale once asked me if Englishmen ever felt emotion. I replied yes, when we thought about the Queen. I was very saddened by the death of the Duke of Edinburgh. Now I think about it, he was my favourite member of the royal family apart from H.M. The Queen.

For a moment, following plans laid down for the sad event back in the 1950s, the BBC shed its leftish modernity and became its old much-loved self. I loved the moment when a cacophony on Radio 1 is interrupted by funeral music.
"Sunt hic etiam sua praemia laudi; sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt." 
"Here, too, the praiseworthy has its rewards;
there are tears for things and mortal things touch the mind." Virgil, Aeneid, 1.461-2.

I care passionately about the monarchy, not very much about the royal family. Still, as Enoch Powell said, 

'The life of nations no less than that of men is lived largely in the imagination' 

and the royal family is a very deep part of the English, by which I mean British, collective unconscious. 

This was especially true of people like me who grew up with the royal family as it always had been, before Diana upended it. After she burst on the scene everything was different.

Almost everyone in England has dreamed of the Queen and a third of us have seen her. The Duke was much less crucial in our imagination, of course, but important - and over 20% of us have met or seen him.

Here is Prince Philip of Greece, as he then was, with King Michael of Romania and his cousin on the sands at Constanta on the Black Sea.

What a blessing a constitutional monarchy is. Were Great Britain a republic the consort of the head of state might easily be Mrs Douglas Hurd, Mrs Anthony Blair or Mr. Philip May.

The Duke took the Daily Telegraph and I heard before the Brexit referendum that he would have liked the UK to leave the European Union in an instant, unlike the Queen who accepted the advice of her Prime Ministers on the subject.

I only saw him once, when he accompanied the Queen to open Robinson College, Cambridge. The crowd included scores of men with coarse, Celtic faces in the most grotesquely bad suits I had ever seen. They, I realised, were the Irishmen who built the college.

Lord Charteris quoted to the Duke's biographer Gyles Brandeth a line from The Unquiet Grave by Cyril Connolly: 
‘The true index of a man’s character is the health of his wife.’
H.M. the Queen has been healthy all her life and seemingly happy most of the time. 

Mr Brandeth, a lovely man, wrote the Duke's biography and wrote a charming and well-informed article about him.

It's a great shame that for both the Queen and the Duke the last year was made unhappy by Megan, Duchess of Sussex and her husband, Prince Harry.

Harry West said,
“if you want to see how Britain has changed in half a century, put Prince Philip next to Prince Harry and compare and contrast.”
Ed West said Prince Philip was the kind of man you'd want to go to the pub with, which is true. He also said of him,
There was once a time when the Royal’s German blood was a punchline for comedians. Now it is the royals who are deeply British while the country itself is cosmopolitan and globalised. The census results next year will show a society that has seen greater demographic change than the preceding four or five thousand years combined, the second Elizabethan age being characterised more than anything by a transformational movement of people. Prince Philip, the Greek-born, Danish-German wanderer who came to become the Greatest Living Englishman, perhaps epitomised that era better than anyone else.

Another article I recommend is one by Charles Moore headlined

Prince Philip was a rootless outsider who became Britain’s most loyal servant

which ends poignantly.

"In April 1941, Princess Elizabeth, aged 14, asked a girlfriend, Alathea Fitzalan Howard, “Can you keep a secret?”: “Then she said,” Alathea recorded in her diary, “that P was her ‘boy’…she cuts photos out of the paper!” Eighty years on, she has lost her boy at last.


  1. At a private dinner party at the Broadlands estate in Hampshire not long after the Queen's accession, Mountbatten boasted that because the Queen had married a Mountbatten, the House of Windsor was, in fact, the House of Mountbatten.

    His remarks were reported back to Queen Mary (the Queen's grandmother and widow of George V), who was deeply disturbed.

    In her turn, she passed the information on to the then Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, who, with the full backing of the Cabinet, told the Queen that the ruling House was the House of Windsor.

    Philip, who had suggested that the House of Edinburgh — on the morning of his marriage to Elizabeth he had been created Duke of Edinburgh — would be more appropriate, was deeply upset at what he saw as yet another downgrading of his role.

    'I'm nothing but a bloody amoeba!' he exclaimed bitterly. 'I'm the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his children'.

    The matter was settled by the Queen's Proclamation (of April 9, 1952) that she and her children would be known as the House of Windsor. It was a popular move.

    I think it was most unreasonable and unprecedented.

    1. I strongly agree. Calling it the house of Edinburgh or at least Mountbatten Windsor would be appropriate. The modern practice of keeping the same name for a royal house when it is in fact long gone is wrong. The House of Orange ceased ruling in the Netherlands when Queen Wilhelmina abdicated. I hope Prince Charles corrects this error, but I have my doubts.

      - I've been a loyal reader for many years but don't recall if I've ever commented before.

    2. Thank you - your comment was absolutely spot on.

  2. Prince Philip was the only really likeable member of the Royal Family. He was very likeable indeed. And wonderfully politically incorrect.