Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, husband to the Queen yet somehow not the King, is conducting his final individual "engagement" today. In Royal speak, an engagement is when one of the family goes to, I don't know, the christening of a new warship, or meeting loads of children who've painted a million eggs for charity or some bullshit like that. Since 1956, Philip has attended 22,219 engagements, which is a lot of people to glance at, generate a meaningless amount of small talk with, and then forget forever. He should be commended for enduring this pointless, monumental display of arse ache.
Today, Philip will be meeting a load of servicemen who've gone on a big old walk in the name of charity, as part of a gruelling set of challenges. Philip is the Captain General of the Royal Marines, a position I'm sure he worked very hard to earn, so the squaddies will no doubt be enraptured to be greeted by this hoarse, 96-year-old millionaire after putting their bodies through great strain. A hero for our times.
It seems like it's a good time to reflect on this Danish/ Greek monarch's life as he undoubtedly approaches the runway of death, cabin crew ready for take off to heaven. Let's have a little look at what has made this strange man such an important cultural figure in the UK.
Prince Philip, like all other royals for some reason, doesn't really have a surname. His name is "Prince Philip", which means maybe his forename is Prince and his surname is Philip. He technically adopted the name Mountbatten after he abandoned his Greek-Danish vibe and went for a more British one, so I guess you could say his name is Philip Mountbatten. Philip Mountbatten is a member of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, a collection of names that is no doubt tattooed on the inner thigh of every member of the Tatler editorial staff. He was born in Corfu but his family pretty much abandoned it after his dad fucked it off when he flopped the Greco-Turkish war of the early 20th century. They then decided they were Danish.
When Philip was 18 he joined the Royal Navy, and began a correspondence with the future Queen Elizabeth who was 13 at the time. It's the classic love story repeated the world over: exiled royal sews the seeds of courtship with pubescent third cousin, to then spend the next 70 years going on taxpayer-funded holidays and spewing out bald children, who then, in turn, have their own bald children.
It's actually the things that Prince has said during his endless vacations that have garnered the most amount of attention. At least with the Queen there is some kind of allusion to her being hard working (which to the average person seems to just mean "getting on a plane").
Monsieur Prince has a long and chequered history of blurting out some very questionable things. In 1986 he told a group of British students studying in China that if they stayed there for much longer they would acquire "slitty eyes". He implied a Scottish driving instructor was an alcoholic, asked a Kenyan woman giving him a gift if she was actually a woman, claimed that British women can't cook, told a 13-year-old boy he was too fat to be an astronaut and asked Australian Aborigines if they still throw spears. The list goes on.
Depending on who you ask, the cross section of Mountbatten's "gaffes" and who they're aimed at paint an either funny or disturbing one. Funny in a sense that there is a strange 70s BBC sitcom character at the head of the most famous and celebrated monarchy currently in existence on planet earth, and disturbing that even with the best education money can buy in France, Germany and Britain, sailing the seven seas, living through wars, visiting more places than most would dare to dream, you can still be as ignorant as it's possible for a human to be.
There are quite hackneyed and common observations of Prince Philip that paint him as some kind of stalwart of anti-PC-culture; of saying it how it is, an emblem of a sort of Britishness. While he does represent many of the peccadillos we're party to in the UK – an old man whose Tourette-like jabbering of every racial, ethnic and gender trope going being indicative of sea changes in the cultural subconscious – he is also a strange example of someone with the world at their feet who seemingly refuses it with a breath-taking gracelessness. Everything seems bothersome, tiresome. While the Queen gives speeches using phrases in Latin, Philip talks about fuse boxes looking like they were put in by "an Indian", as if he were a hairy arsed plumber with a chip on his shoulder about a new mosque being built nearby.
Philip has somehow managed to maintain having a "common touch" in attitude and speech yet a staunch refusal to learn even the slightest bit of information about the "commoner". He treads a bizarre line between being an unbelievably ignorant toff and still seeming like he's the best option to have a human conversation with. He doesn't have the media trained grin of his grandchildren, the indifferent, austere pout of his wife – it's just straight up stream of consciousness.
And with the last engagement passing into history, it's important to remember that, yes, Prince Philip is your father: a racist old man who doesn't want talk to anyone for the rest of his life. Godspeed you weird, mad cunt.
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