A Royal Re­tire­ment Ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the Duke of Ed­in­burgh

An ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the Duke of Ed­in­burgh

ZOOMER Magazine - - CONTENTS - By Kim Izzo

THE AN­NOUNCE­MENT CAME qui­etly from the Palace on May 4 in the form of a press re­lease sent out to me­dia out­lets and posted on the of­fi­cial web­site of Her Majesty the Queen. “His Royal High­ness the Duke of Ed­in­burgh has de­cided that he will no longer carry out pub­lic en­gage­ments from the au­tumn of this year. In tak­ing this de­ci­sion, the Duke has the full sup­port of the Queen.”

Was Prince Philip ill? He was about to turn 96 in June and he had been in and out of hos­pi­tals over the past few years but al­most al­ways for what was de­scribed as mi­nor in­fec­tions. The an­swer was a re­sound­ing no. The Duke had merely de­cided that he wanted to re­tire grace­fully be­fore his sell-by date had passed. As the an­nounce­ment ex­plained, it would be a grad­ual roll-out or in this case roll-in: “Prince Philip will at­tend pre­vi­ously sched­uled en­gage­ments be­tween now and Au­gust, both in­di­vid­u­ally and ac­com­pa­ny­ing the Queen. There­after, the Duke will not be ac­cept­ing new in­vi­ta­tions for vis­its and en­gage­ments, al­though he may still choose to at­tend cer- tain pub­lic events from time to time.”

After the news broke there was Prince Philip, du­ti­fully at­tend­ing a lun­cheon at St. James Palace when one of the guests ap­par­ently told him, “I’m sorry to hear you’re stand­ing down,” Philip was quick to quip, “Well, I can’t stand up much longer.” That wry wit is a trade­mark of his. And few peo­ple in mod­ern times have be­guiled and be­wil­dered quite as much as the Duke has over the course of his seven decades in the pub­lic eye. The self-pro­fessed “world’s most experienced plaque un­veiler” has turned up at 22,191 solo en­gage­ments, given 5,493 speeches and is pa­tron, pres­i­dent or a mem­ber of more than 780 or­ga­ni­za­tions. He was the first mem­ber of the Royal Family to give a TV in­ter­view and in 1957 pre­sented his own tele­vi­sion show, Round the World in Forty Min­utes, about his four-and-a-half-month world tour.

Given the fev­ered pace, one or two or per­haps one- or two-dozen foot-in-mouth si­t­u­a­tions are bound to arise and even alarm. To wit, from two dif­fer­ent of­fi­cial vis­its to Canada, the first in 1969: “I de­clare this thing open,

what­ever it is.” And then in 1976, “We don’t come here for our health – we can think of other ways of en­joy­ing our­selves.” Come on, arm­chair crit­ics, he does open a lot of things, and many of us feel the same about our day jobs.

It should be noted that this rak­ish qual­ity has been passed down to his grand­son Prince Harry, who has shown his share of ques­tion­able judg­ment in the past be­fore step­ping into his cur­rent role of the ac­tivist prince.

The Duke of Ed­in­burgh is the longest serv­ing consort to a liv­ing monarch. And while it may be said that the prince has lived like a king, he has done so with­out the ti­tle or the bur­den of the crown, thus giv­ing him free­dom to speak his mind, to in­no­vate and mod­ern­ize the monar­chy. For ex­am­ple, Philip wanted to make the Royal Family more ac­ces­si­ble and sup­ported tele­vis­ing the Corona­tion as well as be­ing filmed bar­be­cu­ing with his chil­dren for the 1969 doc­u­men­tary Royal Family. Yet de­spite th­ese at­tempts at open­ness, Philip is also known to snap at the press, which has dogged him ever since his en­gage­ment to Princess El­iz­a­beth on July 9, 1947. The whole world was cap­ti­vated by the young cou­ple. For the princess, it was love at first sight; Philip was tall, hand­some and dash­ing – and we know all about lov­ing a man in a uni­form. Who could blame Fleet Street and others for want­ing a piece of the royal ro­mance? It’s a fas­ci­na­tion that has en­dured.

Take the Net­flix hit se­ries The Crown, which has pulled back the cur­tain on their mar­riage and hu­man­ized them. Matt Smith, who plays Philip, said recently, “He’s got this great con­flict at the heart of him. He loves his wife so much. But he hates be­ing emas­cu­lated by her constantly. And he hates not be­ing the head of the family ... He says, you’ve taken my home, you’ve taken my name. What else are you go­ing to take from me?”

We’ll never know if The Crown got it right, but what we do know is that over the years Philip ap­peared at times to de­spise his lot, but then again his wife’s as­cen­sion to the throne came much sooner than ei­ther ex­pected and de­stroyed any chance at a nor­mal life. And for a man in the 1950s, es­pe­cially a naval of­fi­cer who served with dis­tinc­tion in the Sec­ond World War, tak­ing a back­seat to your wife was un­heard of. On June 2, 1953, the day of the Queen’s Corona­tion, he knelt be­fore her and said, “I, Philip, Duke of Ed­in­burgh, do be­come your liege man of life and limb and of earthly wor­ship; and faith and truth I will bear unto you to live and die against all man­ner of folks so help me God.”

He wasn’t his wife’s equal. He was now her sub­ject. Philip gave up his blos­som­ing naval ca­reer when there was ev­ery pos­si­bil­ity of his be­com­ing First Sea Lord, which is the head of the Royal Navy. Nor could he be­stow his name onto his chil­dren. It was not some­thing he took lightly, say­ing at the time, “I am noth­ing but a bloody amoeba. I am the only man in the coun­try not al­lowed to give his name to his own chil­dren.” Which is Mount­bat­ten – a sur­name he took from his mother’s side of the family after giv­ing up his Greek and Dan­ish royal ti­tles. In­stead, the family sur­name is Wind­sor. But in 1960 Her Majesty took ac­tion and is­sued an Or­der in Coun­cil stat­ing that Mount­bat­ten-Wind­sor would be the sur­name of her non-royal male de­scen­dants. Philip’s un­wa­ver­ing sense of duty has kept him at the Queen’s side through nearly 70 years of mar­riage. He’s al­ways been there in the back­ground, and that has been his rai­son d’être – to know his place, which has been two paces be­hind Her Majesty. On the oc­ca­sion of his 90th birth­day, he gave a rare in­ter­view to the BBC. The reporter talked about how Prince Philip was a child of divorce at the age of 10, with his father mov­ing to Monte Carlo, his mother gone to live in a sana­to­rium, his four sis­ters mar­ried and moved to Ger­many, and him, pen­ni­less, sent to his grand­mother in Eng­land. The press have long tried to use this lonely up­bring­ing as a way to ex­plain his iras­ci­ble char­ac­ter. When asked about his peri­patetic child­hood, he seemed aghast. “I just lived my life. I haven’t been try­ing to psy­cho­an­a­lyze my­self the whole time.”

Many in the United King­dom consider Prince Philip’s great­est achieve­ment to be The Duke of Ed­in­burgh’s Awards, which he set up in 1956 and are now the world’s lead­ing youth achieve­ment awards and pre­sented across 141 coun­tries. When told that the pub­lic per­cep­tion is he’s made a huge suc­cess of his role as the Duke of Ed­in­burgh, he is abrupt. “Who cares what I think about it.”

Ac­tu­ally, Prince Philip, we can think of at least one per­son who cares a great deal what you think.

“All too of­ten, I fear that Prince Philip has had to lis­ten to me speak­ing, fre­quently we have dis­cussed my in­tended speech be­fore­hand and, as you can imag­ine, his views have been ex­pressed in a forth­right man­ner,” said Her Majesty the Queen dur­ing a speech in 1997. “He is some­one who doesn’t take eas­ily to com­pli­ments, but he has quite sim­ply been my strength and stay all th­ese years.”

Happy re­tire­ment, Prince Philip. You’ve earned it.

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