How Prince Philip used his wit and wisdom to charm – and outrage – the world

As the Queen’s consort for more than 70 years, the Duke of Edinburgh had his serious side. Obviously.

But decade after decade in a role that others might have found tiring and tiresome, he cracked jokes and never fought shy of speaking his mind.

Some of the comments may have bordered on the offensive (and many others probably just were offensive) but the world will, in truth, be a sadder  and poorer place for the gaffes and gags Prince Philip will no longer be around to tell.

His was a world of outspoken comments delivered in the line of duty. And although he insisted he was “misunderstood”, the fact is the nation understood him all too well as a (slightly) curmudgeonly man who could not resist a really good, laugh-out-loud one-liner.

No subject was off limits. 

On Family

When Princess Anne survived a kidnapping attempt in 1974, the Duke spoke of his relief. For the gunman.

“If the man had succeeded in abducting Anne, she would have given him a hell of a time while in captivity,” he remarked. His family were never off limits. “If it doesn’t fart or eat hay, she’s not interested,” he also said of his only daughter.

The jokes started early. Apocryphal or not, it’s claimed he said to the Queen at her Coronation in 1953: “Where did you get that hat?”. It may not be true but it ought to be.

The Duke and Duchess of York’s house – Sunninghill Park – had provided the nation with some mirth. Ditto the Duke. “It looks like a tart’s bedroom” he said on seeing plans for the house in 1988.

If he was frustrated at being consort, he showed it rarely. However, in the wake of the Queen’s decision that their children should be called Windsor, not Mountbatten, he famously complained: “I’m just a bloody amoeba. I am the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his children”.

He was also steadfastly loyal. “Are you asking me if the Queen is going to die?” he remarked cuttingly in response to a question on when the Prince of Wales would succeed to the throne.

On Women

Prince Philip was not exactly at the vanguard of the feminist movement. “Yak, yak, yak; come on, get a move on,” he shouted from the deck of the Royal Yacht Britannia in Belize in 1994 to the Queen, who was chatting to her hosts on the quayside.

In 1966 he had caused uproar with the declaration: “British women can’t cook”. He followed that up in 1984 with “You are a woman, aren’t you?” to a local woman in Kenya who had presented him with a gift.

Another eye-opener was this nugget of wisdom: “When a man opens a car door for his wife, it’s either a new car or a new wife.” 

Sea cadet Elizabeth Rendle, 24, from Barnstaple, was a little taken aback in March 2010 when Prince Philip asked her “Do you work in a strip club?”, the question prompted by her own admission that she also had a part-time job in a nightclub.

Stripping might have been a theme. Two years later on a Jubilee visit to Bromley, south-east London, in 2012, Prince Philip told Hannah Jackson, 25, who was wearing a dress with a zip running the length of it:  “I would get arrested if I unzipped that dress.”

And then the next year, he told Audrey Cook, 83, a factory worker at Mars: “Most stripping is done by hand” when discussing how she used to cut – or strip – Mars Bars by hand.

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