There have been rivers of newsprint expended on the royal family in recent months so perhaps I shouldn't bother....but what the hell.
I didn't watch Prince Philip's funeral, or Prince Harry's interview with the second lady of the United States (isn't that what Oprah Winfrey is?) But I did see some of the news coverage. After all it was hard to avoid - and in the case of the funeral I wouldn't have wanted to avoid it. Britain does pageantry very well.
I am a reluctant monarchist. As a young man I would have described myself as a republican, though I may well have hesitated to wield my vote like a guillotine if there had been a referendum on abolition of the monarchy. Over time I have concluded that the figurehead monarchy we have is probably the least worst option. For years I have rationalised this by the awful prospect of having a superannuated politician as our president: President Blair for example. But now a greater fear would be, in the Boaty McBoatface era, that we would have some vacuous celebrity as president. Or even two of them, if it was Ant and Dec.
The cost of the royal family is minimal. The sovereign grant was £69.4 million in 2020, roughly £1 per person, which is neither here nor there. I know you can argue that there are forgone taxes and the militant Corbynites among you would presumably confiscate and redistribute the sovereign's wealth, but it wouldn't go far. Having a president instead would entail some cost and not having a royal family would presumably reduce tourism revenues. I can't see that abolishing the royal family would do any good for the country or its standing in the world. That standing was enhanced by the Prince Philip's dignified funeral. The covid restrictions served to make it seem more of a family event.
He was always referred to in our house - by me at least - as Phil the Greek, though as his family was parachuted into Greece he just happened to be born there and while his blood was Danish, German and Russian the one thing it wasn't was Greek. There was much debate about Philip's nationality in the run up to his marriage but some time later, in 1972, former lord chancellor Lord Dilhorne replied to an inquiry from Lord Mountbatten that it was "undeniable" that, under a 1705 act of parliament, all the descendants of the Electress Sophia Hanover, including Philip, through his link to Queen Victoria, were British subjects. So Philip was British all along and, being descended from royalty on both sides he was actually more royal than his bride.
I've occasionally been asked if I was named after the Duke of Edinburgh. The thing is I never asked my parents and I can't now. I always assumed that I wasn't explicitly named after the Queen's consort but the name would have been permanently in the news when my parents met (1947 - the year Philip married the then Princess Elizabeth), when they married and in the run up to my birth so it would be surprising if that didn't have some influence. We both had one L in Philip but that was the more common spelling until the 1960s when double L prevailed. The name has plunged in popularity over the last two decades. According to ohbabynames.com:
After nearly 2500 years on the list of popular male names, Phil(l)ip is finally retreating to the shadows. This ancient name appears to be outdated and perhaps a little dull amidst the Noah, Ethan and Aidens of the nation. (Eh? Noah? You can't get more antediluvian than that - literally!) Once a masculine royal staple, you’d have to be a contrarian parent these days to pick an old name like Phillip. Regardless of where he appears on the charts, Phillip is a timeless classic. And a great choice for parents who live on a horse ranch or have a little future cowboy on their hands.
Ah that old thing - Philip means lover of horses. True for Prince Philip, not me. But personality wise? The same dodgy American website says:
"... a leader - strong and competitive...willing to initiate action and take risks....work hard .... and have the ability to apply their creative and innovative thinking skills with strong determination. They believe in their ability to succeed and are too stubborn to be hindered by obstacles.... meet obstacles head-on with such mental vigor and energy that you better step aside. They resent taking orders, so don't try telling them what to do either. This is an intensely active personality, but they are also known as starters rather than finishers. They have a propensity to become bored and will move quickly to the next project if not properly challenged. They are the ones to think up and put into action new and brilliant ideas, but they are not the ones to stick around and manage them. This personality has an enthusiastic and pioneering spirit. They are distinctly original.
Well Mrs H would certainly agree with competitive, stubborn, a propensity to become bored (attention spell of a gnat she says) and, much of the time, a starter not a finisher. Though the trait noted earlier about determination means that once I decide to finish something I will pursue it beyond all rational sense. Brilliant ideas? Not really, but a series of psychometric and other tests for managers once showed that I come up with an average number of ideas but some of them were startling unusual. This was because I'd got rather fed up with the daft nature of the questions and wasn't taking it seriously! I don't know if the Duke of Edinburgh's award scheme was entirely his own idea but it has proved to be original and hugely successful - and it undoubtedly required stubbornness to see it implemented. I think I read that courtiers didn't see the point as boys (it was launched in 1956 and extended to girls two years later) could just join the scouts. But that was the whole point - you didn't need to join an organisation or wear a uniform: it was for outsiders, as Philip undoubtedly saw himself. So it drew in young people who may not have joined the traditional organisations. It has been a huge success and not just in Britain. How many initiatives started by an individual span 144 countries?
And I'm an old curmudgeon, just as the Duke was. I don't think it's at all speaking ill of the dead to refer to him as a curmudgeon who wouldn't suffer fools gladly. But his actual number of gaffes over such a long period was so small over the length of his dedicated service - he didn't get to retire until he was 96 - the newspapers struggled to come up with more than one per decade. Only the "slitty eyes" one sticks in the mind. But there you are: being facetious is obviously also a trait of folk called Philip.
Ending on that theme we come to the choice of a custom modified Land Rover as Philip's hearse. While this was very much his own idea, it followed on from Mountbatten's funeral in 1979. I wondered why, given Philip's carriage riding hobby, he wasn't being pulled by horses. There were at least two reasons. When he started planning the funeral (nearly 20 years ago! Somewhat pre covid) he would have expected to be taken from Buck House to Windsor and 20 miles might have been rather far. But more importantly the royal family have had an aversion to horse drawn hearses since the horses drawing Queen Victoria's funeral carriage bolted, leaving sailors to pull it, starting a new tradition. Whether Land Rovers become royal tradition remains to be seen but I expect I can't have been the only one inappropriately amused at the concept of a Land Rover custom designed and modified by Philip after he reconfigured one by overturning it in 2019.
At least this time it stayed on its wheels.
Good show, sir!
How Philip the Greek was British all along was in the Guardian on 9 April 2021.
What is the Duke of Edinburgh Award, when did Prince Philip found the scheme and how does it work? https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/4151764/duke-of-edinburgh-award-prince-philip-scheme/