Monday, 10 June 2013

Happy big ones Phil!

HRH Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh turned 92 yesterday.

Phil the Greek gets a bit of a bum deal from many in society as being an unelected sponger along with the rest of the royal family as well as being out of touch, sexist and a bigot. This post does not seek to defend the monarchy, instead I want to write about my affection for a chap who has brought the word 'gaffe' into the mainstream media, a man who, despite having a fairly dominant character himself, resigned his career and pledged himself to the life of dutiful service as consort to HM the Queen and a defender of gentlemens' tailoring, pale ale, polo, the British sense of humour and the stiff upper lip. In response to the claims of sexism and bigotry, I would argue that he is a child of his time and it just so happens he lives in the spotlight of a very public profile. Times have changed, and at 92 he can be excused for a few old fashioned attitudes because in his decrepitude he can do very little harm.

"You sure that's the one you want lad? You should see
the arse on her sister."
"Ah, so what the hell happened to you?"
"I married the Queen."
"So I'm minding my own business, having a decent
look at some tribeswoman's pendulous bosoms and
HM the Boss catches me with a left hook to the eye.
What's a chap to do?"
"Got any malt in your handbag dear? It might just
get us through this bloody children's choir."
Prior to marriage, Phillip was a career naval officer, serving with distinction in the Mediterranean and in the Pacific. He was mentioned in despatches for his role in the Battle of Crete, was present at the Japanese surrender and ended his career with the rank of Commander. It happened that he was also related to all of the royal families of Europe, he was the second cousin of the then Princess Elizabeth, and interestingly, during the war his two brothers in law served on the German side and consequently half his family were diplomatically unable to attend his wedding. We can only speculate as to how much this mattered to Phil, if at all. However, he glued his hands together behind his back and embarked upon a career of making small-talk with his new wife who was in due course crowned Queen. 

It must have been crushing to a man of his war experience having to dedicate his life to tea party diplomacy. This was a man of war who now spends almost every day of the rest of his life having to talk to every Tom, Dickwit and Harry who comes into contact with the Queen no matter how uninteresting (the Beatles, George W Bush), loathesome (Mugabe, Jeffrey Archer) or ridiculous (see image at right). Having to swallow his pride by playing second fiddle to the Queen and having to control the urges not to mock, abuse or lampoon people, or even control his urges not to give some of them a bloody good kick in the private parts would test even the saintliest of people. Is it any wonder he would occasionally let one slip? A quick read through his finer works suggests a man who performs his duties out of love for his wife but very much under sufferance. Who can blame him when: he'd rather be back in 
the second world war machine gunning Eye-ties and Jerry and then going back to the wardroom to get pissed on pink gins when things got quiet; when he's constantly followed by photographers and a quick visit to the doctor to get his bladder examined makes the papers; when he has to watch his son's second wife get vilified by the press for looking like a horse when in reality he just wants his son to be happy; when he has to sit through every public gala, concert, performance and pageant when he'd rather be sitting down to watch a bit of sport on the TV with a beer. Prince Phillip has earned every right to be a grumpy old man. 

Like many grumpy old men, he has a heart and a desire to do the right thing. While the public railed at the royal family's seclusion after the death of Princess Diana, Phillip was protecting his grandsons from the public glare so they could grieve for their mother in peace. William was unsure whether to walk behind Diana's casket in the funeral cortege but Phillip counselled him otherwise, telling him  "If you don't walk, I think you'll regret it later. If I walk, will you walk with me?" The world saw them walking together.
Phillip was also a keen painter in watercolours and oils and collected cartoons showing that while he is a self-confessed cantankerous old sod, he has a more tender side (mind you, Adolf Hitler was a keen painter as well but I make no assertions as to his tender side). Phillip also doesn't like pretence, preferring a pint of Bass Ale to Bordeaux but that did not stop him from meeting villagers from the Vanuatu island of Tana who famously worship him as a god and had travelled to England to meet him. Prince Phillip is conscious of his duties but still very much his own man and 
that makes him aces in my book
So I raise a glass of Scotland's best and say many happy returns Phil the Greek, you mad old bastard.

I'm the birthday boy! Get me some whisky and bring on the strippers! Ha Ha!

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