How well did you like the actor Matt Smith who played the Duke of Edinburgh in The Crown?
All is forgiven when someone dies—or is it?
Not on social media, not even on Spotify, where hours after the announcement of Prince Philip’s death, a few playlists had come up like “prince phillips funeral (sic),” featuring songs like Kool & The Gang’s “Celebration,” Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day,” and Ariana Grande’s “Thank U, Next.”
Or particularly on Twitter, where the announcement was soon followed by comments like “Don’t let [his] death distract you from the important issues at hand.”
But what issues?
It must be The Crown, or Matt Smith’s equally accurate and inaccurate portrayal of Prince Philip, the man behind Queen Elizabeth II, whom she married on Nov. 20, 1947, when she was only 21 years old, six years before she was crowned at Westminster Abbey following the death of her father, King George VI.
While the Netflix series, going strong for four seasons, did humanize the Duke of Edinburgh, it also played up—maybe dug up is the phrase—his lifelong resentments, such as having to give up his naval career after his wife ascended the throne and even having to walk two paces behind her not only in ceremony but also in many other aspects of their life together.
The British crown did prove to be such a load to carry not only on the head of Queen Elizabeth, but also for Prince Philip on whom, from the get go, it had weighed heavily, especially when, with it as a metaphorical weight on his shoulder, along with the other regalia he wore on his person, a Duke’s robe and his coronet included, he and his six-foot frame had to go down on his knees in front of his Queen at her coronation. Forget what you saw in The Crown—Prince Philip was a royal, born and raised, and he did kneel before her, even though it might have been a castrating, shriveling experience for the alpha male he was.
Prince Philip also had to fight to have his sons Prince Charles, Prince Andrew, and Prince Edward carry his name. When Queen Elizabeth decided in 1958 to have their children use the name Windsor-Mountbatten if needed, many took it as proof that the decision to have their children named Windsor six years before had been a sore spot for the Duke of Edinburgh.
Was Prince Philip a bitter man or did he just possess what Queen Elizabeth, in her 2017 Christmas address, called a “unique sense of humor”?
Nevertheless, even after his death, at least on social media, people are still throwing stones at him for his many gaffes and what some call the insensitive, if not offensive, comments he would make even at official functions. Let’s recount some of them.
While accepting a conservation award in Thailand in 1991, he told his hosts, “Your country is one of the most notorious centers of trading in endangered species.”
While in China in 1986, on a state visit, he met with the British students at Xian University and told them, “If you stay here much longer, you’ll all be slitty-eyed.” Reports crucified him for this remark, though not many mentioned he was only most probably reversing a joke the Chinese would tell their youngsters about going “round-eyed” if they stayed too long in the West.
He makes her laugh because some of the things he says and does and the way he looks at life is obviously slightly different than her, so together they’re a great couple. —Prince William
In Australia in 2002, the dear departed prince also threw a rather insensitive question to which today’s kids would have replied, “What are you on?” He asked the Aboriginal elders, “Do you still throw spears at each other?” but asked if they were offended, they shrugged their shoulders and said they thought the question was naïve, a larrikin or a joke.
In 1994, Prince Philip asked a wealthy islander on the Cayman Islands, “Aren’t most of you descended from pirates?”
There are more, including what might pass as a Filipino joke. He told a Filipino nurse during an official visit at Luton and Dunstable Hospital in Bedforshire in 2013, “The Philippines must be half-empty—you’re all here running the NHS (National Health Service UK).”
In the decades Prince Philip represented the British monarchy, he had managed to ruffle feathers among the Aborigines, Africans, Chinese, Russians, Pacific Islanders, and Scots. His own country had not been spared, of which he once said, “British women can’t cook.” To 13-year-old Andrew Adams in Salford in 2001, he said, “You’re too fat to be an astronaut.”
But his tendency to speak off the cuff should be delightful for some, especially for today’s generation, who has long expressed disdain for the sanitized voice of the establishment, so why are the kids hating on Prince Philip?
Maybe because of his Nazi connection? Well, it’s true. Three of his four sisters were married to Nazis, or so Winston Churchill said, citing it at as the reason none of them showed up at their brother’s wedding. On the other hand, his mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg, gave a family of Greek Jews a refuge in her home in Athens during Nazi rule.
Or maybe because he made Prince Charles suffer in The Crown as well as in real life? He was a tough daddy to Prince Charles, albeit a doting one to his only daughter, Princess Anne. The worst thing, at least according to the series, was sending Charles to Gordonstoun, an all-boys school in Scotland, where Prince Philip himself was bullied in his youth and, as a result, according to him, shaped into the man he became. Prince Charles described the years he spent in Gordonstoun as “absolute hell” and sent his own boys to Eton, which he, with his mother’s support, would have preferred for himself.
Or maybe because Prince Philip had always been rumored to be a womanizer, a serial cheat. On memes and in the gossip columns, this side of him has gone to town for years and, in The Crown, all the women he cheated Queen Elizabeth with had been given a name and a face—the Russian ballerina Gavina Ulanova. Although it is true that Ulanova was on tour in Britain in the 1950s, there seems to be no truth to the rumor or, at the very least, there is no proof whatsoever, nothing solid.
The affair between Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth was a love match from the beginning. She was 13 when she met the 18-year-old Prince of Greece and Denmark and Navy officer cadet in 1939. To her, it was love at first sight. They swore to be together for better or for worse, ‘til death do they part, 14 years later and, six years afterward, as she became queen, he swore another oath, that of allegiance, in which he told her ceremoniously, “I, Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, do become your liege man of life and limb and of earthly worship… so help me God.”
For what it’s worth, he kept this promise for 82 years from when they first met. His wife said of him in 1997, “He has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years and I, and his whole family, and this and many other countries, owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim, or we shall ever know.” The royal family shared this quote on Saturday, April 10, 2021, to honor Prince Philip one day after he died peacefully, aged 99, at Windsor Castle.
If ever Prince Philip did stray, who’s to know? Queen Elizabeth II is sure to carry that secret, if at all it exists, to her own grave.