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Not a Royal watcher but, damn, Phillip was funny

Does anyone here watch The Crown? Yes, it’s fiction but it’s not tabloidy stuff. From all accounts, it gets the flavor of the individual royals about right.

My favorite characters have been Prince Phillip and Princess Anne. Each had a dry, snarky sense of humor. With Phillip especially, you get the sense of a restless admiral who doesn’t suffer fools lightly and is nonetheless frequently surrounded by them.

His early life was tragic in some ways. His parents were the king and queen of Greece who were deposed by a coup and in a nighttime getaway by boat, barely escaped with their lives. His father was a family bully. His mother, born a princess and descendent of Queen Victoria, was deaf, mentally unstable, incredibly intelligent, and ended up dedicating her life to the poor as a Greek Orthodox nun. His sisters married Nazis and his favorite sister died in a plane crash when she came to see him while he was in boarding school. He walked behind her funeral to be publicly humiliated by his father at the end of it.

He had the kind of early life that had the potential to make him not turn out well or have a substance abuse problem or be just a mad, bad and dangerous to know guy. But some of his British Royal relatives decided to foster him, paid for his education, and gave him a place to stay when his only alternative was to go back to his family in Nazi Germany.

Here you see Phillip grappling with a moment of decision as he walked behind his sister’s funeral cortège, to embrace the darkness or the light, to align with his English side, represented by his uncle, the lord Mountbatten who walked behind him during that 1937 event, or his father and sisters as they turned towards fascism:

Not all of us can see that decision with such clarity.

He turned out better than ok. When he married Elizabeth, he had distinguished himself in the Royal Navy in WWII, was a promising naval commander and expected his career to be of some long duration until his father in law King George died of lung cancer at a relatively young age. Then his restless, adventurous spirit got caged by his wife’s duty and responsibilities. His natural inclination for progress and modernity clashed with his wife’s more conventional, less intellectual nature. Both were incredibly hard working but he suffered with his reduced opportunities for command and action by becoming the master of gaffes.

I don’t think they were all unintentional. Like this one when he met with the dictator of a South American nation and said, “It’s a pleasure to be in a country that isn’t ruled by its people.” In all of his gaffes, you get the sense of a very smart man surrounded by Lilliputians. Yes, he knew what he was saying and that it wasn’t always polite or politically correct. But many of them picked at a sort of ironic truth.

Anyway, he was 99 when he died yesterday. He’d seen quite a few revolutionary ideas in his life, not all of them good. Whatever his personal inclinations and abilities were, they were put in service to the nation and his Queen. He did it splendidly.

Here’s my favorite Phillip humor from The Crown that captures what he was up against with his conventional wife:

2 Responses

  1. I did not know much about Prince Philip, but what I have read or heard about him the last few days,was very positive, and in several ways. He was obviously very intelligent, with a sense of humor, a general decency, and of course had a long and mutually loving relationship with Princess and then Queen Elizabeth. Married for 73 years, just amazing and touching.

  2. And now for something completely off topic:

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