Good(k)night, sweet Prince (Philip)
It was with a surreal sense of apprehension and slightly morbid fascination that I spent most of my day incessantly refreshing my Twitter feed. As someone who generally prefers to preserve their fragile faith in the human race, and therefore avoids reading the innermost thoughts of ‘profound’ B-grade celebrities, Twitter is not my go-to website for, well, anything. In fact, I had to teach my Luddite self how to navigate the blasted thing.
So what impulse compelled me to break the bonds of my self-imposed Twitter exile? Having read the title of this article, you will not be surprised to know that this was done for the sole purpose of finding out whether the Duke of Edinburg had passed away.
I must confess that the Prince has always been of particular interest to me as one of the few members of the Royal Family who possesses a personality of considerable depth. To many, the Duke of Edinburgh is largely the man in the Queen’s shadow whom someone, somewhere (a geriatric Archbishop of Canterbury with a fading memory, perhaps?) forgot to crown as King. But, as is usually the case, the reality is far more interesting.
Born into the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg (say that quickly five times. I dare you) in 1921, and thus a member of both the Greek and Danish Royal Families, Philip was exiled as an infant and raised in assortment of countries before becoming acquainted with his future wife. He joined the Royal Navy at the beginning of the Second World War, and married in 1947.
For more information on what Prince Philip’s life and what he is like, I implore you either to watch The Crown on Netflix or go talk to that one guy who’s in his late 90s and still frequents your local pub. You’ll get the idea.
The Duke of Edinburgh is many things, but what strikes me the most, in both reality and his numerous fictional portrayals, is just how human he is. The Duke has a notorious propensity for saying exactly what he thinks (he labels it ‘dontopedalogy’: the art of putting one’s foot in one’s mouth), and that often doesn’t sit comfortably with people. I am not making excuses for the man, but a number of his most infamous ‘gaffes’ can usually be explained in the broader context of the specific situation. What I am saying is that when we look at the Duke, we don’t merely see a vacuous smile hiding a vane persona: it doesn’t take much to feel that you ‘know’ the man, and yet he has a personality that is far from simple.
At the risk of sounding like an overenthusiastic HSC English student, Prince Philip has always embodied a most enthralled example of the tension between reluctance to live as a public spectacle and duty to one’s family and country (and Commonwealth) that isn’t one’s own. He has openly been hostile to invasions of his family’s private lives, and yet has maintained a fairly rigorous calendar of royal engagement, often unaccompanied, for over 70 years. It was for finding out the latest development in this man’s life that I spent my afternoon in a constant state of agitation.
So what was the culmination of almost five hours of continual news coverage?
Like vast swathes of the ‘Twitterverse’, I expected the news to be that the Duke had finally done what we all know old men have a rather ubiquitous tendency of doing…
Instead, I found out that the Duke is going to stop undertaking his royal duties. At 95. I think it would be safe to say that that’s not really huge news. I mean, even the most avid republicans (many of whom I suspect may read this in disgust) would probably not be too offended at someone verging on 96 retiring. Regardless of your position on the role of the monarchy, when someone reaches that age, I think we can let them have a little downtime.
In any case, I like the Duke of Edinburgh because he started an award scheme that worked wonders on my young teen CV. And, what’s more, he’s a Knight in the Order of Australia. You don’t see many of them around.
God Save the Duke, and I look forward to the many, many vitriolic comments that will undoubtedly appear in the comments section.