The Duke of Edinburgh is Queen Elizabeth’s consort. It’s an ill-defined non-job full of potential frustrations: think First Lady or Vice President for life. A lot of consorts are unpopular (for example, Queen Rania, Jordan’s current Hashemite hottie). Prince Philip has been doing it longer than anyone in the history of the Royal Family, since the day in 1952 when he and Princess Elizabeth were at Treetops in Kenya and received the news that George VI (the King’s Speech guy) had died. Harry Truman was in the White House. That’s a long time.
His Royal Highness turned 90 yesterday. He is worshiped as a god in outlying parts of Vanuatu, but, if memory serves, he’s rather less popular at NR (Jay dislikes him, I seem to recall). Still, he’s kept the show on the road in an age hostile to the monarchical principle. For a prince, he’s prone to loose lips — see The Herald Sun Down Under for a birthday countdown of his top ten alleged “gaffes” — and he doesn’t suffer fools gladly, which is a handicap in the Royal biz. I was invited to dinner at Buckingham Palace a few years back, and assumed upon acceptance that we guests were there as unpaid jesters to amuse the hosts. But, in fact, he was a quickwitted chap, and we were hard put to keep up with him.
One of my fellow guests, bemoaning the lack of agricultural workers in Britain, explained that his farm now brought in young Australians and South Africans, who were able to make £90-100 a day picking onions.
“Ah,” said the Duke. “Crying all the way to the bank?”
I thought that was rather good. Happy birthday.