THE FIRST — AND LAST — GENTLEMAN

He carried his own suitcases, had little time for sentiment (or tact), and did nothing to subvert his reputation as a ‘bloody prickly thing’. Yet Prince Philip, who died in April, was also resilient and loyal, a dashing polymath who dragged a creaking institution into the 20th century. The Rake reflects on his fascinating life.

H.R.H. Prince Philip, shot at Buckingham Palace by Allan Warren.

A while ago I was invited to a black-tie Christmas bash for the Royal Household at Buckingham Palace. After the initial thrill of being waved through the gates and gliding across the quadrangle into the hallowed environs, the incongruities started to pile up. Did the interior of the palace resemble a gilded Trusthouse Forte on steroids? Yes, it did. Was I really standing, kir royale in hand, next to a genuine Vermeer? Yes, I was. Could that be the erstwhile Wombles maestro Mike Batt conducting an orchestra in the ballroom? Yes, it could.

Not long into the evening, a buzz went round the attendees and an orderly line was formed: the family were making their rounds. I happened to be standing at a corner, my vision of their progress obscured, when suddenly an immaculately tuxedoed Duke of Edinburgh came barrelling — there’s no other word for it — round the curve, and made a beeline for me.

“Well,” he said, by way of greeting, “and what keeps you busy?”

Contributor

Stuart Husband

Published

August 2021

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