Great entertainer Philip stands down

NEXT week will mark the departure from the world stage of one of its great entertainers. No, not Vincent Browne, whose sterling contribution to the gaiety of nations is marked on page nine in today’s Irish Examiner.

Someone else whose mordant sense of humour we will miss is Prince Philip who will fulfill his last solo public engagement when he attends a Marines charity event in London. This will be the end of a career which has included 637 overseas trips under his own steam and 5,493 speeches. He became the longest-serving consort ever in 2009, and, at 96, is the oldest-ever member of the British royal family.

The prince will still undertake some events with Queen Elizabeth but this may give him less scope for the “gaffes” which have made him famous. Such as the occasion he asked a person in a wheelchair whether they were aware that “they now have eating dogs for the anorexic?” Or describing Beijing as “ghastly” during a goodwill tour of China (an insult he also applied closer to home to Stoke-on-Trent). Then there was his observation to a student newly returned from Papua New Guinea that “you managed not to get eaten then”.

You must suspect that a twinkling sense of mischief helped the duke survive seven decades of official duties. He is a man whose instant quips could have been designed for Twitter. Buckingham Palace will be pleased that his heyday preceded social media.

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