Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, dies: A life of duty – with outrageous moments

Prince Philip’s love for Queen Elizabeth has never been called into question but he was also renowned for outspoken – often outrageous and notorious – remarks, including:

“British women can’t cook” (in Britain in 1966).

“What do you gargle with? Pebbles?” (speaking to singer Tom Jones after the 1969 Royal Variety Performance).

“I declare this thing open, whatever it is.” (on a visit to Canada in 1969).

“Everybody was saying we must have more leisure. Now they are complaining they are unemployed” (during the 1981 recession).

“If it has got four legs and it is not a chair, if it has got two wings and it flies but is not an aeroplane, and if it swims and it is not a submarine, the Cantonese will eat it.” (at a 1986 World Wildlife Fund meeting).

“It looks like a tart’s bedroom.” (on seeing plans for the Duke and Duchess of York’s house at Sunninghill Park in 1988).

“Yak, yak, yak; come on get a move on.” (shouted from the deck of Britannia in Belize in 1994 to the Queen who was chatting to her hosts on the quayside).

“We didn’t have counsellors rushing around every time somebody let off a gun, asking ‘Are you all right? Are you sure you don’t have a ghastly problem?’ You just got on with it.” (about the Second World War commenting on modern stress counselling for servicemen in 1995).

“How do you keep the natives off the booze long enough to get them through the test?” (to a driving instructor in Oban, Scotland, during a 1995 walkabout).

“If a cricketer, for instance, suddenly decided to go into a school and batter a lot of people to death with a cricket bat, which he could do very easily, I mean, are you going to ban cricket bats?” (in 1996, amid calls to ban firearms after the Dunblane shooting).

“Bloody silly fool!” (in 1997, referring to a Cambridge University car park attendant who did not recognise him).

“It looks as if it was put in by an Indian.” (pointing at an old-fashioned fusebox in a factory near Edinburgh in 1999).

“Deaf? If you are near there, no wonder you are deaf.” (to young deaf people in Cardiff, in 1999, referring to a school’s steel band).

“They must be out of their minds.” (In the Solomon Islands, in 1982, when he was told that the annual population growth was 5 per cent).

“You are a woman, aren’t you?” (in Kenya, in 1984, after accepting a small gift from a local woman).

“If you stay here much longer, you’ll all be slitty-eyed.” (perhaps his most notorious comment – to British students in China, during a 1986 state visit).

“Your country is one of the most notorious centres of trading in endangered species in the world.” (in Thailand, in 1991, after accepting a conservation award).

“Oh no, I might catch some ghastly disease.” (in Australia, in 1992, when asked to stroke a Koala bear).

“You can’t have been here that long – you haven’t got a pot belly.” (to a Briton in Budapest, Hungary, in 1993).

“Aren’t most of you descended from pirates?” (to a wealthy islander in the Cayman Islands in 1994).

“You managed not to get eaten, then?” (suggesting to a student in 1998 who had been trekking in Papua New Guinea that tribes there were still cannibals).

In Germany, in 1997, he welcomed German Chancellor Helmut Kohl at a trade fair as “Reichskanzler” – the last German leader who used the title was Adolf Hitler.

“You’re too fat to be an astronaut.” (to 13-year-old Andrew Adams who told Philip he wanted to go into space. Salford, 2001).

“I wish he’d turn the microphone off.” (muttered at the Royal Variety Performance as he watched Sir Elton John perform, 2001).

“Do you still throw spears at each other?” (In Australia in 2002 talking to a successful aborigine entrepreneur).

“You look like a suicide bomber.” (to a young female officer wearing a bullet-proof vest on Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, in 2002).

“Do you know they’re now producing eating dogs for anorexics?” (to a blind woman outside Exeter Cathedral, 2002).

“Well, you didn’t design your beard too well, did you?” (to designer Stephen Judge about his tiny goatee beard in July 2009).

“There’s a lot of your family in tonight.” (after looking at the name badge of businessman Atul Patel at a Palace reception for British Indians in October 2009).

“Do you work in a strip club?” (to 24-year-old Barnstaple Sea Cadet Elizabeth Rendle when she told him she also worked in a nightclub in March 2010).

“Do you have a pair of knickers made out of this?” (pointing to some tartan to Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie a papal reception in Edinburgh in September 2010).

“Bits are beginning to drop off.” (on approaching his 90th birthday, 2011).

“How many people have you knocked over this morning on that thing?” (meeting disabled David Miller who drives a mobility scooter at the Valentine Mansion in Redbridge in March 2012).

“I would get arrested if I unzipped that dress.” (to 25-year-old council worker Hannah Jackson, who was wearing a dress with a zip running the length of its front, on a Jubilee visit to Bromley, Kent, in May 2012).

“The Philippines must be half empty as you’re all here running the NHS.” (on meeting a Filipino nurse at a Luton hospital in February 2013).

“Most stripping is done by hand.” (to 83-year-old Mars factory worker Audrey Cook when discussing how she used to strip or cut Mars Bars by hand in April 2013).

“(Children) go to school because their parents don’t want them in the house.” (prompting giggles from Malala Yousafzai, who survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban after campaigning for the right of girls to go to school without fear – October 2013).

“Just take the f***ing picture.” (losing patience with an RAF photographer at events to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain – July 2015).

“You look starved.” (to a pensioner on a visit to the Charterhouse almshouse for elderly men – February 2017)

“I’m just a bloody amoeba.” (on the Queen’s decision that their children should be called Windsor, not Mountbatten).

“Gentlemen, I think it is time we pulled our fingers out.” (to the Industrial Co-Partnership Association on Britain’s inefficient industries in 1961).

“Are you asking me if the Queen is going to die?” (on being questioned on when the Prince of Wales would succeed to the throne).

“If the man had succeeded in abducting Anne, she would have given him a hell of a time while in captivity.” (On a gunman who tried to kidnap the Princess Royal in 1974).

“I hope he breaks his bloody neck.” (when a photographer covering a royal visit to India fell out of a tree).

“If it doesn’t fart or eat hay, she’s not interested.” (on the Princess Royal).

“When a man opens a car door for his wife, it’s either a new car or a new wife.” (on marriage).

“It’s a pleasant change to be in a country that isn’t ruled by its people.” (to Alfredo Stroessner, the Paraguayan dictator).

“Where did you get that hat?” (supposedly to the Queen at her Coronation).

Speaking to the General Dental Council, 1960: “Dontopedalogy is the science of opening your mouth and putting your foot in it, a science which I have practised for a good many years.”

When shown art during a trip to Ethiopia, 1965: “It looks like the kind of thing my daughter would bring back from her school art lessons.”

Speaking on American TV about the Windsor family’s finances, 1969: “We go into the red next year … I shall probably have to give up polo.”

When asked about visiting the Soviet Union, 1969: “I would like to go to Russia very much – although the bastards murdered half my family.”

To Paraguayan dictator Alfredo Stroessner: “It’s a pleasant change to be in a country that isn’t ruled by its people.”

Speaking during an official trip to Canada, 1976: “We don’t come here for our health. We can think of other ways of enjoying ourselves.”

When asked his thoughts on Beijing during a tour of China, 1986: “Ghastly.”

While chatting to a fashion writer Serena French, 1993: “You’re not wearing mink knickers, are you?”

While speaking to female solicitor: “I thought it was against the law these days for a woman to solicit.”

After presented with a hamper of goods form the American south by the American Ambassador in London, 1999: “Where’s the Southern Comfort?”

When he asked politician Lord Taylor of Warwick, whose mum and dad are Jamaican, 1999: “And what exotic part of the world do you come from?” To which Lord Warwick replied: “Birmingham.”

Speaking to a group of female politicians at a Buckingham Palace party in 2000 whose name tags had ‘Ms’ on them: “Ah, so this is feminist corner then.”

Spying two robots bumping into each other at a science museum, 2000: “They’re not mating are they?”

When offered some fish by Rick Stein, 2000: “No, I would probably end up spitting it out over everybody.”

To a guest in Berlin after the Queen had just opened the new $32 million British Embassy in Berlin, 2000: “It’s a vast waste of space.”

Reflecting on his role as a working royal: “Any bloody fool can lay a wreath at the thingamy.”

In a curiously prescient aside, 2000: “People think there’s a rigid class system here, but Dukes have even been known to marry chorus girls. Some have even married Americans.”

To Elton John, who lived near Windsor, 2001: “Oh, it’s you that owns that ghastly car is it? We often see it when driving to Windsor Castle.”

To the Aircraft Research Association, 2002: “If you travel as much as we do you appreciate the improvements in aircraft design of less noise and more comfort – provided you don’t travel in something called economy class, which sounds ghastly.”

Speaking to Susan Edwards, who is blind and wheelchair-bound and has a guide dog, 2002: “Do you know they’re now producing eating dogs for the anorexics?”

After being told that then-President Barack Obama had just met with the British, Chinese and Russian leaders: “Can you tell the difference between them?”

While meeting a Filipino nurse at a hospital, 2013: “The Philippines must be half empty as you’re all here running the NHS (National Health Service).”

Chatting to Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, who was shot by the Taliban for campaigning for girls’ education, 2013: “(Children) go to school because their parents don’t want them in the house.”

During an event to mark the 50th anniversary of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards scheme, 2016: “Young people are the same as they always were. They are just as ignorant.”


Born on the Greek island of Corfu on June 10, 1921 with Greek and Danish royal titles, Prince Philip was also the great-great-grandson of Queen Victoria.

When he was 18-months-old, his uncle King Constantine of Greece, was forced to abdicate and along with his parents, Prince Andrew of Denmark and Princess Alice of Battenberg and his four sisters, Philip fled the country, initially settling in France.

His mother was eventually committed to a psychiatric institution in Switzerland, while his father relocated to the south of France and maintained limited contact with the rest of the family.

Philip attended the MacJannet American School in Paris before he was sent to the United Kingdom to study at the Cheam School and live with his maternal grandmother, while all four of his sisters married German aristocrats – some of whom were Nazis.

Philip relocated to a school in Germany during the 1930s, and then moved Gordonstoun School in Scotland, founded by Jewish headmaster Kurt Hahn after the rise of the Nazi party. In November 1937, he suffered the devastating loss of his sister Princess Cecile, who was eight months pregnant with her third child, in a plane crash during a flight from Germany to London to attend a wedding. Also killed in the crash, after the plane hit a factory chimney in Belgium, was Cecile’s husband, and their sons aged six and four.


After graduating in 1939, he attended the Royal Naval College – and in July of that year, the 18-year-old met his third cousin – his future wife and the future Queen of England – 13-year-old Princess Elizabeth.

The pair kept in touch during World War II, when Philip served in the British navy.

On July 10, 1947, they announced their engagement, with Philip abandoning his Greek and Danish royal titles and taking the surname Mountbatten from his mother’s family.

They were married at Westminster Abbey, in a ceremony broadcast throughout the world by radio, on November 20, 1947. On the morning of the wedding, Philip became the Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich.

In her book, Prince Philip, royal biographer Ingrid Seward revealed that Prince Philip had included a secret engraving on Elizabeth’s wedding ring.

“She never takes it off and inside the ring is an inscription.” Seward revealed.

“No one knows what it says, other than the engraver, the Queen and her husband.”

The couple’s first child, Prince Charles, was born 1948, followed by Princess Anne in 1950, Prince Andrew in 1960 and Prince Edward in 1964.

The couple celebrated their platinum wedding anniversary in November 2017. Their marriage is the longest of any British monarch.

In a moving and unusually personal speech marking the couple’s golden wedding anniversary in 1997, Queen Elizabeth described her husband as her ‘strength and stay’.


Prince Philip sacrificed his career in the navy to support his wife after she was became Queen less than five years into their marriage.

“I thought I was going to have a career in the navy, but it became obvious there was no hope. … There was no choice,” he said, according to one biography.

While largely avoiding personal scandal, Philip was a controversial figure at times, known for making statements during public appearances that caused offence.

In a 1986 visit to China, he reportedly told students from Edinburgh University: “If you stay here much long, you’ll all be slitty-eyed.”

Philip retired from public duties in 2017 at the age of 96, following a two-night hospitalisation for an infection. He then had a hip operation in 2018.

In January 2019, he emerged unscathed after his vehicle was involved in a traffic accident that injured two people near the monarch’s Sandringham estate in eastern England.

Philip spent four nights at King Edward Hospital in December 2019, where he was treated for what was described as a “pre-existing condition” and was discharged on Christmas Eve that year.

In February he was admitted to King Edward VII’s private hospital in Marylebone after feeling “unwell”.

Buckingham Palace initially said it was just a “precautionary measure” but it ended up being his longest-ever hospital stay.

The Duke was treated for an infection and was transferred to a specialist cardiac unit at the state-run St Bartholomew’s Hospital for heart procedure before returning to King Edward VII.

He was eventually discharged from hospital on March 16.


The Duke – often dubbed the “protector” of the monarchy – also lost his temper at times over family matters.

Tabloids claimed that he never welcomed his former daughter-in-law, the late Princess Diana, when she said “I do” to his son Charles in 1981. Despite their fractured relationship, Prince Philip and her son, Prince William, were incredibly close.

“Diana had grown to dislike Prince Philip intensely – and he her – but Prince William was devoted to the old man,” according to biographer Ingrid Seward.

So when Diana died in a car crash in 1997, “William wanted his grandfather at his side in what was certain to prove the most harrowing public engagement the young man had had to endure.”

Philip also reportedly reacted with disbelief when the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, decided to quit as frontline royals last year, and was left “deeply hurt” by the move.

Sources said at the time he wasn’t pleased “about the idea that Meg and Harry need a break from royal duties”.

“This is a man who has dragged himself off his sick bed and even though nearly 100 years old is committed to serving the monarchy,” they said.

Despite being hospitalised, a royal expert said Prince Philip was likely to have known about Meghan and Prince Harry’s tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey and would have had “fruity words” to say about.

The Times’ royal correspondent Roya Nikkhah said the Queen was still speaking to her husband about family matters during his time in hospital, adding that he “would have known a lot of what was going on”.

“We hear from people close to The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh that she still discusses family matters with him and still sees him as the head of the family, behind the scenes,” she said.

“The character that Prince Philip is, I don’t think for a second that he won’t have been reading the papers in the hospital.”

While both the Queen and Philip reduced their public engagements in recent years, their son and heir, Prince Charles, has taken an increasingly leading role alongside Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, and his wife, Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge.

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