The Prince of Political Incorrectness: Philip’s Reign of Insults, Barbs and Gaffes

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By Heat Street Staff | 12:28 pm, May 4, 2017

Royal watchers with a taste for irreverence and anarchy will have a little less to look forward to with the news that Prince Philip, the Queen’s husband, is retiring from public life.

Philip, a Greek royal who became the Duke of Edinburgh on marrying then Princess Elizabeth, has a reputation for uproar, making close-to-the-bone quips that have seen the forces of political correctness repeatedly denounce him.

In wake of the 95-year-old’s imminent departure from the otherwise dull ribbon-cuttings and hand-shaking events he once so animated, Heat Street remembers some of his most notable encounters:

Cultural exchange

  • On seeing the President of Nigeria, who was in national dress, 2003, Philip quipped: “You look like you’re ready for bed!”

  • In 1993, he told a tourist in Budapest, Hungary: “You can’t have been here long, you haven’t got a pot belly.”
  • Greeting a British man trekking through Papua New Guinea (which has a history of native cannibalism), he said: “You managed not to get eaten then?”
  • On meeting former German chancellor Helmut Kohl in 1997, he called him “Reichskanzler” – a title last used by Adolf Hitler.
Helmut Kohl and Bill Clinton on Air Force One
  • Philip once remarked to General Alfredo Stroessner, the dictator of Paraguay: “It’s a pleasure to be in a country that isn’t ruled by its people.”
  • On finding a British student in China in 1986, he said: “If you stay here much longer, you’ll go home with slitty eyes.”
  • He asked a group of Cayman Islanders: “Aren’t most of you descended from pirates?”
  • Examining native Ethiopian art in 1965, he said: “It looks like the kind of thing my daughter would bring back from school art lessons.”
  • In 2002 he asked a group of Aboriginal Australians: “Do you still throw spears at each other?”

Feminist theory

  • The Duke once inquired of a female naval cadet: “Do you work in a strip club?”
  • In 1987 he joked to a female solicitor (a British term for lawyer): “I thought it was against the law for a woman to solicit.”
  • He tactfully told a meeting of Women’s Institute in Scotland that “British women can’t cook.”
  • On the virtues of marriage, in 1988 he said: “I don’t think a prostitute is more moral than a wife, but they are doing the same thing.”
  • Meeting a group of female MPs at a royal reception, he observed: “So this is feminist corner then.”

The special relationship

  • “Where’s the Southern Comfort?” – Philip on being presented with a hamper of goods by the US ambassador in 1999.
  • On the British aristocracy, he said: “People think there’s a rigid class system here, but dukes have even been known to marry chorus girls. Some have even married Americans.”

Assorted other bloopers

  • On meeting a group of deaf children next to a steel band, he said: “Deaf? If you’re near there, no wonder you are deaf.”
  • To a blind woman and her guide dog in 2002, he scored a two-in-one, noting: “They have eating dogs for the anorexic now.”
  • On meeting a schoolboy who invited the Queen to a town in Essex (a London suburb not known for its academics), he said: “Ah, you’re the one who wrote the letter. So you can write then?”
  • After being introduced to Cate Blanchett in 2008, he asked her for help with his DVD player, because she is “in the film industry”.
  • To a group of women at a community centre in Chadwell Heath, east London, (pictured, top) he asked “who do you sponge off?” (This was seen as particularly ironic, given that Philip himself has lived a life more or less funded by the British taxpayer).