Tuesday, 31 March 2015

The Adventures of Prince Philip

     A battered paperback version of a book published in 1960 once turned up in my parents' house. It was entitled, Prince Philip and what made it more interesting was that the author was his admiring cousin, H.M. Queen Alexandra of Yugoslavia. Thus, we find that everyone we know by a royal title appears under a family name. One has to remember that Uncle Georgie was the King of Greece, Uncle Bertie the King of England, Uncle Dickie Lord Louis Mountbatten and, of course, Lilibet was our future Queen Elizabeth.
     For instance, we are given an insider's account of the royal wedding arrangements. She and King Peter, in exile in Paris, received a thick envelope by special envoy from the British Embassy, which included not just the invitation, but the travel tickets, instructions as to how and where they would be met, a list of other invitations, and instructions on such things as which orders and decorations to be worn. She said that nearly everybody she met on the Golden Arrow boat-train turned out to be a relative. Once in England, they were escorted to Claridge's (Buckingham Palace does not have as many guest rooms as you might think), which was again practically a family reunion centre, and on the desks of their apartments were formally schedules for everything related to the wedding.
     We also learn that when the newlyweds eventually moved into Clarence House, it was not exactly what you would think of as fit for royalty.
[W]hen Lilibet and Philip first walked round, gas-lighting served some of the rooms, central heating was non-existent and the only bath in the house was found in a bedroom cupboard. [p 104]
     But the most interesting sections, I found, were those of his youth and bachelor days. When reading about his constant movements as a Greek royal in exile, I wondered, "What language was he speaking?" He must have been multilingual. His mother, Princess Alice appears to have been a multilingual lip-reader, because she was congenitally deaf.
     At one time she loved to frequent a cinema that showed old classic silent films, chiefly for the joy of lip-reading what the characters really said. With her infallible memory she would then retail these conversations for the amusement of her friends. A dinner party once nearly choked with laughter when Aunt Alice described one of the big scenes in, I think, Von Stroheim's Greed. In the midst of a passionate love scene, the hero was really telling the heroine that he was being evicted for not paying his rent. These glimpses of real life from the movies were admittedly all the more comical from Aunt Alice's explosive method of blurting them out. [p 12]
     As for her husband, and Philip's father,
     Uncle Andrea turned everything into a joke. At St. Moritz a good friend of his, with whom he was staying at the Palace Hotel, suffered a bobsleigh accident and terribly lacerated his face. When we next saw the casualty, the whole of his head was swathed in bandages, through which liquid food had to be syphoned spoonful by spoonful. Uncle Andrea and I took turns at dripping champagne down the pipe but we spoiled the whole atmosphere of our errand of mercy, I fear, by shaking with laughter at the poor fellow's plight.
      As for the Prince himself, the most amusing anecdote concerned hiring a car in Sydney. You must remember that Philip served throughout the war in the Royal Navy. Indeed, giving up that career was his biggest regret in marrying the princess. Opinions have been expressed that he might have ended up an admiral. By 1945 he was a lieutenant, and unofficially engaged to the princess. His ship was one of those to sail into Tokyo Bay for the Japanese surrender, and from there he sailed to Sydney, where he borrowed a car from the Governor-General's residence. No information was provided as to what strings had to be pulled. However, because the car bore the royal insignia rather than number plates, the police kept saluting it and holding up traffic for him. He therefore went to a small garage to hire a private car.
     Now remember, he hadn't been in Greece since he was a baby. To all intents and purposes, he was just another Pommy naval officer. When filling out the form, he simply wrote, "Philip". The garage owner insisted on a surname. Surname? Since when had royalty had surnames? What else could he do? He wrote, "Philip of Greece." Apparently, the proprietor became rather belligerent, and it took a while to sort the matter out.
     I have previously report on the interaction between the Prince, the Queen, and a witchdoctor in Nigeria. Click here to read it.

1 comment:

  1. I never thought about the surname thing before. Very interesting.