His Royal Rudeness: Prince Philip on the 'reptiles'

Over the years the Duke of Edinburgh has spouted numerous quips and faux pas about the press, as royal correspondents Phil Dampier and Ashley Walton remember

NOT SURPRISINGLY, Prince Philip has a fairly dim view of the Fourth Estate and has complained that he has “become a caricature”.

Whenever he comes into contact with journalists, both from newspapers and TV, he does not miss an opportunity to make his feelings known…

1983 In Bangladesh, the Queen and the Duke were standing in the garden of a government building to meet guests waiting in line for a cocktail party.

Ashley Walton, then royal correspondent of the Daily Express, was with other members of the travelling “Rat Pack” of reporters at the end of the line. Philip, not realising he could be overheard, turned to the Queen and grimaced: “Here come the bloody reptiles!”

1948 When he was guest of honour at the 60th birthday dinner of the Foreign Press Association in London, he described journalists as “the people’s ambassadors”, but then added caustically: “I often wish the people didn’t want to know quite so much.”

1956 The British Parliamentary Press Gallery invited him as its guest of honour and asked for his views on journalists in general. “It is very tempting,” said the Duke, “but I think I had better wait until I get a bit older.

“Seriously, I think that journalism, like any other great institution in this country, is capable of both the best and the worst.

“In fact, I think that our journalism very accurately reflects our nature, both with the lid on and with the lid off.

“But personally, all I can say is that there are times when I would very much like to be a newspaper owner.”

1954 The Prince hit back at a tabloid newspaper which had criticised the royal family, saying they were “unemployed, condemned to stay at home and twiddle their thumbs”.

During a Birmingham factory visit he commented with a smile: “You know what I am doing — I am twiddling my thumbs.”

1957 On a visit to the US, the Queen and Philip were posing for photographers on the steps of the White House.

As the royal couple turned away, an American photographer, unused to royal protocol, shouted: “Hey, just one more!” Philip whirled round, searching for the culprit and barked: “What do you mean, just one more?” 1955 On a newspaper strike: “I found it a most interesting experience — breakfast seemed to take no time at all!”

1955 At a dinner for the Newspaper Press Fund: “I can’t very well talk about charity all the time, in which case I’m left with the press and, quite frankly, I’d rather be left with a baby!”

In the same speech: “I don’t know how easy it is for a journalist to work up a charitable frame of mind.”

1960 “When, as happens from time to time, something I have said appears in ‘Sayings of the week’ or similar columns, I am generally left wondering whether it was put in at face value or whether the editor has managed to read some fearfully subtle joke into something which I fondly imagined was quite ordinary.”

1963 At a Press Association lunch, he commented on an article saying he had been over-quoted and overphotographed.

“It is encouraging to know that at least I am being killed by kindness.”

1962 “The Daily Express is a bloody awful newspaper.”

1996 “So you’re responsible for the kind of crap Channel 4 produces!” Said to C4 chairman Sir Michael Bishop at a film premiere.

1998 At a reception for Prince Charles in Buckingham Palace, he spotted a group of men he did not recognise and was told they were tabloid editors.

“It doesn’t show from the outside,” he conceded generously.

2002 At the Newspaper Society Golden Jubilee lunch: “Which local paper do you work for?”

“I’m terribly sorry sir, but I’m an impostor — I’m from the Peterborough column of The Daily Telegraph.” “Don’t worry, it’s not your fault.”

2002 At a press reception in Windsor Castle to mark the Golden Jubilee: “Who are you?” he demanded of Simon Kelner.

“I’m the editor-in-chief of The Independent, sir.” “What are you doing here?” asked the Duke.

“You invited me.” “Well, you didn’t have to come!” Next victim was Martin Townsend, editor of the Sunday Express.

“Ah the Sunday Express,” said Philip. “I was very fond of Arthur Christiansen.” “Yes, there’s been a long line of distinguished editors,” replied Townsend.

“I didn’t say that!” barked Philip, walking away.

1996 At a state banquet in Paris, he told French President Jacques Chirac: “If we had your laws, the British press could not have done so much damage to the royal family.”

1999 “I am desperate if I find there are British press on a foreign visit. I know they’ ll wreck the thing if they possibly can…” — to author Gyles Brandreth * Excerpts from Duke of Hazard, The Wit and Wisdom of Prince Philip, by Phil Dampier and Ashley Walton, published by The Book Guild, price £8.99

 

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