Outspoken, and why not? Hats off to the direct Duke

Kelner's View

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The Independent Online

I didn't go to the reception the Queen held at Buckingham Palace for the media this week. Apparently, my invitation got held up in the post.

So I'm not able to tell you that Kate looked fabulous in an emerald green dress, that William chatted amiably with Andrew Marr, and that the Duke of Edinburgh behaved impeccably, his only (very minor) gaffe coming when he told the editor of a blog called TechnoCrunch that it sounded more like pet food.

I have had to rely on other sources for that news, or indeed to learn that Fearne Cotton thought it was "amazing" (sometimes, it's just the only adjective that will do!) Perhaps I was persona non grata. Did I blot my copybook at the previous event of its type, held 10 years ago as part of the celebrations to mark the Queen's Golden Jubilee?

That was held in the Great Hall at Windsor Castle, and although it came at a time when relations between the Palace and the media were more fractious than they are today, I thought my manners fitted the occasion. I didn't blink an eye when I was dressed down by Prince Philip.

On being introduced, he asked me what I did. "I'm the editor of The Independent," I told him. "Well, what are you doing here?" he asked in characteristically brusque fashion. (The Independent, from its inception, had maintained a lofty stance when covering Royal affairs.) I didn't really know how to respond, or indeed whether I should, so I just said, rather pathetically: "Thank you for inviting me."

"You didn't have to come," said the Duke, who moved swiftly on to talk to someone more interesting, like Piers Morgan, for example.

I've always admired the Duke of Edinburgh since then. Quite right. Tell it how it is. Why should he pretend he's awfully pleased to see someone when he clearly isn't. In fact, many of the incidents that are ascribed to him as "gaffes" are nothing of the sort, just authentic articulations of thoughts we might all have.

Like when he said, on a tour of Canada: "We don't come here for our health. We can think of other ways of enjoying ourselves! Or, when asked his opinion of Beijing, replying: "Ghastly." Or, at the opening of a new British Embassy in Berlin: "It's a vast waste of space."

I am sure he also has that view about most members of the media, and at least on meeting me he didn't feel constrained about expressing it. I was struck that night that, whatever one thinks about the monarchy as an institution, the physical manifestations of it still have the power to inspire respect, affection and even awe.

It was interesting to see a national newspaper columnist, well-known for his republican sympathies, genuflect with the best of them at Windsor Castle. Now, with William and Kate in the foreground, the royals present a much more modern image – there was even a tweet deck in the East Gallery at the Palace this week. It would be a shame, however, if it all became about PR and image management. Long live Prince Philip!