The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold: The Duke was nothing if not a devoted father

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The Independent Online
HRH The Duke of Edinburgh is a dear old friend and quaffing partner of mine.

The two of us go back yonks. It grieves me, then, that his eldest son, Charles (whom I know only slightly, having once joined the other adults in clipping him around the ear at a barbecue party in the early Sixties), seems to have developed a mammoth chip on his shoulder regarding his upbringing.

May I take the disgraceful allegations levelled at his father by the Prince of Wales (Prince of 'Wails', more like - I jest]) one by one? If I read Wails (]) correctly, he is suggesting that Philip was somehow a cold father, given to teasing his son for being a 'wimp'. What rot, if you'll kindly pardon my French] At the above-mentioned barbecue, when Charles was just a piddley little adolescent, no one could have been more attentive to his son's every need than Philip. From the word go, he let the young Charles in on what one might call 'the barbecuing process', allowing him to check the heat of the flames (pants down, buttocks at the ready), permitting him, when others had finished, to eat any uncooked gubbins, and urging him to use his forefinger as a kebab skewer when the real skewers ran out.

Rarely have I witnessed such devotion. When young Charles's corduroy trousers burst into flames after one of the Zip firelighters we had secreted in his pockets finally caught fire, Philip was the first on the scene with a bucket of water and a cheery clip around the old 'lug-hole'.

So much for the frosty papa] And then we come to Charles's extraordinary claim that his years at Gordonstoun were in some way 'miserable', and that he was the victim of bullying. What arrant nonsense] As most of my devoted readers will already know, I myself was a pupil at that renowned institution Basters' Academy ('Baste Up the Basters] Baste up, Baste up, and Baste the Game]'), which, I am proud to see, is still going strong, being a mere 643 places behind the swots' school, Winchester, in the league tables, with no less than seven A-levels in woodwork to its credit, the highest number of woodwork A- levels of any school in Great Yarmouth and the surrounding area.

One of many excellent lessons I learnt at Basters was to accept a spot of healthy bullying as part of the fun of growing up. Certainly, the odd boy in my day was unfortunate enough to lose a hand or two - at very worst, a couple of legs - amidst the hurly-burly of midnight axethrowing in the junior dorms, but at least it let them learn to stand on their own two feet; or not, as the case may be.

Baster's was, of course, the sister school to Gordonstoun, and we were happy to practise many of its outward bound techniques. In many ways, we used to look upon our Scottish brethren as pampered little softies, so namby pamby that they would have a leg of lamb cooked for them, whilst we would be made to gnaw it raw and off the bone, usually while the woolly little beast was still kicking. It meant that the mint sauce splashed everywhere, of course, but, by God, it tasted juicy.

Ever since then, whenever a waiter has asked me 'How would you like your lamb cooked, sir?', I have always replied, 'Fur still on, per favore, Ricardo,' and I've never once regretted it.

Finally, Charles sobs that his papa somehow forced him into marrying the then Lady Diana Spencer. Yet he himself had come up with no viable alternative. As far as one can gather, the laws of Great Britain forbid marriage to garden shrubs and ancient buildings, and, even if Lady Di's bulimia (dread word]) was not exactly the Prince's cup of tea, there must have been the odd moment twixt heaves when even he could discern her ladylike charms. What if the poor old Duke of Edinburgh had told him to marry, say, a stick of rhubarb? Would Charles have dutifully strode down the aisle of St Paul's hand in hand with a pinkish sprig, all of 18 inches tall?

I think not.

And so to the big question. Whither the Monarchy? Speaking personally, there is no question in my mind that Charles has forfeited his right to the throne. And who, you may ask, should take his place? To my mind, there is only one man sufficiently strong, titled, resolute, sporting and well-versed in the laws of the land, and he is already - as near as dammit - Royalty.

Step forward, my old friend and quaffing partner, Major Ronald Ferguson: at your service, my liege, your loyal servant, Arnold.

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