Paperback review: Man Belong Mrs Queen, by Matthew Baylis

 

David Evans
Sunday 24 November 2013 01:00
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Growing up in 1980s Southport, Matthew Baylis always felt a sense of solidarity with the gaffe-prone Duke of Edinburgh, who was, like him, “unpopular, posh, misunderstood and mocked”. So when he later learned of a tribe that worshipped Prince Philip as a god, he decided to investigate. Man Belong Mrs Queen tells the story of Baylis’s trip to the Melanesian island of Tanna, where he stays with the “Philippists”, shares their diet of yams and potent narcotics, and tries to get to the bottom of their religion.

This engaging travelogue strikes just the right tone. Baylis evokes the ironies of Philip worship without simply dismissing it as a wacky cult; he argues that from the islanders’ point of view, Philippism is a more or less rational attempt to forge cultural contacts with the outside world. And in that it has been successful: Baylis concludes with an account of the meeting he brokered between a Tannese delegation and their indulgent deity at Windsor. To everyone’s relief, Prince Philip refrained from cracking any jokes.

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