Greta Thunberg, fireworks and a 99-year documentary on the BBC – how I think we should honour Prince Philip

We must remember, though, that he ‘didn’t want any fuss’

Mark Steel
Thursday 15 April 2021 16:44 BST
Prince Philip's death announced at Buckingham Palace

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


It started 10 minutes after the announcement. A “royal biographer” on the radio told us that Prince Philip was in many ways “founder of the conservation movement, including Greenpeace”.

This must be why he retired from public duties three years ago; he was too busy climbing up oil rigs in the North Sea, unfurling banners, and swimming through the Sea of Japan obstructing whaling boats.

Then we heard from a series of sombre commentators, reminding us he was courageous, robust, won the war with barely any help from anyone, invented tomatoes, discovered the moon, was so brilliant in the navy, he led his fleet into battle on land by navigating his ships across the Alps, was so good at polo he won a golf tournament while on horseback and could play the “Flight of the Bumblebee” with his armpits.

The point made regularly on every channel was that he “modernised the royal family”. Part of his official title was “Extra Knight of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle”, so he probably needed to do a bit more work on the modernising. I expect he wanted to change it to “MC Big EK the Notorious A-N-C-I-E-N-T Noble Thistlez!”

He also held the modern post of baron of Greenwich, so he must have been exhausted, duking Edinburgh all day, checking on the cobbles up the Royal Mile, then rushing to Greenwich to be a modern baron, making sure his knights had plenty of suits of armour in case they were attacked by the Danes of Lewisham.

Hopefully we’ll be told of other ways he modernised the monarchy, such as writing a grime version of the national anthem, or organising raves in the grounds of Sandringham.

The Queen often commented that she could never get him off TikTok, and he’d sit up all night playing Call of Duty online with the King of Swaziland. Maybe he was working on modernising his comments to Aborigines, so instead of asking if they still chuck spears at each other, he would say, “A man still get shank wid spear and s***, is it?”

Many historians recalled his “difficult” upbringing, and it is remarkable how he started as a humble grandson of the king of Greece and worked his way up. One of them said, while he was in Paris, he was homeless apart from the home he was given by his aunt. I can identify with this as I’m in the same position of being homeless if you don’t count my home.

All television was dedicated to remembering him. BBC Four cancelled all programmes, because documentaries about Miles Davis are deeply offensive at a time like this. Radio 6 Music could only play sad songs, as a mark of respect, otherwise the Queen might have tried to tune into the World Service to see how her subjects in St Lucia were coping, and as she’s not familiar with digital radio, she might have accidentally put on 6 Music, and if she heard an upbeat Arctic Monkeys song from the first album, she’d be furious they didn’t replace it with something suitably melancholic from one of the later ones.

Sadly, once an hour on each radio station, we had to stop hearing from someone who once met Prince Philip, for the weather forecast, where you expected someone to say, “This weather is appropriate because Prince Philip invented sunny spells.”

I didn’t check, but I’m sure CBeebies showed an episode of Teletubbies, in which Philip shoots Dipsy on a hunting expedition.

Before each football match at the weekend, there was two minutes’ silence, double the usual minute granted for less important people, such as anyone in the world, and equal to what we give for the combined dead of all wars. But given his achievements, two minutes isn’t nearly enough. I propose a year’s silence so we can truly reflect on all his magnificence and modernising and starting up Greenpeace.

Then, instead of rushing through the highlights of such a glorious life, squeezing it all into programmes that last only five or six days, the BBC should commemorate him properly, by re-running his whole life in real time with a programme that lasts 99 years and 10 months.

If we are to truly honour him, the main oration at the funeral should be read by Greta Thunberg, who is trying as best as she can to continue the work he began as founder of the environmental movement.

Hopefully she can read out the story from biographer Robert Hardman, who wrote that a maharajah in India arranged a trip for the prince that was “very clear in its purpose. Prince Philip was going to shoot a tiger.” This shows his commitment to conserving nature, because if animals are left to run round alive they get torn to shreds, but if they’re neatly shot, they can be beautifully conserved for centuries as a rug.

So hopefully this period of mourning will pay the respect that’s due. CCTV cameras must be positioned to check that everyone’s suitably devastated enough, and anyone not sobbing must be visited by men in dark glasses who whisper, “You have five seconds to start blubbering or your family will never see you again.”

Special attention must be given to his message, which we were told many times, that he’d always insisted when he died he “didn’t want any fuss”. As a mark of respect, his words “I don’t want any fuss” should be spelt in giant firework displays that explode over every town, followed by a 234,569 gun salute, during which all our children are forced to dress as Prince Philip and say at once, “I don’t want any fuss.”

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