I’m not a monarchist. Nor am I a republican. I am a status quoist. I can see a certain amount of value in the Royal Family as an institution, but also recognise that its abolition will be the least of the UK’s economic woes. The preservation of the monarchy keeps alive a thousand year old story, with new chapters being added by each new character. Prince Philip’s death is merely another turned page in the book. But best of all, it avoids the drama of further referendums, societal splits and the possibility of a rogue Tory PM declaring themselves president for life.
Yes, it is a sad time for the Queen. And also for Jonathon Pryce, who’d only recently won the role of Phil in Season 5 of Netflix’s Crown. It seems unlikely that he’ll make it into Season 6. But for most of us, it’s not the biggest news of the day. Or so we’d have assumed. The Beeb decided otherwise, suspending broadcasting on all channels, television and radio. Tributes to Phil followed. Wall to wall stuff. Heavens, I half expected them to draft in Ri Chun Hee to add a little bit of North Korean magic to the Six O’Clock News.
The thing for any self respecting news outlet, journalist or blogger to do at the moment, is to recount that pivotal moment in their life when they crossed paths with the Duke of Edinburgh. A witty tale will ensue. A tear may be wiped away. A sorrowful chuckle will end the sorry episode, but by that stage I’ll have switched over to Netflix. The final series of the Crown can’t come quick enough. I mean, seriously…who doesn’t want to find out what Phil’s final words were? My money is something along the lines of, “Good God man, next thing, you’ll be telling me that Meghan is black and that Archie, my own flesh and blood is…” The curtain drops here, and the scene cuts to the Queen standing at an open grave.
But let’s move on. Because I suppose that I am obliged, by official protocol and stuff, to provide you with my own tale involving me and the Duke of Edinburgh. I do have one. It’s a little tenuous, but here goes. Many years ago, at the rather posh school I went to, I signed up to do the Duke of Edinburgh Award. It’s actually a very good program. And it was hugely preferable to signing up to the Combined Cadet Force to play pretend army in muddy fields. Or going to talk to old people who were already knee deep in senility in local old folks homes. Those were the alternative options.
Alas, everyone and their grandmother signed up for the DofE Award, and so a number of us were obliged to go do one of the other two. I begged and pleaded to be allowed to go to see the old folks, but it was decided that I should play pretend army in muddy fields. It sounded dreadful. In practice, it was worse. There was literally just one person who had voluntarily joined CCF, a kid called Russell Lewis, but at least he was a friend. He loved army stuff. So much so that he carried a Rambo style knife around with him, which on one occasion he accidentally put a half inch into the back of another classmate on the bus home. These days, that sort of stuff would be a big deal. Back in the 1980s it just got you on the advanced Knife Training Course*.
Does my failure to get onto the DofE scheme end my link to Phil? No, not at all. My Rambo inspired friend went on to join the real army, in the officer ranks. Indeed, he went into the Paras, my dad’s old regiment, and became Major Russell Lewis. He served in Northern Ireland and Afghanistan, and turned out to be so good at stabbing people, he earned himself a Military Cross. He’s even written a book, which I might well now buy. Now, in case you didn’t know, the Colonel in Chief of the Paras is Prince Charles. Who is Phil’s oldest son. And there, amigos, is my tenuous link.
* This may be a slight exaggeration. I think he may have been suspended for a week or so. But it just goes to show, getting a bit stabby at school isn’t always a bad thing. Unless you’re the stabbee, of course.