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The Duke of Edinburgh - a man who spoke his mind

Ellen Manning
·8-min read

Watch: The Duke of Edinburgh dies, aged 99

The Duke of Edinburgh will forever be remembered as the man who spoke his mind, amusing and offending in equal measure during decades at the Queen's side.

Between 1947 and when he retired from public service, Prince Philip carried out 22,220 solo engagements, undertook 637 foreign visits and gave 5,496 speeches.

During those, he became well known for his throwaway comments, insults and frank remarks.

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - JULY 06: The Duke of Edinburgh attends the Presentation Reception for The Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award holders in the gardens at the Palace of Holyroodhouse on July 6, 2017 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Jane Barlow - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
The duke, here at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in 2017 will be known for his controversial comments. (Jane Barlow - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Here are some of the prince’s controversial quotes:

Speaking in 1966: "British women can't cook".

To Elton John about his gold Aston Martin in 2001: “Oh, it’s you that owns that ghastly car, is it?”

To singer Tom Jones after the 1969 Royal Variety Performance: "What do you gargle with, pebbles?"

On a visit to Canada in 1969: "I declare this thing open, whatever it is."

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 01: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 48 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Lord Samuel Vestey, Master of the Horse, talks with Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh during the Ceremonial Welcome for the President of Colombia at Horse Guards Parade on November 1, 2016 in London, England. The President of the Republic of Colombia Juan Manuel Santos and his wife Maria Clemencia Rodriguez de Santos are paying their first State Visit to the UK as official guests of Queen Elizabeth. (Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)
The late Lord Samuel Vestey, Master of the Horse, with Prince Philip, in 2016 in London, England. (Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)

Read more: Prince Philip death: The Duke of Edinburgh dies, aged 99

To Simon Kelner, republican editor of The Independent, at a reception at Windsor Castle: “What are you doing here?” Kelner answered: “I was invited, sir” to which Philip replied: “Well, you didn’t have to come.”

During the 1981 recession: "Everybody was saying we must have more leisure. Now they are complaining they are unemployed".

“You can take it from me the Queen has the quality of tolerance in abundance.”

<<enter caption here>> on April 11, 2017 in Dunstable, United Kingdom.
On a visit to a zoo in Dunstable in April 2017 with the Queen. He retired later that year. (PA Images)

Shouting from the deck of Britannia in Belize in 1994 to the Queen: "Yak, yak, yak; come on get a move on."

Referring to the Second World War while speaking about stress counselling for servicemen in 1995: "We didn't have counsellors rushing around every time somebody let off a gun, asking 'Are you all right? Are you sure you don't have a ghastly problem?' You just got on with it."

At a party in 2004: “Bugger the table plan, give me my dinner!”

To a driving instructor in Oban, Scotland, in 1995: “How do you keep the natives off the booze long enough to get them through the test?”

When presented with a hamper of goods by the US ambassador in 1999: “Where’s the Southern Comfort?”

PAPUA NEW GUINEA - OCTOBER 14:  Queen Elizabeth ll and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh give a reception on board Britannia on October 14, 1982 in Papua New Guinea.  (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth ll and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh give a reception on board Britannia in October 1982. (Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)

Speaking on the call to ban firearms after the Dunblane shooting: "If a cricketer, for instance, suddenly decided to go into a school and batter a lot of people to death with a cricket bat, which he could do very easily, I mean, are you going to ban cricket bats?"

Referring to a Cambridge University car park attendant who did not recognise him in 1997: "Bloody silly fool!"

About a fusebox in a factory in 1999: "It looks as if it was put in by an Indian."

To young deaf people in Cardiff, in 1999, about a school's steel band: "Deaf? If you are near there, no wonder you are deaf."

WINDSOR, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 18: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 24 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh attends the wedding of Lady Gabriella Windsor and Thomas Kingston at St George's Chapel on May 18, 2019 in Windsor, England. (Photo by Pool/Max Mumby/Getty Images)
Prince Philip laughs with family at the wedding of Lady Gabriella Windsor and Thomas Kingston in May 2019 in Windsor. (Max Mumby/Getty Images)

When asked to stroke a koala in Australia in 1992: "Oh no, I might catch some ghastly disease."

To a Briton in Budapest, Hungary, in 1993: "You can't have been here that long - you haven't got a pot belly."

To a wealthy islander in the Cayman Islands in 1994: "Aren't most of you descended from pirates?"

To a student in 1998 who had been trekking in Papua New Guinea: "You managed not to get eaten, then?"

In 1956: “It’s my custom to say something flattering to begin with so I shall be excused if I put my foot in it later on.”

At a trade fair in Germany in 1997, he welcomed German Chancellor Helmut Kohl as "Reichskanzler" - the last German leader to use the title was Adolf Hitler.

To 13-year-old Andrew Adams in Salford in 2001: "You're too fat to be an astronaut."

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 27: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 48 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh attend the funeral of Patricia Knatchbull, Countess Mountbatten of Burma at St Paul's Church Knightsbridge on June 27, 2017 in London, England. Patricia, Countess Mountbatten of Burma daughter of Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma and third cousin of Queen Elizabeth II died aged 93 on June 13 2017. (Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles and Prince Philip, at the funeral of Patricia Knatchbull, Countess Mountbatten of Burma in Knightsbridge in 2017. (Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)

To the Aircraft Research Association in 2002: “If you travel as much as we do, you appreciate the improvements in aircraft design of less noise and more comfort – provided you don’t travel in something called economy class, which sounds ghastly."

To the President of Nigeria, who was in national dress, in 2003: “You look like you’re ready for bed!”

While watching Sir Elton John perform at the Royal Variety Performance in 2001: "I wish he'd turn the microphone off."

Talking to a successful aborigine entrepreneur in Australia in 2002: "Do you still throw spears at each other?"

On Stoke-on-Trent, during a visit in 1997: “Ghastly.”

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 12: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 48 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh watch a carnival parade as they attend 'The Patron's Lunch' celebrations to mark Queen Elizabeth II's 90th birthday on The Mall on June 12, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)
Laughing with granddaughter-in-law Kate at 'The Patron's Lunch' celebrations to mark Queen Elizabeth II's 90th birthday on The Mall in June 2016. (Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)

To a young female officer on Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, in 2002: "You look like a suicide bomber."

To newsreader Michael Buerk in 2004, when told he knew about the Duke of Edinburgh’s Gold Awards: “That’s more than you know about anything else then.”

To a blind woman outside Exeter Cathedral, 2002: "Do you know they're now producing eating dogs for anorexics?"

To designer Stephen Judge in July 2009: "Well, you didn't design your beard too well, did you?"

In 1987: “I never see any home cooking – all I get is fancy stuff.”

To businessman Atul Patel at a reception for British Indians in October 2009: “There's a lot of your family in tonight.”

To a 24-year-old Sea Cadet when she told him she also worked in a nightclub in March 2010: “Do you work in a strip club?”

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 16: Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh talks to guests during a garden party at Buckingham Palace  on May 16, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Victoria Jones - WPA Pool /Getty Images)
The Queen and Philip at a garden party at Buckingham Palace in 2017. (Victoria Jones - WPA Pool /Getty Images)

To Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie about a piece of tartan at a papal reception in Edinburgh in September 2010: “Do you have a pair of knickers made out of this?”

On approaching his 90th birthday in 2011: “Bits are beginning to drop off.”

When asked by a VIP at a local airport how his flight was, Philip asked: “Have you ever flown in a plane?” The VIP answered: “Oh yes, sir, many times”, to which Philip replied: “Well, it was just like that.”

To David Miller, who drives a mobility scooter, at the Valentine Mansion in Redbridge in March 2012: “How many people have you knocked over this morning on that thing?”

To a 25-year-old council worker, who was wearing a dress with a zip running the length of its front, on a Jubilee visit to Bromley, Kent, in May 2012: “I would get arrested if I unzipped that dress.”

To a Filipino nurse at a Luton hospital in February 2013: “The Philippines must be half empty as you're all here running the NHS.”

The Duke of Edinburgh speaking to guests at a garden party at Buckingham Palace in London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday June 1, 2017. See PA story ROYAL Garden. Photo credit should read: John Stillwell/PA Wire
The Duke of Edinburgh speaking to guests at a garden party at Buckingham Palace in London in 2017. (PA Images)

When offered wine in Rome in 2000: “I don’t care what kind it is, just get me a beer!”

To an RAF photographer in July 2015: “Just take the f***ing picture.”

To a pensioner on a visit to the Charterhouse almshouse for elderly men in February 2017: “You look starved.”

In response to questions on when the Prince of Wales would succeed to the throne: “Are you asking me if the Queen is going to die?”

On a gunman who tried to kidnap the Princess Royal in 1974: “If the man had succeeded in abducting Anne, she would have given him a hell of a time while in captivity.”

In response to a photographer covering a royal visit to India falling out of a tree: “I hope he breaks his bloody neck.”

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 31: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 48 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge attend the 2015 Rugby World Cup Final match between New Zealand and Australia at Twickenham Stadium on October 31, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Max Mumby/Pool/Indigo/Getty Images)
Prince Philip shares a laugh with grandson Prince William at the 2015 Rugby World Cup Final match between New Zealand and Australia at Twickenham Stadium. (Max Mumby/Pool/Indigo/Getty Images)

On the Princess Royal: “If it doesn't fart or eat hay, she's not interested.”

On marriage: “When a man opens a car door for his wife, it's either a new car or a new wife.”

To the matron of a Caribbean hospital in 1966: “You have mosquitoes. I have the press.”

To Paraguayan dictator Alfredo Stroessner: “It's a pleasant change to be in a country that isn't ruled by its people.”

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