|The “most ignorant and unfit” royal consort in his full glory|
When Tom Paine wrote his anti-monarchy pamphlet Common Sense more than two hundred years ago, he noted that the minds of royals “are early poisoned by importance, and the world they act in differs so materially from the world at large.” By the time they reach the throne, they’re “frequently the most ignorant and unfit of any throughout the dominions.” That could certainly be said of ninety year old Prince Philip, the man that much of the media is today celebrating as being “the very best of his generation”.
If Philip Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg was just a pensioner scraping by in a damp flat somewhere, he wouldn’t be called ‘great’. If a nonagenarian in some slum was known to prefer political systems that aren’t “ruled by [their] people” then he would be seen as a bit of a crank to say the least. But that’s what Prince Philip said to Alfredo Strössner, then fascist dictator of Paraguay, on a royal visit. And why wouldn’t he? His wife hides her dictatorial powers behind the facade of UK democracy.
Similarly, if the same oldie said they had a “commitment to protecting wildlife”, but then went and shot a tiger, a crocodile and a rhinoceros – endangered species all – in the space of a few days, he’d probably be locked up. Yet Prince Philip did all this on a hunting trip in the 1960s. But why wouldn’t he? The aristocracy has enjoyed this ‘sport’ for hundreds of years. They are brought up to believe everything else in the world should only exist for their pleasure.
In addition to his contempt for endangered Paraguayans and endangered four legged creatures, he also holds contempt for people struggling to get by in the UK. He famously denied that there were any poor people in the country, then mocked the unemployed as the early 1980s recession took hold. But why would we expect anything different? The only time way he would ever see any poverty is at photo opportunity time.
I’m obliged to Johann Hari for those particular examples of Prince Philip being less than “the very best of his generation”. However, I’m forced to disagree with him when he argues for a republic, with an elected president. No one individual could ever rule in the interests of all, and we need only look at people such as George W Bush to see that “the most ignorant and unfit” can become president too, given the right financial and political backing.
In last night’s soft-focus BBC ‘interview’, Prince Philip told a toadying Fiona Bruce that he’s going to “slow down” now he’s reached his advanced age. Presumably, for such a non-productive human being, that means he’s just going to stop, which wouldn’t do the rest of us any harm at all. But what would annoy him most is his greatest fear – a society that is genuinely “ruled by its people”. And if it was, perhaps he could clean the toilets.