Saturday, April 10, 2021



In a world gagged by woke activists where leaders mouth crafted lies instead of telling it the way it really is, the Duke of Edinburg should have been treasured instead of viewed with alarm when occasionally his candour slipped into the questionable.

Like many veteran Canadian journalists I had plenty of opportunities to watch the Royals because of their many visits. Prince Philip had verbal flashes that delighted me although the CBC would have turned them into a crusade of condemnation if its very correct staff had known.

I recall many years ago his love of horses pushing him to a comment that would have had his enemies in the English media drooling. He had been a good polo player and long-time president of the International Equestrian Federation, so naturally I asked about the equestrian events at the Mexico Olympics.

He said he worried about the horses in the high altitude because he was unsure the damn #$@*#* Mexicans cared enough about them. (I heard a similar sentiment later from a prominent Canadian in a box at the Royal Winter Fair who had loaned a horse to the Mexican jumping team which then pretended it had died when it hadn't.)

I never wrote about the Prince savaging Latin colleagues because off-the-record is a rule you never break if you don't want to be frozen into a useless observer.

Once the Duke was visiting the Toronto Press Club, which was a big deal considering his antipathy for the media, and the executive lined up to greet him. He asked what I did and I said I was the membership secretary. "Terrible job," he said. Not really, I replied, why would he say that?

"Don't people want to get their friends in and pressure you? I wanted to join this club in London. They had a ceremony where members voted on whether you could join by each taking a ball and then sticking their hands through a cloth sleeve into a big wooden box. If they didn't want you, they stuck the ball into a ledge up on one side. How would you like to be married to the Queen of England and have two bastards stick a ball there and black ball you."

Prince Philip had a pleasant aloof air in the inspection tours and walk-abouts, an attitude of confident approachability. I recall staying with a Toronto group with some clout in a guest house in Beijing that the Chinese reserved for important visitors. I was poking around and found a staff member who spoke English and boasted about how the Queen and Duke had stayed there. She raved about how great they had been, especially the Prince.

Remember the nice story that Allan Dickie wrote for CP about how the Royal couple had made everyone so relaxed at a luncheon in Yellowknife that as the meal ended, a big motherly waitress tapped the Duke on the shoulder and said "keep your fork, Duke, there's pie.)

Of course the graceful Queen is the mistress of comfort. I once blundered as a kid reporter into a little group of welcoming dignitaries beside the royal yacht Britannia. She spotted my press credentials and smoothly passed by with a smile.

At the start of Royal tours, there is often a session where media brass are invited to chat with the Royals a day before their staffs are set loose upon them. So there we are in the Ontario Room of the Royal York Hotel, the various editors and publishers herded into little groups. The Queen and Duke split up and circulated. I surveyed my group and worried it would be awkward because everyone would be too awed to chat with the Queen. So when she joined us, I started talking about how long a day it had been for her because she had flown just that day. She said she always kept her watch on London time as one way to combat jet lag.

She was there for the Queen's Plate and since she is famous for her knowledge of racing and blood lines. we talked about her presentation there. "Did she bet," I asked? She said she gave wagers to a lady-in-waiting. I said there was a long shot in the Plate that some had written was an interesting gamble. She nodded, smiled again, and went on to the next group.

The horse ran last  ...  dead last.


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