Just weeks from his 96th birthday, Britain’s Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, has announced his retirement from public duties.
Described by his wife, Queen Elizabeth II, as her “strength and stay” the prince has been notorious over the years for his unguarded comments — “gaffe prone” according the tabloid press or “racist” as the politically correct would have it.
Many of his more infamous comments have fallen from his lips while visiting numerous Asian countries — but the Philippines, which has never received a royal visit, has largely been spared.
However, on a visit to a British hospital in 2013 he did manage a light-hearted dig at the country, saying to a Filipina nurse: “The Philippines must be half empty as you’re all here running the NHS (National Health Service).”
So, I would say the country has got off lightly compared to some of its neighbours. Here are a few of the prince’s quips, jibes and “gaffes” about Asia and its people:
“If it has got four legs and it is not a chair, if it has got two wings and it flies but is not an aeroplane, and if it swims and it is not a submarine, the Cantonese will eat it.” (at a 1986 World Wildlife Fund meeting).
‘It looks as if it was put in by an Indian.’ (pointing at an old-fashioned fusebox in a factory near Edinburgh in 1999).
They must be out of their minds.’ (in the Solomon Islands, in 1982, when he was told that the annual population growth was 5%).
‘If you stay here much longer, you’ll all be slitty-eyed.’ (to British students in China, during the 1986 state visit).
Your country is one of the most notorious centres of trading in endangered species in the world.’ (in Thailand, in 1991, after accepting a conservation award).
You managed not to get eaten, then?’ (suggesting to a student in 1998 who had been trekking in Papua New Guinea that tribes there were still cannibals).
Do you still throw spears at each other?’ (In Australia in 2002 talking to a successful aborigine entrepreneur).
There’s a lot of your family in tonight.’ (after looking at the name badge of businessman Atul Patel at a Palace reception for British Indians in October 2009).
Ghastly! (When asked his opinion on Beijing during his 1986 visit).
PS: There is at least one place where his retirement from public life will be mourned, and that’s on the island of Tanna, part of the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu.
Following a visit there early in the queen’s reign, some islanders saw his arrival as the culmination of an ancient prophesy.
To this day the followers of the Prince Philip Movement continue to worship him as a living god.