Now, before I get all sorts of disparaging comments from the royalists in the crowd, let me assure you I was brought up to respect the deceased. And therefore, I’ve resisted making any comment on the death of Prince Philip. That is, until now when a friend sent me a list of more than 50 “bon mots” made by him that are, shall we say, embarrassing at best.
So, amidst all the chatter about Phil being a swell fellow, “generous and without pomposity”, “always courteous, thoughtful, no fuss”, etc., may I briefly present another side.
You see, I met the Prince. It was many moons ago, back when my company was the biggest producer of corporate videos in Canada. The Royal Bank was a client and I had gotten to know their Chairman well after directing him in several productions. (I’ll leave his name out of this “to protect the innocent”.)
One day, I got a call from his secretary. “Prince Philip is coming to town to present the Duke of Edinburgh Awards,” I was told. (These trophies were designed to motivate young Canadians to set goals and challenge themselves to take control of their lives and futures.) Mr. --- (the Chairman) would like you to videotape him in conversation with the Duke about the Awards and about a new level that is being announced.” It was explained to me that we could shoot in the board room at the Bank’s office tower, following which the Chairman and the Prince would make their way over to the Royal York Hotel where a special lunch was being offered in Philip’s honour, hosted by the Mayor of Toronto and attended by the cream of Canada’s business community.
So on the day, I dressed appropriately, in a suit and tie, and my crew and I arrived early to set up our equipment and test it to ensure everything was running smoothly. We were ready to go with time to spare, and waited. And waited. And waited. Soon, I learned that the Duke was “running behind” and had not yet arrived.
Eventually, the Chairman walked in along with the Duke and his hangers-on. “Hi Peter,” he said, “may I present his Royal Highness, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edenborough.” I smiled warmly, shook hands with the Duke and offered, “Greetings Sir” to which he muttered “Hello” in a somewhat condescending manner. The two sat down, I arranged the lavelier microphones on their ties, and asked the Chairman if he would ask the Duke a question so we could get an audio level from both mics. (I had been warned, “You are not allowed to address the Prince himself. Only if he asks you something are you allowed to speak to him. And if you do, you must call him Your Royal Highness.” Yeah… right… well… Highness?... How high?... OK… sure…)
We set our levels and began taping. Everything went well and we concluded the piece. But Philip wanted to keep chatting: seems he was on a roll. Our crew began to quietly disassemble the gear while the two gentlemen sat talking. Suddenly, the Chairman’s secretary was at the door, beckoning to me frantically. I went over and she whispered, “The mayor’s on the phone. He needs to talk to you.”
Now, I knew the Mayor (no names again), having done videos with him too. “Yes sir, what can I do for you?” I asked. “Where the hell is the Duke? I’ve got corporate Canada here waiting and they’re not gonna stand around all day!” I tried to explain that Prince Philip had arrived late and was now waxing on about some matter of importance to him. “I don’t care, get him over here. Now!!” Click.
Why the hell it had fallen on me to move things along I’ll never know (other than the Mayor knew I was a take-charge kinda guy when it was necessary).
Anyway, I sidled over to where the two gentlemen were seated and tried to be unobtrusive. Eventually, a pause arrived in their conversation, the Chairman saw me waiting, and said, “Yes Peter, what can I do for you?”
“Actually, it’s his Royal Highness, sir,” I replied with all my best manners. I turned to the Duke. “Sir, your Royal Highness, I apologize sir, but the Mayor of Toronto has called and they require your attendance at the lunch in your honor at the Royal York Hotel. It seems time is of the essence.”
Well, didn’t he just give me the look! The stare! He gazed me up and down with an icy eye that left me feeling I better check under the hood of my car before starting it. He never said a word, but dressed me down with that stare. Then, with his nose in the air, he turned back to the Chairman and said, “Now, where were we?”, clearly indicating I was a piece of trash who had no business being anywhere near him. And he wasn’t going anywhere until we has good and ready!
Was it a power play? Damn right it was. And I’ll never forget that impertinent stare.
So, notwithstanding the comments about what a jocular fellow he was, I sure saw a different side of him that day, one that suggested he enjoyed his lofty position and was quite prepared to “lord it over” others whenever it suited him.
Meanwhile, those of you who know me are aware I’m no fan of the antiquated royal family who have stayed too long at the fair, but I do extol my condolences to Queen Elizabeth on the loss of her consort.