Gaffe-prone Prince Philip wants "no fuss" over 90th birthday
By Anna Tomforde Jun 8, 2011, 7:59 GMT
Britain\'s Queen Elizabeth II (L) and Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh (R) visit The Rock of Cashell (St. Patrick\'s Rock), Cashell, County Tipperary, Ireland, 20 May 2011. The Royal couple arrived on 17 May in Ireland for a historic four-day state visit, the first by a British monarch since Irish independence. EPA/AIDAN CRAWLEY
London - Over the years, Britain's Prince Philip has caused both mirth and anger with his many gaffes, but when it comes to marking his milestone 90th birthday, he has said he wants 'no fuss.'
At a time when royal celebrations and anniversaries fall thick and fast in Britain, the Duke of Edinburgh would also have something to celebrate: He is Britain's longest-serving consort, and the oldest serving partner of a reigning monarch.
The royal, soon-to-be nonagenarian, who still indulges his favourite hobby of carriage riding and is reported to be slim enough to fit into the dashing naval uniform made for him when he was 20, has made clear that it will be business as usual for him on Friday.
'That's the way he likes it. It's low key. It's very typical of him,' an aide was quoted as saying. A special thanksgiving service at Windsor Castle outside London on Sunday will take place away from the spotlight.
However, during his 64 years at the side of Queen Elizabeth II, whom he married in 1947, the duke has been in the spotlight in many parts of the world for his legendary plain talking and sometimes uncomfortable gaffes that range from the comic to the insulting.
'Aren't most of you descended from pirates?', the prince asked a wealthy man in the Cayman islands in 1994. 'You managed not to get eaten then?' was his comment to a British student he met on a visit to Papua New Guinea four years later.
In China, in 1986, Prince Philip told British student Simon Kerby: 'If you stay here much longer, you will go home with slitty eyes.' He described Beijing as 'ghastly' on the same tour.
'You can't have been here that long - you haven't got a pot belly,' Prince Philip said to a British tourist on a tour of Budapest, the capital of Hungary, in 1993.
'I would like to go to Russia very much - although the bastards murdered half my family,' said Prince Philip in 1967, asked if he would like to visit the then Soviet Union.
Other memorable comments include Prince Philip addressing Germany's former federal chancellor, Helmut Kohl, as 'Reichskanzler' - a title last used by Adolf Hitler - in a speech at a trade fair in Hanover in 1997.
Tom Jones, the award-winning Welsh singer, was asked by the prince after a 1969 performance: 'What do you gargle with, pebbles?'
Some of his comments, however, have landed the prince in trouble in the past, angering race campaigners and human rights activists.
In 1999, Prince Philip apologized for remarks he made during a visit to an electronics factory in Edinburgh when he pointed to an old-fashioned fuse box and declared: 'It looks as if it was put in by an Indian.'
He later explained: 'I meant to say cowboys. I just got my cowboys and Indians mixed up.'
The National Assembly Against Racism condemned the remark as 'absolutely abysmal and disgraceful.' But it said that, 'with hindsight,' the duke had accepted that what were intended as light-hearted comments were inappropriate.
Prince Philip also hit the headlines in 2002 when he asked an aborigine entrepreneur: 'Do you chaps still chuck spears at each other?' The man addressed described the question as a 'bit naive' but said he was not offended.
Judging by newspaper commentaries written about his forthcoming birthday, the duke, perhaps mellowed with age, seems to have been forgiven his many faux-pas.
Having 'sacrificed' his own naval career to be a loyal consort to the queen, Prince Philip had 'never once caused her embarrassment or got her into trouble,' thus helping her to become 'one of the great monarchs in our history,' conservative columnist Peter Oborne wrote in the Daily Telegraph.