Simon Lincoln Reader
Many of us who don’t believe that Britain is racist, or never fell victim to Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS), or who haven’t been radicalized by Beijing24 or the Daily Moonface braced for impact last Friday at the announcement of the death of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, because we know the woke left chooses moments like this to stick two fingers down its throat in spastic fits about identity and inheritance. So we expected to see the news swamped by choreographed interviews with wojak-faced performers carrying placards submitting to fake martyrdoms. We expected to hear a typically incoherent but vaguely threatening statement from Joe Biden about his Irish roots – or worse, the subject switched to a conversation held between John Kerry and Klaus Schwab held aboard the former’s Gulf Stream as they traveled to another world capital to warn everyone of impending climate disaster. But nothing like this happened.
Instead its been one of the most interesting weeks in the recent history of news, arguably because for the first time in over the year we haven’t been tortured by some deranged Marxist-scientist telling us we’re all going to die, but more likely because we’re experiencing something that gives us more to think about than some of world’s incumbent, suffocating pathologies.
In the last few days, charity officials and military historians have filled the airwaves with distantly familiar words such as ‘loyalty’ and ’service’. Former participants of the Duke of Edinburgh Award, many of them formerly juvenile delinquents, have spoken of the life-changing force of nature. Poets, theologians, scrap metal dealers and wine makers have emerged to talk of the power and magic of the enquiring mind. In contrast to the endless stream of access journalism, Biden PR, outrage porn and agitprop, the news this week sounds like a pre-Greta David Attenborough discovering a new intelligent species.
That is not to say that the garbage CNN hasn’t tried to sour the reflection. Noting Phil’s death, it remarked that it was ‘struggling to identify a legacy’ given some ‘problematic commentary’. The same fate met a handful of obscure incels: against the sight of London cabbies lining Pall Mall in solidarity with the occasion, these will be remembered as nothing more than the barely audible squeaks of a bowel movement.
I think that’s because of some awkward facts rooted in Phil’s history that position him not as the child of privilege most critics assume, but alongside many others abandoned by wayward fathers, or penniless, or shuffled around to strange, unfamiliar places. Having blue blood may sound extravagant, but it doesn’t contain chemicals that overwhelms grief and loss. Seen this way a compelling parallel exists between the early life of Phil and someone like the Ivory Park entrepreneur and Drip Footwear CEO Lekau Sehoana – principally in a choice both were forced into making: life can be a mother******, either you sink, or you attempt to swim. Both chose the latter.
Then there is the word ‘sacrifice’. As previously unknown examples of Phil’s achievements were celebrated, a picture emerged of a man that would have almost certainly enjoyed success outside his role as companion to the Queen – in his naval career, in sport, literature and even viticulture. But his interests were shelved because he made it his life’s work to protect the woman he clearly loved. In the old world we used to call this ‘romance’ – and it used to make females swoon. Nowadays, we are more accustomed to hearing some blue-haired university lecturer hiss this kind of thing off as misogyny.
Another explanation of the last week could be the begrudging respect afforded to him by the press. Long before most of the media became what it is today, Phil detested them (I shudder to think what he would have made of CNN’s incumbent factchecking asshats). But unlike Donald Trump, he didn’t make the mistake of condemning them as ‘the enemy of the people’. He just sat there scowling – and they blinked. In the end all they could do was try smear him by plagiarising some unconvincing Netflix fiction.
Many of us saw him as the outsider’s man in the establishment, and thus found a way to identify with parts of the British condition that excluded wealth or being on the lucky side of the class divide. And of all the ways of the old world, wit – and an appreciation of – was paramount to this unusual relationship. One encounter remembered by the Canadian British broadcaster Mark Steyn captures this:
I was invited to dine at Buckingham Palace on the eve of the Australian referendum on whether to become a republic. One of my fellow diners, bemoaning the lack of agricultural workers in Britain, explained that his farm now brought in young Australians and South Africans, who were able to make ninety-to-a-hundred quid a day (about £60,000 a year) picking onions.
“Crying all the way to the bank?” murmured the Duke.