Prince Philip and his completely non-English sense of humor

On April 9, the British press office announced the death of Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II. We are sure that you have already read about this in the media – this news will be discussed for at least several more weeks.

Not so long ago, we have already published material about the British crown – how the queen answers letters. But now we have also decided to honor the memory of Philip, an outstanding philanthropist who was a member and patron of over 850 charitable and environmental organizations. And he also had a far from royal sense of humor, which often went beyond the royal etiquette.

Let us recall the most famous phrases of Prince Philip, which were completely on the edge or even beyond the edge.

Did the prince want to become a virus in his next life?

Philip believed that overpopulation is one of the biggest problems in modern society. Although this was his personal opinion, and not the opinion of the entire monarchy, he did not hesitate to express it.

He did not hesitate to talk about “voluntary family and limitation” – “competent family planning and restrictions on the number of children.” But often he is credited with much harsher and more categorical phrases.

For example, many foreign media replicated the quote that Philip allegedly uttered:

“If I were reincarnated I would wish to be returned to earth as a killer virus to lower human population levels.”


“If I could be reborn, I would like to return to earth as a deadly virus to reduce the level of the human population.”

A bit overkill for a government official, isn’t it? Philip was sharp on the tongue and rather unrestrained in his statements, but not so much.

It is interesting that each media slightly alters the phrase, placing accents at their own will. We figured out where the fuss comes from.

The original phrase in a slightly modified format appeared as part of a review of the book by American writer Fleur Coles “People as Animals”. It was printed in the Los Angeles Times June 9, 1988 issue.

In the review, the phrase sounded softer on behalf of the prince:

“I must confess that I am tempted to ask for reincarnation as a particularly deadly virus, but that is perhaps going too far.”


“I must admit that I would like to become a particularly dangerous virus in my next life, but perhaps it will be too much.”

But the quote itself is taken out of context. Because the author of the book approached some famous people with the question “What would you choose to be if you could be reincarnated as an animal?” (Who would you like to be if you could become an animal in your next life?). And Prince Philip was the patron of the organization from which this book was created. And then everything falls into place.

And it turned out that the prince gave a rude and specific, but a joke. At the same time, he immediately admitted that he was going too far:

– Who would you like to be if you could become an animal in your next life?

– I must admit that I would like to become a particularly dangerous virus in my next life, but perhaps it will be too much.

In the review, the question is at the very beginning of the text, and the prince’s quote is at the end. To understand the meaning, you need to read the entire article.

And the media tore the phrase out of context, changed its form and meaning and replicated it as the prince’s desire to greatly thin out humanity.

A joker prince and quite a bit racist

Prince Philip’s personality was rather complex. The monarch allowed himself both rude expressions and harsh jokes. He was not even ashamed of frank curses.

Here’s how in this situation. The prince was tired of too long preparations for photos with veterans and told the photographer: “Just take the fucking picture” – “Just take a fucking photo.”

But not all of the prince’s famous quotes made it onto the video. A huge number remained only in the archives of organizations and personal letters of the monarch.

The author of Young Prince Philip: His Turbulent Early Life has collected quite a few similar quotes from the first half of the prince’s life.

For example, immediately after the coronation of Elizabeth, Philip’s first phrase was: “Where did you get that hat?” (Where did you get such a hat?).

And about serving in the army, Philip said this:

I didn’t particularly want to go into the Army – I didn’t fancy walking much.

I didn’t really want to go to the army – I don’t like walking a lot.

Do you feel self-irony? Indeed, in fact, young Philip first became a cadet at the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, then graduated brilliantly and successfully served on a British battleship and participated in naval battles during World War II. And in 1942 he became one of the youngest mates of the ship’s captain in Britain.

It is very noticeable that the prince grew up in a time when racism was the norm, and it was not shameful to despise other nations. And although the prince tried to control himself, a huge number of his not very pleasant jokes and phrases have been preserved in the archives.

We will analyze some of them.

Especially the Asians were hit hard. In 1986, Philip gave a lecture to the British who studied at universities in China, and uttered the famous phrase:

If you stay here much longer, you’ll all be slitty-eyed.

If you stay here longer, then everyone will become narrow-eyed.

This Philippe-style joke offended the Chinese quite a lot and made it onto the covers of many newspapers and magazines around the world.

“Philip Gets It All Wong” – An interesting pun is hidden here. The journalist combined the phrase “Philip gets it all wrong” and the name of the politician Andrew Wong, President of the Hong Kong Legislative Council. At that time, Hong Kong was still under British control and Philip’s impartial remarks only strengthened anti-British sentiments. As a result, in 1997, Hong Kong gained independence and came under the control of the PRC.

And during the same visit, he called Beijing, the capital of China, the word “ghastly” (terrible, unpleasant).

And like the icing on the cake – in the same year, but already at a meeting in WWF (World Wildlife Fund) he said the following phrase:

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.


If it has four legs, but it is not a chair, if it has two wings and flies, but it is not an airplane, and if it floats, but it is not a submarine, the Chinese will eat it.

It was not only the Chinese who got it. A rather strange and intolerant humor touched almost everyone where the prince went on official and unofficial visits.

For example, he asked a successful Australian native entrepreneur:

Do you still throw spears at each other?

Are you still throwing spears at each other?

And a student from Papua New Guinea once asked:

You managed not to get eaten, then?

You managed not to get eaten, huh?

So he clearly did not suffer from tolerance and excessive tact and was rather unpleasant in communication for the common people, if it was still possible to communicate with him.

However, at official events, his performances were almost always flawless.

Here, for example, is one of the first speeches of Philip, who was not yet a prince, but was already betrothed to the future queen.

In every kind of human activity there are those who lead and there are those who follow. You have honored the leaders. Now if you were allow me I would like to accept the Freedom of this City not only for myself, but for all those millions who follow during the Second World War.

The ideal that my wife and I’ve set before us is to make an utmost use of a special opportunities we have to try to bring home to our generation the full importance of that contribution and the efforts both at work and at play that is required of us.


In everything that a person does, there are those who lead and those who follow others. You have honored the leaders. Now, if you will allow me, I would like to accept the title of honorary citizen of the city, not only for myself, but also for those millions who followed during the Second World War.

The ideal that stands before me and my wife is to make the most of the special opportunities that we have in order to convey to our generation the importance of this contribution and effort both in the work and in the actions that are required of us.

Everything, as befits the speech of an aristocrat and future husband of the Queen of Great Britain. No ambiguity, mockery, or intolerance.

During his long life, Philip made over 5,000 official speeches. And they were all decorous and worthy of a queen’s husband.

But the prince did not rush into high politics, leaving only the duties of the head of the family and focusing his efforts on various kinds of charitable organizations. No joke – he allocated money to more than 850 different projects, most of them aimed at saving and caring for the environment. So even in spite of his rude character and specific sense of humor, the prince was a good person.

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