Remembering Prince Philip and his Visits to India

Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh passed away on April 9, 2021, aged 99. We take a look at his royal life, gaffes and his visits to India.

Remembering Prince Philip and his Visits to India f

"It looks as if it was put in by an Indian."

Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, the husband of Queen Elizabeth, passed away at the age of 99, at Windsor Castle on Friday, April 9, 2021.

An announcement revealing his sad demise from Buckingham Palace said:

“It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen announces the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.”

Prince Philip was the longest-serving royal consort in British History.

The duke was the companion of the Queen for 73 years and was the man who stood behind her through thick and thin during her 69-year reign.

Becoming a Royal

Remembering Prince Philip and his Visits to India - wedding

Born on June 10, 1921, on the Greek island of Corfu, as a Prince of Greece and Denmark, after his family was deposed, he lived in France. He then went to boarding school in Scotland.

When he was 18, that is when he met Princess Elizabeth (The Queen), his third cousin from their descent from Queen Victoria.

A royal biographer says that Princess Elizabeth fell for Philip when she 15-years-old.

In 1947, they were engaged to marry and got married on November 20, 1947.

His title of His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh was created before he got married.

It was not until 1957 when the title of ‘Prince’ was bestowed upon him.

About a year later after their wedding, they had their first child in 1948, Charles Phillip Arthur George (Prince of Wales) and then Princess Anne in 1950.

Subsequently, in 1960, Duke of York, Prince Andrew and in 1964, the Earl of Wessex, Prince Edward, were born into the royal family.

Prince Philip played a huge role in the Royal Navy and it was not until 1952, when his wife, Queen Elizabeth II, became the queen that he gave up the navy to become a royal consort.

He became an integral part of the royal family and was seen as an active and serving royal, who accompanied the Queen often on public engagements.

Life as The Duke of Edinburgh

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During his life, the Duke of Edinburgh earned the reputation of being strong-minded, never liked fuss, had a no-nonsense approach and got quite well-known for his gaffes.

In 1997, during their 50th anniversary, the Queen made a speech referring to Prince Philip and said:

“He is someone who doesn’t take easily to compliments.

“But he has quite simply been my strength and stay all these years.”

“And I, and his whole family, and this and many other countries owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim, or we shall ever know.”

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BBC’s royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell said that Prince Philip had made “a huge contribution to the success of the Queen’s reign”.

Witchell said Prince Philip was:

“Utterly loyal in his belief in the importance of the role that the Queen was fulfilling – and in his duty to support her”

“It was the importance of the solidity of that relationship, of their marriage, that was so crucial to the success of her reign.”

Prince Philip had a passion for the countryside, conservation, sports, design and much more.

The duke was the pioneer behind the Duke of Edinburgh Award, which helped lots of young people learn and develop new skills.

Peter Fleet from the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme said:

“I don’t know of many models of youth work or youth community programmes anywhere that is actually so flexible in meeting the needs of those different communities.

“And that’s quite a powerful thing in London because London’s a very diverse culture in itself.”

He also introduced the Prince Philip Designers Prize, to encourage new designs and creations.

Talking about his interests in design, Prince Philip said in an interview:

“I would hope the fact there is an award for designers and that if you’re a young designer, you will then associate the designer with what he’s designed.”

During his time as a duke, he also got known for his royal visits to many countries including India.

His gaffes on his visits would always catch press attention. One, in particular, caused an uproar with the Indian community.

The Indian Electrician Gaffe

In 1999, the Duke of Edinburgh visited a factory near Edinburgh.

During his walkabout at the hi-tech Racal-MESL  electronics factory, Prince Philip observed a fusebox and looked at the ‘shoddy workmanship’.

He then came out with one of his ill-judged and flippant comments saying that with the wires bursting out of the fuse box: “It looks as if it was put in by an Indian.”

The comments propagated outrage among the Indian community with condemnation for the remark.

The chair of the National Assembly Against Racism found the comments disgraceful and said:

“This sort of thing is of great concern to us because people expect the royal family to set an example.” 

After realising that the duke had offended the Indian community, an apology was issued by Buckingham Palace within hours, saying:

“The Duke of Edinburgh regrets any offence which may have been caused. With hindsight, he accepts that what were intended as light-hearted comments were inappropriate.” 

A spokesman for the Scottish National Party was not impressed and said:

“If anyone else had said it I’m sure the repercussions for them would be far more severe than for him.

“He needs to respect other races and cultures far more the he does.”

More Gaffes

Prince Philip, however, did not stop coming out with gaffes which landed him in the public eye for not the right reasons.

When touring India, when a photographer covering the royal visit to India fell out of a tree, the duke said: “I hope he breaks his bloody neck.”

Speaking to a Scottish driving instructor, the duke said: “How do you keep the natives off the booze long enough to get them through the test?”

In 1984, on a visit to Kenya, when he was given a small gift by a local woman, the duke said: “You are a woman, aren’t you?”.

In 1986, on a state visit to China, he told British students: “If you stay here much longer, you’ll all be slitty-eyed.”

in 1988, after seeing plans for the Duke and Duchess of York’s house at Sunninghill Park, he said: “It looks like a tart’s bedroom.” 

In 2001, when the duke met Andrew Adams, a 13-year-old boy on a school visit,  he told him: “You’re too fat to be an astronaut”.

During a visit in 2002 to an Aboriginal culture park in the Queensland rainforests of Australia, the duke questioned an Aboriginal businessman dressed in native costume: “Do you still throw spears at each other?”

To which the businessman, William Brim replied: “No. We don’t do that any more.”

In October 2009, at a Buckingham Palace reception for British Indians, the duke spoke to businessman, Atul Patel and said: “There’s a lot of your family in tonight.” 

In 2012, when Prince Philip met a 25-year-old council worker, Hannah Jackson, in Kent, wearing a red dress with a zip running all the way up its front, he said:

“I would get arrested if I unzipped that dress.”

On a visit to a Mars chocolate factory in 2013, talking to Audrey Cook, aged 83 who was discussing how she stripped or cut Mars Bars by hand, he said: “Most stripping is done by hand.” 

Visits to India

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Prince Philip accompanied Queen Elizabeth on several visits to India.

With India being seen as the Jewel in the Crown, it was a country always of significant interest in the post-colonial world.

The royal couple made three official state visits to India, in 1961, 1983 and 1997.

During the trips, the duke with his sense of humour did make quite an impression but it also landed him in some controversy as well.

1961

In 1961, the royal couple visited India for the very first time.

This was 14 years after the British had left India after colonial rule and nine years after Elizabeth became the Queen.

The event was covered by international media. The Chicago Tribune in a report wrote:

“Two million Indians, including many leaders who have been in British jails, will be on hand to welcome them.”

The Queen and Prince Philip visited Jaipur, Bombay (Mumbai), Agra, Calcutta (Kolkota), Madras (Chennai) and Agra.

With the duke having an avid interest in hunting, Tiger hunting was hosted by the Maharaja of Jaipur in Ranthambhore. This one one of their first events on the visit.

After the hunt, the duke was pictured with a dead eight-foot tiger he had shot with one bullet, alongside the Queen and the Maharaja and Maharani of Jaipur.

During the trip Prince Philip also shot a crocodile and mountain sheep.

However, because the duke had become the president of the World Wildlife Fund UK in the same year, the photo with the tiger became a major subject of controversy.

Remembering Prince Philip and his Visits to India - 1961

According to a book by Australian author John Zubrzycki, titled, The House of Jaipur: The Inside Story of India’s Most Glamorous Royal Family, Prince Philip had a love for Alphonso mangoes.

Gayatri Devi and husband Man Singh II, were the last ruling Maharaja of the Jaipur State who received the couple. John Zubrzycki writes:

“The first signatures, dated 22 January 1961 when the Jaipurs lived at Rajmahal Palace, are those of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.”

Gayatri Devi and her husband became great friends with the Queen and Prince Philip and every year, Gayatri sent a box of Alphonso mangoes from India for the duke’s birthday

The royal couple were guests of honour in Delhi for the Republic Day parade. Their trip to Madras lined the streets with thousands of people eager to get a glimpse of them.

A holiday for the day was announced when they visited Bangalore.

They visited the Taj Mahal after going to the races in Calcutta and Bombay.

Known for his love of polo, Prince Philip played the Indian-origin sport during this visit.

1983

1983 was the year of the next visit to India by the Queen and Prince Philip.

They were greeted at the airport by the president of India and a 21-gun salute.

The main theme of the royal tour was to emphasise the commonwealth.

The prime minister of India at the time was Indira Gandhi and she made sure the stay of the royal couple was to match the lifestyle of the British Raj.

Remembering Prince Philip and his Visits to India - 1983 visit

According to the New York Times, Indira consulted elders who lived in India before the Independence and emulated the details of the colonial era for the royal visit.

For their stay, the royal couple were assigned the once home of the British Viceroy, the guest wing of the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

The furnishing in the suite were changed from their Kashmiri style decor to those to match the days of the Raj.

The menu for the royal couple was modified to suit their taste buds and did not include much Indian food.

A US news agency reported during their visit:

“Although India officially condemns colonialism throughout the world, Indians are still fascinated by the lifestyle of the British Raj.”

1997

1997 was the year of the 50th Independence anniversary and the royal couple visited India during this year. 

Their trip was marred by a comment made by the British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, related to the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan. 

Prime minister of India, Inder Kumar Gujral and other politicians were not impressed with the remark. 

The intervention was snubbed by Gujral and called the UK a ‘third rate political power.’ 

Despite, this bad start, the royal visit continued. The couple visited a film set and a temple in Madras, in South India.

However, the Queen was not allowed to make a speech at a banquet hosted by the governor of Tamil Nadu state due to the Kashmir issue and her speeches were confined to New Delhi only.

Their trip continued and Prince Philip travelled alone to visit a village school in southern Andhra Pradesh state that received financial aid from the British government.

To fulfil the Prince’s quest to see their most popular sport, a game of ‘kabaddi’ was put on for 10 minutes featuring two teams organised by the teachers.

Despite being told by PM Gujral that the royal couple drop their visit to Amritsar prior to their arrival, they still went to the city in Punjab.

This was after the Queen made a speech in New Delhi in which she expressed regret for incidents such as the Amritsar massacre.

Remembering Prince Philip and his Visits to India - 1997 visit

During the visit to Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar, the royals laid a commemorative wreath.

This was the massacre site where General Dyer had opened fire merciless at a gathering of Indians in 1919 during colonial rule.

However, this visit also led to Prince Philip making a gaffe comment which was in querying the death toll at the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.

As he passed by the plaque which read “This place is saturated with the blood of about two thousand Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims who were martyred in a non-violent struggle”, it’s reported he said said: 

“Two thousand? It wasn’t, was it.

“That’s wrong. I was in the Navy with Dyer’s son. That’s a bit exaggerated… it must include the wounded.”

The visit did prompt protests from locals saying that the Queen should apologise for what took place at the Jallianwala Bagh.

The couple visited the Golden Temple in Amritsar, after visiting the bagh. Where the Queen was awarded a replica model of the temple by the committee.

The 1997 visit to India marked the last trip for Prince Philip to the country. 

In 2004, the duke attended the opening of a Sikh temple in west London, among many other visits and activities related to the South Asian community in Britain.

The duke retired from royal duties in 2017.

Reactions from the royal family include the Prince of Wales, his son, saying:

“His energy was astonishing, in supporting my mama, and doing it for such a long time, and some extraordinary way being able to go on doing it for so long.

“What he has done has amounted to an astonishing achievement.”

His daughter, the Princess Royal, Anne, said:

“He treated everybody as an individual and gave them the respect that he felt they were due as individuals.”

Prince Andrew, remembering his father and childhood said:

“Like any other family at the time, your parents went out to work in the day.

“But in the evening, just the same as any other family, we would get together, we would sit on the sofa as a group and he would read to us.”

Condolence messages have poured in from around the world after the announcement of the death of the Duke of Edinburgh.

Lord Indarjit Singh, head of the UK’s Sikh community, the duke was a “pioneer in promoting interfaith understanding”.

Lord Singh added: “Prince Philip served our country with a rare mix of wisdom and boundless energy. His passing is a loss to us all.”

PM Modi of India tweeted and said:

“My thoughts are with the British people and the Royal Family on the passing away of HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

“He had a distinguished career in the military and was at the forefront of many community service initiatives. May his soul rest in peace.”

The loss of the Duke of Edinburgh prompted the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Megan to pay tribute to his “loving memory” on their Archwell website saying:

“Thank you for your service… you will be greatly missed.”

Boris Johnson, prime minister of Britain said:

“He helped to steer the Royal Family and the monarchy so that it remains an institution indisputably vital to the balance and happiness of our national life.”

Prince Philip has left behind a legacy of royal service like no other.

Despite his gaffes and controversy, he proved to be an exemplary servant of the nation and its well being, an inspiration for young people, a prolific member of the royal family, and a loving husband who stood by his wife, the Queen.

Amit enjoys creative challenges and uses writing as a tool for revelation. He has major interest in news, current affairs, trends and cinema. He likes the quote: "Nothing in fine print is ever good news."

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