PIERS MORGAN: Park the ego, don’t whine, work hard, shun Oprah, remember you owe your fame to the job and public support, and JUST GET ON WITH IT!’ – why Philip’s 10-point guide to royal survival should be his legacy for every member of the family
‘Never complain, never explain, and rarely be heard speaking in public,’ was the Queen Mother’s simple, legendary template for royal popularity.
It stood her in great stead throughout her own 101-year life.
Most British people would have had no idea what Queen Elizabeth thought of anything, or even what she sounded like.
Yet she died a hugely popular and beloved public figure.
In many ways, she was very similar to Prince Philip: tough, uncompromising, stoic, and resolutely silent in public about the myriad scandals that have engulfed the Royal Family.
They had both had very strong opinions, they just preferred not to share them outside of the family and close, trusted friends.
But many of the younger royals that followed them have behaved very differently – emoting on television, playing the victim, wallowing in self-pity, complaining about their regally gilded lives, and getting themselves into all manner of lurid scrapes that have damaged the family’s reputation.
As his mourning family prepare to gather this Saturday to say goodbye to one of its greatest figures at his funeral, they would all do well to heed Prince Philip’s advice
For the past three days, there has been an incredible amount said and written about Prince Philip, the kind of man he was, and the legacy he might leave.
And there have been recurrent themes about his attitude towards royal life, public duty, and the art of preserving the mystique and magic of the Monarchy – an institution he sacrificed so much to support so magnificently.
As his mourning family prepare to gather this Saturday to say goodbye to one of its greatest figures at his funeral, they would all do well to heed his advice.
I won’t name individuals for any specifically pertinent points, but they’ll know who they are…
Here is Prince Philip’s 10-point guide to surviving and thriving as a royal.
1) PARK THE EGO. Philip’s biographer and long-time friend, Gyles Brandreth, revealed: ‘He said to me more than once: ‘It’s a big mistake to think about yourself. No one is interested in you in the long run. Don’t court popularity. It doesn’t last. Remember that the attention comes because of the position you are privileged to hold, not because of who you are. If you think it’s all about you, you’ll never be happy.’ ‘
Most British people would have had no idea what Queen Elizabeth thought of anything, or even what she sounded like. Yet she died a hugely popular and beloved public figure. In many ways, she was very similar to Prince Philip (pictured together)
2) DON’T WHINE. Philip could be extremely brusque and curmudgeonly in private, as many who knew him well have attested, but always behind closed doors.
He understood the British public would never stomach hearing the richest and most privileged people in the country complaining about how awful their lives were.
So, when on royal duty, he kept his moaning mouth shut and his gripes to himself, as he shook hands, smiled, and small-talked with complete strangers, day after day, week after week, year after year.
3) WORK HARD. The Duke took his royal duty very seriously and performed it very diligently – he carried out a staggering 22,191 solo engagements in seven decades of public service, gave 5,493 speeches, was patron, president or member of 837 organisations, and travelled to 143 countries on official business. And he kept going until he was 96!
Living your life in the royal goldfish bowl is a stressful experience. To help cope with it, Philip (pictured with the Queen) ate healthily on a low-carb diet, drank little (he enjoyed the odd pint of bitter), quit smoking just before his marriage, and deployed the 5BX (Five Basic Exercises) daily military exercise formula
4) READ. Philip was an avid reader, with a personal library at Buckingham Palace that housed over 11,000 books, most of them on religion, conservation and wildlife, sport, poetry and art.
He didn’t bother with novels because he preferred reality to fiction (this is also why he despised the media who he believed peddled soap opera guff about his family, not the truth).
But he strongly believed that through reading comes knowledge, and through knowledge comes wisdom.
5) AVOID SCANDAL. There were a few scurrilous rumours about Philip’s supposed misbehaviour over the years but that is how they remained: scurrilous rumours that in private he vehemently denied.
In over 70 years of public service, he conducted himself with enormous personal probity, honesty and discretion, and barely put a foot wrong other than uttering the odd verbal gaffe – most of which were funny, harmless quips that were taken in good jest by the recipients, as they’ve been confirming since he died.
Philip and the Queen at the Braemar Highland Games in Scotland in 2008
6) STAY OFF OPRAH. ‘Give TV interviews, by all means,’ Philip said. ‘But don’t talk about yourself.’
Gyles Brandreth said the Duke thought Meghan and Harry’s decision to grant their friend Ms Winfrey a lengthy prime-time US TV audience was ‘madness’ and ‘no good would come of it.’
He apparently thought the same about all the other big royal TV confessionals – from Diana and Charles opining on their broken marriage in the 1990s to Andrew’s toe-curling BBC Newsnight interview about his friendship with billionaire paedophile Jeffrey Epstein. And he wasn’t wrong, was he?
7) KEEP FIT AND DO EVERYTHING IN MODERATION. Living your life in the royal goldfish bowl is a stressful experience.
To help cope with it, Philip ate healthily on a low-carb diet, drank little (he enjoyed the odd pint of bitter), quit smoking just before his marriage, and deployed the 5BX (Five Basic Exercises) daily military exercise formula of stretching, sit-ups, back extensions, press-ups and running/jumping on the spot that could all be done without equipment in a confined space.
He also found plenty of time for his sporting hobbies like carriage-driving, cricket, polo and sailing.
As a result, he had a fantastic immune system that helped him, as he revealed in 2016, avoid getting the flu for over 40 years.
Gyles Brandreth said the Duke thought Meghan and Harry’s decision to grant their friend Ms Winfrey a lengthy prime-time US TV audience (pictured) was ‘madness’
8) STAY GROUNDED. I read a wonderful anecdote over the weekend regaled by Lynton Westray, an African-American man who worked for 32 years as a butler at the White House. He told NPR about the time Prince Philip and the Queen visited in the 70s. After dinner, Philip went alone into the Red Room, next to the state dining room, where Westray and another waiter were serving liquors.
He recalled: ‘I asked him: ‘Your Majesty, would you care for a cordial?’ He says, ‘I’ll take one if you let me serve it. If you let me pour it, I’ll have one with you.’ …
‘So, he poured it and we took the same thing that he had. And we had our drink there together and had a little talk.
‘He told us if we were ever over in London to stop at Buckingham Palace and see him. Can you imagine the Prince serving you? I enjoyed it.
The Duke took his royal duty very seriously and performed it very diligently. Pictured: The Queen and Philip during the Trooping the Colour in 2016
‘You know, we’re not supposed to drink and carry on at that time. We’re not guests. It was just the three of us in the room, so nobody knew what happened. And I drank my little cordial, we all drank, and had a little conversation.
‘But that was one thing I’ll never forget, having been served by royalty.’
We’ve heard a lot about Philip’s supposed racism and snobbery. This fabulous previously untold story is a nice counterbalance to that narrative.
9) JUST GET ON WITH IT. Philip was a from a generation that believed in the power of resilience and the stiff upper lip. Speaking about his World War 2 experience, he said: ‘We didn’t have counsellors rushing around every time somebody let off a gun, asking ‘Are you all right? Are you sure you don’t have a ghastly problem?’ You just got on with it.’
10) DO YOUR BEST. In the end, nobody’s perfect, not even royals. Philip certainly wasn’t – by his own admission he could be an irascible, difficult, demanding and sometimes downright rude man.
But his intentions were invariably honourable, and he always tried to do the right thing for his Queen and country regardless of the criticism that came his way. ‘I’ve just done what I think is my best,’ he said.
‘Some people think it’s all right. Some don’t. What can you do? I can’t change my way of doing things. It’s part of my style. It’s just too bad, they’ll have to lump it.’
It was that authenticity that was his most appealing quality. Above all else, Prince Philip was true to himself, and that is something we should all, royal or commoner, strive to be.
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