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Correcting the Record

By Sam Jordison.

As I write this, it’s around twenty four hours since Prince Philip died. The BBC has shut down all normal programming on TV and radio. All of it. They even interrupted Radio 1’s Dance Anthems programme with the national anthem. Now, they’re pumping out a relentless stream of nonsense about his “life of service”. Flags have been ordered to fly at half-mast all around the country. Billboards across London have been made to drop their normal advertising so that now images of his leering gremlin face are frightening the few drivers out on the capital’s pandemic-emptied roads. Gun salutes are planned wherever there are guns…

We’ve all gone mad. And I say “we” because that’s the way it’s all being presented here on Brexit island. “Today the nation joins the Queen in mourning for Prince Philip,” we are told by The Daily Mirror. “We” should “deeply appreciate” Prince Philip, commands Nicola Sturgeon.

So, against my will, I’m co-opted. My first instinct had been to keep quiet. I sympathised with those who were close to him for so long and wanted to respect their sadness. Besides, there was no need to speak ill of the dead. I wouldn’t be telling anybody anything new if I did. We all knew how he lived, how he treated people and what he said.

But that was before I was included in this delusion that Prince Philip was anything other than… Prince Philip.

Just so *we* are clear what we’re dealing with, here are just three of the things he said (out loud and in public).

“It looks as though it was put in by an Indian.” (About a dodgy looking fusebox in an Edinburgh factory.)

“Everybody was saying we must have more leisure. Now they are complaining they are unemployed.” (During the 1981 recession).

“If you stay here much longer you’ll all be slitty eyed.” (To British students studying in Beijing.)

There’s no need for extra commentary. What we do need is to correct the record. To make some kind of stand against the stinking tide that’s swamped the country. I just made the mistake of clicking on the BBC website, for instance. “Even at 96, young people thought he was cool,” lies one of the dozen-or-so bullshit headlines. He was “an extraordinary man who led an extraordinary life”. He was “a rock, a hero and one of a kind”. He “mattered”.

Of course, the BBC has been so cowed and broken by a decade of Tory government that I’d expect nothing less. There’s also no point worrying about the hot brown jets of nonsense blasting out of The Daily Mail or The Torygraph or from the writers who have sold their souls to the Murdoch empire. But it’s been something else to see journalists from the last few independent outlets in the country also turn state propagandists.

Three more quick quotations should give you all the impression you need. Again, there’s little need for extra comment. It’s all too clear how these writers have debased themselves:

“He did come to define a different kind of masculine ideal; one rooted in devotion, support and the kind of strength that does not need to show itself by muscling endlessly into the limelight,” fawns Gabby Hinsliff in The Guardian (The Guardian!). “For seven decades he had walked faithfully in her shadow. The Duke of Edinburgh was the Queen’s anchor and her rock.”

“A giant of a man who gave up his promising military career to follow the woman he loved, he was the epitome of duty,” says Russell Myers in The Mirror.

“We ourselves are left with the sense of the beginning of the passing of an era. And Prince Philip would seem to represent in an acute form the best of the values of that era, which in many ways jar with today’s,” spouts John Milbank in Unherd.

Here, actually, I have to break my promise and give some editorial gloss. Because Milbank goes onto claim that Philip had an “authentically Socratic” sense of duty. That’s even the headline of the piece: “Prince Philip’s Socratic Sense of Duty”. This is the kind of truth-twisting we’re dealing with here. This sentence is not only the epitome of the absurd pomposity, but also of the bending of reality, we’ve had to endure since the Duke Of Edinburgh shuffled off. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that Socrates got his reputation for “duty” by standing trial in Athens against charges of corrupting the morals of the youth. We’ll never know the truth of those charges, and their exact implications have been a subject of debate for 2500 years. His friends said they were false. The historical record shows that Socrates faced them anyway, when he could easily have run away, and submitted to the laws and committed suicide when he was found guilty.

The parallels with the British royal family and their involvement in very real incidences of child abuse are painfully obvious. Except, of course, Prince Andrew still hasn’t faced justice for his involvement with the paedophile Jeffrey Epstein. The Firm, of which Prince Philip was so prominent a member, instead protected him for years — as well as encouraging his shameful career of arms dealing and dictator wrangling. They only finally, suspended him from public duties four days after his car crash interview with Emily Maitlis, when even they were no longer able to pretend to believe in his claims that he didn’t have sex with an underage woman because he was in a Pizza Express in Woking…

To compare someone at the centre of this criminal deceit to Socrates is both an insult to the philosopher and, more importantly, to Jeffrey Epstein’s victims. Victims who still haven’t had the benefit of Prince Andrew’s testimony or his participation in the ongoing investigations. And that’s really the nub of it. Prince Philip was just another representative of a grim old crime family. Just one in a long line of murderers, monsters and Nazis.

We can respect the private grief this death must bring and sympathise with that sadness. But that shouldn’t involve changing the record and distorting the proof. The most decent thing to do is to leave him as he chose to live his life, aloof and apart. Coronavirus has killed over 150,000 people in the UK alone in the past year. More than a million around the world. Every single one of those deaths is a tragedy. Prince Philip deserves no more public mourning than any of them. Not least because he’d got what he wanted. “In the event that I am reincarnated,” he famously said. “I would like to return as a deadly virus, to contribute something to solving overpopulation”. That’s who he was.

More Royal reportage from Sam Jordison here.


Sam Jordison is an irregular contributor to The Guardian. He is the author and editor of several books including Enemies Of The People and Crap Towns. He is also the co-director of Galley Beggar Press. He still hasn’t written a novel.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Saturday, April 10th, 2021.