He also regretted his grandson’s decision to quit royal duties and move to the US and said it was ‘not the right thing, either for the country or for themselves’.
Ultimately, however, he accepted it and said: ‘It’s his life.’
Insights into Philip’s thoughts on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex‘s decision and the deeply acrimonious fall-out as a result of it have been aired by his impeccably connected biographer, Gyles Brandreth in today’s Daily Mail.
His account comes as royal sources reacted angrily to the suggestion the Duke of Edinburgh would have been ‘unbothered’ by recent events. And one insider told the Mail they believed the schism created by the couple would take a ‘lifetime’ to heal.
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, the husband of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth who had been at her side throughout her record-breaking 69-year reign, died aged 99 at Windsor Castle on April 9
In his account, Mr Brandreth described Harry and Meghan’s plan to divide their time between the UK and North America in search of financial independence, while hoping to continue serving the Queen and the Commonwealth on their own terms, as ‘naive’.
No uniform for Harry at the funeral?
PRINCE Harry is unlikely to wear a military uniform at his grandfather’s funeral.
He was stripped of his role as Captain General of the Royal Marines, which he took over from Prince Philip, after deciding to quit royal duties last year. He also lost two other honorary military positions. This means he cannot wear the corresponding uniforms at official events.
It is likely he will dress like other former servicemen in a suit and medals. Harry spent ten years with the Household Cavalry (Blues and Royals), rising to the rank of lieutenant and served in Afghanistan. He wore his Blues and Royals uniform when he married Meghan at Windsor in 2018, pictured.
All other senior male royals are expected to attend in uniform apart from Prince Andrew.
In the end the Queen, backed by Prince Charles and Prince William, made clear that this was impossible. Harry and Meghan would have to give up their official roles and would not be able to use their HRH titles for work purposes. Both the Queen and Harry were distressed at the outcome.
Mr Brandreth added: ‘The Duke of Edinburgh was equally sorry ‘that it should come to this’. Harry had only succeeded his grandfather as Captain General of the Royal Marines in 2017.
‘Philip had done the job for 64 years. Harry had barely managed 30 months. The Duke of Edinburgh was not pleased, nor did he believe that Harry and Meghan were doing the right thing either for the country or for themselves.’
But Philip was sympathetic to Harry’s distrust of the media and supportive of his desire to ‘do his own thing in his own way’.
‘He said to me: ‘People have got to lead their lives as they think best’,’ Mr Brandreth said.
He added: ‘I know from someone close to him that he thought Meghan and Harry’s interview with Oprah Winfrey was ‘madness’ and ‘no good would come of it’. I was not surprised because that is exactly how he described to me the personal TV interviews given by Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales, back in the 1990s.’
There has been much criticism that the Sussexes insisted on their explosive interview going ahead last month despite Philip lying seriously ill in hospital.
But Mr Brandreth said of this: ‘The fact that the Meghan and Harry interview was aired while Philip was in hospital did not trouble him. What did worry him was the couple’s preoccupation with their own problems and their willingness to talk about them in public. ‘Give TV interviews by all means,’ he said, ‘but don’t talk about yourself’.
‘That was one of his rules. I know he shared it with his children. I imagine he shared it with his grandchildren, too.’
Ultimately, Philip loved Harry, admired him for his service career and thought him ‘a good man’.
He chose not to get involved with the Sandringham Summit, when details of the Sussexes’ departure were thrashed out last year. Mr Brandreth said Philip responded to the rift by saying: ‘I’ll soon be out of it and not before time.’
Buckingham Palace has confirmed that Harry will attend Saturday’s funeral – the first time he has seen any of his family for more than a year.
Prince Harry, left, and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, in conversation with Oprah Winfrey, in an interview which aired March 7
People observe flowers outside Windsor castle, after Britain’s Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth, died at the age of 99, in Windsor, near London
Members of the public leave floral tributes to Prince Philip, Duke Of Edinburgh who died at age 99 outside of Windsor Castle on April 11
A woman outside of Windsor Castle this morning is seen shedding a tear as she pays her respects to Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II
The last occasion was when he and Meghan attended the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey in March last year.
Meghan will not be attending because she is pregnant, said a spokesman for the couple.
All eyes will be on the body language between Harry and his family during the funeral.
While many hope that the death of Philip may serve to build bridges between Harry and his family, others are more pessimistic. One senior royal source said the situation might take ‘decades’ to resolve.
However, former prime minister Sir John Major told the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme that he hoped the funeral would prove an ‘ideal opportunity’ to heal the rift.
People stop to look at floral tributes and messages of condolence outside Windsor Castle in Windsor, west of London
Adding to the huge number of flowers lining the gates of Windsor Castle this morning, a young boy is seen gently tossing his own bunch onto the pile
Philip’s reaction to THAT interview? ‘Madness! No good will come of it’
By Gyles Brandreth for The Daily Mail
The Queen insisted he retire. He hated no longer driving. And he sympathised with Harry and Meghan — but thought they were wrong. Today and all week in the Mail, the most revealing portrait you’ll ever read of Prince Philip — by his friend of 40 years.
To me Prince Philip was a hero and a role model — and a friend. I met him more than 40 years ago through one of his favourite charities, the National Playing Fields Association, and over the years he showed me many kindnesses.
When he heard I wanted to be an MP but had never been to the State Opening of Parliament, he invited me along as his guest. When, a few years later, I lost my seat as an MP, he called to say: ‘Can I help?’
‘I want to get back into journalism,’ I said, ‘Will you give me an interview?’
He did. It was the only truly personal interview he ever gave and it led to him asking me to write a short biography of him to mark his 80th birthday — the foundation of the book the Daily Mail is serialising this week.
I was lucky enough to know Prince Philip in his prime — the most dynamic man I have ever met. And I was privileged to know him almost to the end.
Prince Harry and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh attend the 2015 Rugby World Cup Final match between New Zealand and Australia at Twickenham Stadium on October 31, 2015 in London
He did not like getting old. Twenty years ago, he told me he had no desire to live to be 100. ‘I can’t imagine anything worse,’ he said then. As his centenary approached, he changed his tune, acknowledging that it would be ‘a bit of a milestone, I suppose’, though he was ‘dreading all the fuss’.
When he became ill in February, he said ‘I’m on the way out’ — but he had been saying that for years. His final month in hospital was ‘pretty ghastly’, principally because he no longer had the energy and concentration to read — and reading was one of the sustaining pleasures of his retirement. ‘Staring at the ceiling is bloody boring.’
Prince Philip had formally ‘retired’ in the summer of 2017, a couple of months after his 96th birthday, because the Queen encouraged him to do so. She wanted to stop him ‘pushing himself all the time’. She had become anxious about him.
A senior courtier told me he had found the Queen in the corridor at Buckingham Palace one day looking for her husband. ‘Where’s he got to?’ she asked. ‘Where is he? I can’t find him.’
In 2017, the Queen decided to let the Prince of Wales take her place laying a wreath at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday — not to spare herself, but to spare her husband. The royal couple sat together watching the ceremony from a balcony in the Foreign Office.
Prince Philip died peacefully in his sleep at Windsor Castle on Friday, two months before his 100th birthday, leaving the Queen and the royal family ‘mourning his loss’
Members of the public leave floral tributes to Prince Philip, Duke Of Edinburgh outside of Windsor Castle
Members of the public leave floral tributes to Prince Philip, Duke Of Edinburgh outside of Windsor Castle
Prince Philip told me that he was ready to retire, glad to be getting some time to himself at last, choosing to bow out of solo public engagements ‘while I’m still standing, just about’.
He had had the occasional health scare, including heart surgery and stenting to deal with a blocked artery when he was 90, but for a man of his age he was remarkably fit — and steady on his feet.
He kept himself active and did daily stretching exercises. He maintained his sensible diet — his own version of the Atkins diet. (According to his tailor, John Kent, who made his suits for half a century, ‘He was a 31 in waist when I first measured him and that only ever went up to 34 in. There wasn’t an ounce of fat on him.’)
He hoped his retirement would reduce speculation about his health and would ‘spare people having to see me falling to pieces in front of them’.
Inevitably, as he moved through his 90s, he was beginning to look his age: his eyes were increasingly red-rimmed, his nose grew beakier, he became more stooped, he shrank a bit. ‘I’ll soon be dead,’ he kept saying.
The end began by accident — literally. On Thursday, January 17, 2019, at around three o’clock in the afternoon, Prince Philip was driving his Land Rover near the Queen’s Sandringham estate in Norfolk.
Pulling out from a side road on to the A149, he was momentarily blinded by sunlight and involved in a collision with a car containing two women and a nine-month-old baby boy.
The prince’s vehicle was overturned in the crash, but he was pulled out alive, ‘very shocked’ but apparently physically unharmed. Thankfully, the baby was unhurt, too, though both the women travelling in the car — a Kia — needed hospital treatment for minor injuries before being discharged.
Had any of those involved in the accident been seriously injured, it might have been a major tragedy. For the prince, in some ways it was. It meant that his driving days were over — though he did not realise it at once.
Philip’s immediate response to the collision was typical: he returned to Sandringham and ordered a replacement Land Rover. It arrived the next day and the prince, then 97 and defiant, took to the wheel again. But, within days, reality dawned.
On the advice of the police (and to avoid the possibility of prosecution) he gave up his driving licence voluntarily. But he did not give up his commitment to Land Rover.
As if to get the last laugh, he designed his own hearse to carry his own body to his own funeral — a Land Rover modified to His Royal Highness’s personal specification. He was a pragmatist with a sense of humour to the end.
In the last two years of his life, he desperately missed the freedom of being able to drive himself. It was another sign that his world was shrinking and it was not easy. ‘It’s f***ing annoying,’ he said, ‘when you’ve been driving for 80 years.’
Philip was accustomed to living life in the fast lane. As he grew older, he drove less fast — and became more environmentally aware. A generation before the birth of Greta Thunberg, he was travelling around London in his own electric car.
He always liked to be behind the wheel. He liked to be in command.
One of the police officers detailed to look after him told me that, regularly, he would hear the Prince, in his 90s, calling out to the Queen (and anyone else within earshot), ‘Where are the f***ing car keys?’ Inevitably, with age, and without his car, his life became more circumscribed. He went on with his carriage driving for as long as he could. He continued with his exercise routine as best he was able. He watched television, ‘without much pleasure’, he told me. (He did not watch The Crown. ‘I have no interest in soap operas,’ he told me.)
He went on painting; ‘They’re not up to much,’ he insisted. He always had a book or two on the go: military history and biography in the main (‘Napoleon wasn’t very nice, was he?’).
He read the obituaries in the newspaper: every week someone died whom he had known. ‘Some weeks,’ he said, ‘it’s every day.’
The Queen carried on with her royal duties at Buckingham Palace or at Windsor Castle while he lived out his days at Wood Farm on the Sandringham estate. She left him to it. They would speak regularly on the phone, but weeks could go by without them seeing one another.
That shocked some people, though not those who knew them and who understood how well the Queen understood her husband — understood his wish to be left to his own devices, ‘not to be fussed over’, to be allowed, after more than 70 years of duty, to see out his days in his own way.
The Duke’s world was getting smaller, but the royal story was carrying on. The Queen was doing her duty, as assiduously as ever.
As the end drew nearer, Prince Philip, always his own man, even in crowds always something of a loner, retreated from the world. He still saw friends and he still turned up for family occasions.
At the wedding of his grandson Prince Harry to Meghan Markle in May 2018, he appeared, aged 96, still upright, still without a stick, despite having had a hip operation only a few weeks before and having cracked a rib in a fall in the shower a few days before.
In May 2019, at Windsor Castle, the Duke joined the Queen for a rare official appearance together when they hosted a lunch for members of the Order of Merit. It was the week of the arrival of Harry and Meghan’s firstborn and Philip was photographed admiring his eighth great-grandchild, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, alongside the Queen and Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland.
In the same month he was on parade again for another family wedding at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, when Lady Gabriella Windsor, daughter of the Queen’s first cousin, Prince Michael of Kent, married her long-time boyfriend, Thomas Kingston. ‘I don’t know who half these people are,’ said the Duke of Edinburgh, laughing.
There was no laughing in January last year, when Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, announced their desire to ‘step back’ from their lives as ‘senior royals’. They planned to divide their time between the UK and North America; they wanted financial independence; they hoped to be able to continue to serve Queen and Commonwealth, but on their own terms. It was a naïve hope and not to be.
The Queen convened a family meeting at Sandringham — attended by the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge, as well as the Duke of Sussex — and a way forward was agreed. Harry and Meghan could do as they pleased, but they could not represent the Queen while doing so.
Their HRH titles would be put in abeyance and Harry, to his dismay, was required to give up his royal patronages and military appointments. Harry was distressed, as he put it, ‘that it should come to this’.
So was his grandmother.
In a personal statement, she made it clear that Harry and Meghan would always be close members of her family, and she went out of her way to praise her American granddaughter-in-law, but, so far as the Crown was concerned, she was equally clear: she wasn’t going to have a couple of freelance royals roaming the world doing their own thing in any sense in her name.
The Duke of Edinburgh was equally sorry ‘that it should come to this’. Harry had only succeeded his grandfather as Captain General of the Royal Marines in 2017. Philip had done the job for 64 years. Harry had barely managed 30 months.
The Duke of Edinburgh was not pleased, nor did he believe that Harry and Meghan were doing the right thing, either for the country or for themselves.
Contrary to the popular caricature of him, the Duke of Edinburgh was neither judgmental nor unfeeling.
He had some sympathy with the couple’s mistrust of the media (he had had his own run-ins with an intrusive Press over the years) and even more so with Harry’s desire to ‘do his own thing in his own way’. He said to me: ‘People have got to lead their lives as they think best.’
That said, I know from someone close to him that he thought Meghan and Harry’s interview with Oprah Winfrey was ‘madness’ and ‘no good would come of it’.
I was not surprised because that is exactly how he described to me the earlier personal TV interviews given by Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales, back in the 1990s.
The fact that the Meghan and Harry interview was aired while Philip was in hospital did not trouble him. What did worry him was the couple’s preoccupation with their own problems and their willingness to talk about them in public. ‘Give TV interviews, by all means,’ he said, ‘but don’t talk about yourself.’
That was one of his rules. I know he shared it with his children. I imagine he shared it with his grandchildren, too.
He told 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.’
Prince Philip loved Prince Harry. He admired him for his service career and his creation of the Invictus Games. ‘He’s a good man,’ he said emphatically.
That Philip was an outstanding grandfather has never been in dispute. From youth to old age, he was always good with very small children, and with William and Harry, who lost their mother when they were only 15 and 12 years of age, he was — in William’s phrase — ‘a tower of strength and understanding’.
At the time of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Harry managed to capture both Prince Philips’s elusive quality and his indispensability to the Queen in the same revealing sentence: ‘Regardless of whether my grandfather seems to be doing his own thing, sort of wandering off like a fish down the river, the fact that he’s there — personally, I don’t think that she could do it without him, especially when they’re both at this age.’
Inevitably, Prince Philip regretted Harry’s decision to move to America, but he accepted it — ‘It’s his life’ — and deliberately did not get involved in its aftermath.
On the day the Queen held her Sandringham ‘summit’ with Charles, William and Harry, he made himself scarce, deliberately leaving the main house and retreating to Wood Farm. ‘I’ll soon be out of it,’ he said, ‘and not before time.’
The Queen did not retire when her husband did, but she did reduce her workload. She maintained her own interests, continuing to ride into her 90s and walking her corgis after lunch; she continued to phone her racing manager in the evening. (Her racehorses have won her some £7 million in prize money in the past 35 years, including £557,650 in a record-breaking 2016.)
The only complaint I ever heard Prince Philip make about the Queen was about the time she spent on the phone. ‘She never stops,’ he said, shaking his head in mock disbelief.
The couple went out for dinner with friends and enjoyed weekends away together. She was often alone in the evenings (she was accustomed to that), watching television and having supper in her rooms, but frequently she saw friends and family — grandchildren and great-grandchildren — for afternoon tea.
Prince Philip had long been responsible for the management of the royal estates but in 2014 he ceded management of Sandringham’s 20,000 acres to Prince Charles — knowing that his son’s approach to land management and farming were very different from his own.
‘He has his ideas and I have mine,’ said Prince Philip, ‘but I won’t be here for ever so he’d better get on with it.’
Happily, relations between Philip and his son mellowed with the passing years. In his 80s and 90s I noticed the Duke of Edinburgh make many fewer waspish remarks about the Prince of Wales than he had done in his 50s and 60s.
And Prince Charles, so much happier in his second marriage than in his first, stopped bleating about the travails of his childhood. Charles appeared more comfortable talking about his parents, and did so with respect (as ever) but with increasing affection. As he said in a touching tribute on Saturday: ‘My dear Papa was a very special person.’
If we regard the Queen’s uniquely long reign as a success — and I reckon most of us do — the joint author of that success has been the Duke of Edinburgh.
Theirs was an extraordinary partnership and the worldwide coverage of the Duke’s death acknowledged the fact.
For more than 70 years, he did everything he could to safeguard her person and her dignity. He hated to see her taken advantage of in any way. One year, at the Royal Variety Performance, one of the stars performed a routine aimed directly at the Queen.
Prince Philip was incandescent and descended on the producer in the interval: ‘I’ve been coming to this for 50 years. It never ends on time. The jokes are lavatorial. And now you insult the Queen!’
More than once, on walkabout with the Queen, I saw him barking at the Press photographers, telling them to ‘get out of the way’. ‘People want to see the Queen,’ he shouted, ‘GET OUT OF THE WAY!’ He could be quite frightening. He was at his best with children, guiding toddlers towards the Queen so they could present their posies. As his friend, the eccentric baronet Sir Humphry Tyrrell Wakefield, put it once: ‘The Queen would have such a miserable time if she didn’t have him to play with. And if people try to take advantage of her, he’s on them like a whippet.’ That about sums it up.
Prince Philip protected the Queen and made her laugh. Once, during one of the jubilee tours, I was in the car immediately behind theirs and I watched Prince Philip telling the Queen a story. He kept her laughing for 20 minutes. It was a joy to behold.
As he had promised in his oath at the Coronation in 1953, he was her ‘liege man of life and limb’. He was there when she wanted him — even if he might have preferred to be somewhere else.
At Royal Ascot, he would drive with the Queen along the course, help Her Majesty out of her carriage and then discreetly jump into a waiting car to be driven swiftly back to Windsor Castle to watch the cricket or work on correspondence before returning to the racecourse to be with the Queen again for tea. When the Duchess of Cornwall had difficulty alighting from her carriage at Ascot, she was happy to let a coachman lend her a hand to help her down. The Queen would only accept help from Prince Philip. And now he’s gone.
He spent ‘lockdown’ with the Queen, and a small retinue of staff, at Windsor Castle.
He made his last parade-ground appearance aged 99, in July last year, handing over his role as Colonel-in-Chief of The Rifles to his daughter-in-law, the Duchess of Cornwall. He was in the quadrangle at Windsor Castle. She was ‘socially distanced’ at Highgrove House, 100 miles away. The handover happened online.
The world had changed in so many ways in the 100 years of Philip’s extraordinary lifetime. The Queen was taking part in Zoom conference calls. Her father had only become king because her uncle had married a divorced American. Now, three of her children had been divorced and her grandson, Harry, had not only married a divorced American, but had gone to live in America as well.
The Duke of Edinburgh accepted all this with a shrug — and the occasional exasperated sigh.
Prince Philip believed in progress and accepted change. His cousin, Ivar Mountbatten — the son of Philip’s friend and contemporary, his first choice as best man, David Milford Haven — became the first member of the Royal Family to marry someone of the same sex. ‘Whatever makes them happy,’ said Prince Philip.
Because he lived so long, Philip saw so much. He knew the royal road had always been a rocky one. ‘My grandfather was assassinated,’ he reminded me, ‘my father was sent into exile, my parents separated, my sister was killed in that aeroplane crash [in 1937], my uncle was murdered by the IRA . . . things happen, but life goes on.’
The Duke wouldn’t be drawn on the future of the Royal Family. ‘There’ll be ups and there’ll be downs, but beyond that I’ve no idea what the future holds. There’s no point in speculating about it. All I’ll say is that I’ve tried to help keep it going while I’ve been here.’
When the first lockdown was lifted, Philip and Elizabeth, having spent more time close together than they had done in years, decided it rather suited them. They left Windsor together and travelled up to Balmoral for their traditional summer break.
When that was over, they went back to Sandringham — but not the big house. Instead, together they went to live at Wood Farm, Philip’s favourite bolthole, the un-grand, unpretentious place he regarded as his home on the estate.
Then, for the last time, they returned together to Windsor, the royal home where Philip’s mother had been born way back in 1885 and where, on Friday morning, April 9, 2021, he ended his days with his wife of more 73 years at his side.
He gave his Lilibet a lifetime of unstinting support. He made her laugh. He understood her. She understood him. It was a unique marriage — the longest in all royal history — and it worked.
- Philip: The Final Portrait by Gyles Brandreth will be published by Coronet at £25 on May 6. © 2021 Gyles Brandreth. To order a copy for £22 go to www.mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3308 9193. Delivery charges may apply. Free UK delivery on orders over £20. Promotional price valid until 24/04/2021.