Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Prince Philip: A remote but testicular life

The Duke: A Portrait of Prince Philip, ITV1

“Don’t be a bloody fool!” This is what I imagine the Duke of Edinburgh might have said to any spook proposing to murder Diana.

The TV bio-doc on him last night, in which a coat-swaddled Sir Trevor MacDonald sat sulkily in a 4-wheel drive passenger seat snapping questions - to which Phil barked (close your eyes and think of a kennels) - confirmed the prince as a fairly commonsensical and far-sighted curmudgeon, the plain model for Charles’ broodings on the environment, a born noticer.

He noticed, for instance, that trees lining a road were planted too close together in places. Years ago he noticed the world was going to the dogs (kennels again). Such attention to detail may arise from sitting in carriages or the backs of cars too long and often so that the beady (ie brains in the eye) habit follows him into the driver’s seat. Merely noticing – a life of foreplay – is bound to foment bile, to prompt outbursts of life when all around you want you to act dead-ish, but vertically. No wonder he fucked his way around the world (as Barbara Cartland once didn’t quite put it). What’s a pair of working testicles to do?

Shrewdly, at a do, he eschewed his favourite, huge, gin cocktail because of the cameras; and no matter the attempts to play on his heart strings by injured soldiers and other patriotic central casting types, he greeted all with a cursory cock of the head (listening mode) followed rapidly by a dismissive chuckle or throwaway homily (I’m off mode). Like his wife, he’s not one for nurturing self-pity. Compassion is best handled remotely, via speeches, galas, attendances, glances: this royal template of masculine responsibility understands that everything about him is representative, symbolic. So like a religious icon he must be there and glint, not come to life, as such: the effect of his presence alone should uplift those seeking sympathy, if they have the sense.

Lady Pamela Hicks, nee Mountbatten, testified to the enduring love between Brenda and Stavros – well, someone has to say it. As Pam told state fibs - her hairstyle the lacquered spiral arms of a distant galaxy far, far away - my mind wandered, and it occurred to me that these days the news shows no longer report that the Queen has sent her condolences to leaders of nations beset by earthquake or cyclone. And then I popped off before the end.

Part deux is on tonight, 9pm.

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