Prince Philip, the late Duke of Edinburgh, will be laid to rest this weekend, culminating from week-long national mourning in the UK. Since his death on April 9, the former Royal Consort has been celebrated around the world.
The words of African leaders were at the forefront of the chorus of commemorations. Interestingly, when Philip got married in the Windsor dynasty that ruled Britain, no African country except never colonized Ethiopia, and Liberia was sovereign. Much like the British Crown itself, most Africans saw in Philip changed with their independence and commitment to the British Commonwealth. He was no longer part of the suzerainty; he was now a friend.
The African perspective on Philip has changed, but we can’t necessarily say that Philip the man did. Throughout his 74 years in the eyes of the global public, the prince was known for making controversial and downright racist comments. This characteristic was considered part of his character, and the leeway was greater for two reasons: first, the moral awakening, which is often dismissively referred to as political correctness, was essentially not in effect, and second, he was a member of royalty and had the right to get away with it.
But history is there to be learned for the present and the future. So here in the past, here are some controversial and racist comments Philip has said to black people:
You are a woman, aren’t you?
In 1984, during a state visit to Kenya, Philip received a gift from a Kenyan woman dressed in traditional attire. Then, in his sixties, Philip glanced at his present and then at the woman and asked, “You are a woman, aren’t you?” It barely made headlines worldwide, but it was one of the things the British press commemorated.
Do you still throw spears?
We cannot call the Australian Aborigines African, but they nevertheless suffered from the exploitation of Britain when she decided the landmass was hers, to the detriment of the natives. They are also dark-skinned people, pretty much most Africans and people of African descent.
In 2002, Philip did not spare them his words because he walked up to some aboriginal men during a visit to Australia and asked: “Still throwing spears?”
Exotic part of the world
John Taylor is a conservative politician and one of the few black people you would see in the UK. In public, he is known as Lord Taylor of Warwick. For the British, this kind of honor – the peerage – comes with respect from all, but perhaps from superiors.
In 1999, Prince Philip, Lord Taylor’s superior, asked the black guest at Buckingham Palace: “Young man, what exotic part of the world are you from?” Lord Taylor replied: “I am from Birmingham. Here in England.
Can you tell the difference?
In 2009, then-US President Barack Obama met Prince Philip for the first time. Obama struck up a conversation with the older man, recounting his new experience meeting with world leaders and high-level diplomats from China, Russia, and even Britain.
Philip would have interrupted Obama to ask him: “Can you tell the difference between them?” To this day, it’s unclear whether he was suggesting that all of these people looked alike – which would be ridiculous, even racist – or whether there were too many of them for Obama to remember who is who. Some also believe that Philip could have laughed at Obama’s intelligence.
You look ready for the bed.
In 2003, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip visited Nigeria. They were received by President Olusegun Obasanjo, who wore an agbada mark, a traditional costume. Seeing Obasanjo, Philip joked, “You look like you’re ready to go to bed.”
Obasanjo could only laugh.