My lunch with Prince Philip

The Duke of Edinburgh was charming and provocative in an unexpected encounter with Nat Geo’s deputy director of photography.

By Kathy Moran
Published 10 Apr 2021, 12:42 BST
Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh

Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh (1921-2021).

Photograph by Michael Dunlea, Alamy Stock Photo

For a man who never got on a bus or hailed a cab and lived decades without a wallet in his pocket, there was something disarmingly down to earth about Prince Philip.

At least that’s what I gleaned during a 90-minute lunch at Buckingham Palace where I found myself unexpectedly sitting at the left of the husband of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II. In his early 90s then, he was sharp, knowledgeable, humorous, and provocative. During this annual luncheon for a conservation group of which I sat on a U.S. advisory board, he was both deeply concerned about conservation efforts—and clearly out to enjoy himself.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip walk back to Buckingham Palace after attending a royal garden party on June 29, 2011. The pair married in 1947 when he was 26 and she was 21. They were married 73 years.

Photograph by Matt Dunham, Getty Images

From England, to Canada (below), the royal couple toured the world performing official duties.

Photograph by Nat Geo Image Collection

Prince Philip announced his retirement from public life in 2017.

Photograph by Nat Geo Image Collection

He told me he thought every red deer in Britain should be shot because there were too many of them. He had me laughing as he recounted an indelicate moment that occurred during a visit to China. As the lamb and mashed potatoes passed by, I was too engaged and amused to eat, fearing a laugh would force me to spew Brussels sprouts across the room. Being provocative was not uncharacteristic for Philip, who died Friday at age 99

But before me, for the half of the lunch we spoke together, he was the most engaging conversationalist. I knew this was another meal for him, but it was a moment that I'd dine out on for the rest of my life. Still, he was on. There was a snap in his eye. And he didn’t miss a beat.

When Philip signalled that our conversation was over, and turned, as per protocol, to the guest on his right, a waiter moved toward me and asked: “'Would you like a glass of wine now?”

Oh God, yes.

I don't think I ever was more exhausted in my life.


 

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