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Dear Reader,

Am I the only one who actually likes the Duke of Edinburgh? Serious question. His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, more commonly known in America simply as Prince Philip, is famous for making many, shall we say, less than diplomatic, remarks in various situations. Here’s a link to the list of His Royal Highness’s ‘gaffes’ on the BBC.

Now, the first thing one should note is that this list, though perhaps not exhaustive, is much shorter than the list of gaffes of the last American President, George W. Bush, despite the fact that the Duke has served for much longer than Bush did. However, it is not my purpose here to quibble about the number of gaffes between these two figures. Rather, my goal is to state my support for the Prince and even for many of his comments.

For example, one ‘gaffe’ claimed by the BBC was the following:

“If a cricketer, for instance, suddenly decided to go into a school and batter a lot of people to death with a cricket bat, which he could do very easily, I mean, are you going to ban cricket bats?” (in 1996, amid calls to ban firearms after the Dunblane shooting)

It sounds to me as though he was spot on. Politically correct, no. Correct, yes. The Prince evidently knew whereof he spoke in this case.

How about this one:

“It looks as if it was put in by an Indian.” (in 1999, referring to an old-fashioned fuse box in a factory near Edinburgh)

In our humourless age, that’s taken as offensive. I chuckled at it.

Political correctness is a scourge, and not a consistent one. You can’t laugh, even in good fun, at any race, ethnic group, or nationality, unless it’s white and European or American. White Europeans and their American descendants can be mocked, that is, but no one else, even in fun. In an age when we get upset because lèse majesté laws punish a magazine that depicts the Prince of Asturias having sex on the cover, it’s not OK to joke about a fusebox that ‘looks like it was put in by an Indian’. I think that’s wrong. I’m sorry, but I don’t think there’s a problem with a law that says you can’t stick the Prince’s face(or anyone else’s, for that matter) on a porn model or a model in an image that approaches pornography without his consent. I do think there’s a problem with a society that takes offense to an innocent joke about an Indian or even a Scotsman, as in this quote:

And speaking to a driving instructor in Oban, Scotland, he asked: “How do you keep the natives off the booze long enough to get them through the test?”.

I’m sorry, I thought that was funny. And I would think so equally if not more if he had said it about the Irish, from whom I am descended.

In sum, then, to critics of HRH the Duke of Edinburgh: Lighten up!


Samuel C. Starrett