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John Browne Pays Tribute to HRH Prince Philip

John Browne Pays Tribute to HRH Prince Philip
Prince Philip in 2017 (Getty)

By    |   Thursday, 15 April 2021 09:05 PM

The late Prince Philip was possibly the most widely photographed man in the world and recognized widely by billions of people as a wonderful Prince Consort and husband to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth. It was my luck to meet him in various activities which gave me a more personal view. It's my privilege to share this to help widen the understanding and appreciation of a man of outstanding quality, much of it unseen.

As a young man, I was privileged to serve in the Grenadier Guards. Prince Philip became our Colonel when he spoke with every officer at our Regimental Dinners and to huge numbers of men at Regimental functions, including on operations abroad in places like Afghanistan. He was respected widely and very highly.

In the late 1960s, I was honored greatly to be invited to play in Prince Phillip’s polo teams. I saw more of him at close quarters. He was a dynamic and demanding captain who led by example. He was also a most generous leader.

An example was in a tense match at Cowdray Park. Handicapped at 1, HRH Prince Charles was our forward; Handicapped at 4, The Marquis of Waterford at 2; Handicapped at 5, HRH Prince Philip was at 3; Handicapped at 2, I was the back. After a brilliant interception our attack was broken and a long shot went towards our goal. As I raced back, I thought that a weak backhand would merely set the opposition in a prime position to score. Therefore, I tried to turn the ball with a series of short tangential shots, highly dangerous for a low handicapped player like me!

Being ridden off hard, Prince Philip galloped past shouting disapproval of my decision. But God was with me. I turned the line of the ball successfully and passed it to Tyrone Waterford, who took it up the field and passed to Prince Charles, who scored. 

The prince was new to tournament polo and the crowd erupted in cheers. However, as we rode back to the center, Prince Philip yelled out,  ''John, that was your goal!'' Classic generosity overrode his pride in his son’s goal. It was inspiring.

In a home match at Windsor, I remember connecting with a bouncing ball with a fluke near side backhand. Prince Philip was galloping after me. The hard ball, traveling like a shot, hit him smack in the chest. How it did not knock him out of the saddle I will never know. A few inches higher and it could have hit him in the face, possibly killing him. (No face guards in those far-off days!)

It must have hurt like hell, but he uttered not a whimper. Later, in the changing room, he took off his shirt to reveal an ugly red, yellow and black circular bruise in his chest. Pointing at it, he called out, ''This is yours, John!'' It spoke volumes of his ability to overcome and laugh through great pain.

Unexpectedly, he spotted me on a visit to Saudi Arabia. Much to the amazement of Saudi Royal Protocol officials, he took me under his wing to witness a fascinating Royal diplomatic effort to get a British Minister well placed to win a massive contract. In passing, it amazes me always that people complain at the $140 million p.a. cost of the Monarchy when the Royal Family earns billions of dollars for British trade and tourism.

Prince Philip was a natural leader and a man of the people. He personified one of Rudyard Kipling’s famous line of poetry: ''If you can walk with the crowd and keep your virtue, or walk with Kings — nor lose the common touch …''

He was a natural leader and a man of the people. Aside from the uniforms that he had to wear, Prince Philip dressed modestly with no frills. He raised huge sums for and took a deep interest in children's development, sport and playing fields. He pioneered and developed great interest in and action to protect animals and the environment.

Perhaps most importantly, he realized the vital political need for wide popular support for the continuation and survival of a democratic monarchy in which the Sovereign retains great constitutional power, subtly preventing the silde of such power into the hands of party politicians.

Following World War II, Buckingham Palace was run in a Victorian manner. Prince Philip set out, against considerable resistance, to modernize the British Monarchy. He aimed to bring it closer to and thus to have real meaning for the British people to ensure its survival when the few remaining European Monarchies had become largely ceremonial.

As with many independent-minded and active people, old age did not come easily to Prince Philip. In referring to age, he wrote me some three years ago,  ''Hearing goes: eye-sight goes, mobility goes and memory plays tricks.''

Above all, Prince Philip was a constant and strong support for his wife, The Queen. He leaves a massive void. The United Kingdom, The British Commonwealth and The Civilized World have lost a great son.

By chance, COVID-19 has reduced his funeral to a small family occasion just as I feel he would have wanted, full of familial love and meaning with little of the pomp and circumstance he eschewed. 

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The late Prince Philip was possibly the most widely photographed man in the world and recognized widely by billions of people as a wonderful Prince Consort and husband to Her...
browne, philip
Thursday, 15 April 2021 09:05 PM
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