The colossal importance of the Duke of Edinburgh, who celebrates his 90th birthday next week, is that he has defied the spirit of his time. This is why, for most of his adult life, he has been forced to endure such hostility and contempt. In the 1960s, satirists portrayed him as a member of a bankrupt establishment. The state socialists who ran Britain in the 1970s despised the Duke as a symbol of ruling-class domination. The New Right that came to power in the 1980s could not understand him at all. He was not for sale, he was not efficient, and he was not driven by the profit motive, yet he could not really be classified as part of the public sector. He appeared to have no purpose.And on the sartorial constancy of Prince Philip, go to Admiral Cod again.
It is very easy to say what he stands for: duty, service, discretion, kindness, concern, eccentricity. His commitment to the cause has been exemplary. Until last year, when he cut down for health reasons, he was still carrying out well over 300 engagements a year. No wonder the political and media classes that have gradually taken control of Britain over the past few decades have so much contempt for the Duke. Disinterested public service fits in neither with the Right-wing narrative of private enterprise nor New Labour’s conception of a centralised, domineering political class.
Ancient proverb: Those who marry the spirit of the age, will soon be widowed.