Friday, 10 June 2011

90th birthday of HRH Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh

On his 90th birthday His Royal Highness Prince Philip receives a lot of praise for his role as the longest-serving royal consort. Even The Age could not help publishing an article that was not full of the usual nastiness, but gave a fair summary of his life. Many other papers and blogs refer to his achievements - and his very down to earth humor, for which is is equally loved or despised.

The Radical Royalist wants to point out his Australian connection. A very useful reminder of Prince Philip's role in Australia is Philip W. Pike's book The Royal Presence in Australia 1867 - 1986 from which the following excerpt is taken:

There has always been some confusion over the Duke of Edinburgh and his title. Sometimes he is referred to as Prince Philip and sometimes as the Duke of Edinburgh. The fact is, both titles are correct, but it wasn’t until 1957 when the Duke was still only a royal duke and not a prince that the Queen gave him a new title for his services to the Commonwealth and herself – he became Prince of the United Kingdom. He had shown that he had always been “his own man” and had avoided any inference that he was a Prince Consort living in his wife’s shadow.

Australia had always seen him as an individual. When he returned on 20th February 1965 he had already visited this country four times, twice with the Queen and twice alone. Now he was here on a brief visit to New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.

The Duke, who had not always endeared himself to journalists over the years, held an informal meeting with the Australian press. He was, on occasions very outspoken and had several years before lashed out at the press after they had reported “rifts” between himself and the Queen. Elizabeth Longford in her book Elizabeth R records his response: “Those bloody lies that you people print to make money. These lies about how I’m never with my wife ... If photographers poke a long lens through a keyhole into my private life, then I’m bloody nasty” – it seems a perfectly normal reaction from someone living life in a goldfish bowl.

It was outbursts like this that didn’t endear him to the press.

His most important engagement in Sydney was to deliver the first Dunrossil Memorial Lecture established by the Institute of Radio and Electronics Engineers in memory of its former patron, Viscount Dunrossil. Viscount Dunrossil was Governor-General of Australia from 2nd February 1960 to 3rd February 1961. He died suddenly in Canberra on 3 February 1961. He was buried in Canberra at historic St John the Baptist Church, Reid, and remains the only Australian Governor-General to die in office

There were four hundred people assembled in the lecture theatre [of the University of New South Wales] and the presentation was telecast and broadcast throughout Australia and conveyed by Compac cable to the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries.
His lecture was extremely successful. Its main theme was a plea to see science and humanism linked:
We can control everything in this world except ourselves,” the Duke said.

“... it is true without this persistent investigation we wouldn’t know half the disturbing facts about our occupation of earth, but it seems to me that unless we make a very determined effort to sort out the problems created by man in his occupation of this earth it is very unlikely that further scientific exploration will be either necessary or possible.

“You may think I am getting slightly off beam, but I went off on that tack because I want to suggest that scientific and technological progress is not only valueless, it is actively harmful unless it is modified or directed by a social and humanitarian outlook.

“Scientists and engineers must give attention to really serious problems facing humanity.

“Although the scientific and technological revolution is by far the greatest influence upon the progress of modern human civilisation, scientists and technologists cannot should the whole responsibility for the direction mankind takes in the future.”
The message was quite clear and is even more relevant today. The editorial of the Sydney Morning Herald, commenting on the lecture, added that it “cannot be said too often, and it is no small gain that it should be impressed upon the Australian scientific community with such authority”.

The Duke’s performance was masterly with the matter and manner of his lecture. It was also a testimony to his lively understanding of modern problems and his effective way of communicating his thoughts about them."

The Duke left Sydney by Qantas Airways at 4 p.m. on Friday 26th February. The departure was even more informal than his arrival.

The offical portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Austrailia, and His Royal Highness Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, available free of charge from every Member of Parliament. Ask your MP for your copy!

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