Prince Philip is the rudest human being I have ever met.
Suffice it to say, that doesn’t necessarily make him a bad person.
Lots of people are rude to me, and often with perfectly good reason.
But Philip was quite breathtakingly off-hand, and it gave me a rare personal insight into what a disagreeable character the grand old Duke can be when he chooses.
My run-in with him came 20 years ago at his son Prince Charles’s 50th birthday party at Buckingham Palace.
I was Editor of the Daily Mirror newspaper at the time, and was standing with the Editor of our rivals, The Sun.
Philip loomed into view as we sipped cocktails, and marched towards us.
I offered my hand for him to shake but he ignored it.
‘Who are you?’ he barked menacingly, as he screwed up his eyes trying to read our chest-emblazoned nametags.
‘Well sir,’ I replied, ‘I’m afraid you are currently surrounded by the tabloid press.’
He stared at me like I’d just told him I’d like fried Corgi for supper, with open-mouthed disgust and revulsion radiating from every crevice of his weather-beaten face.
Philip didn’t say a single further word.
Instead, he brushed off my still outstretched hand, and turned abruptly left before marching off as fast as he’d arrived.
A few yards on, he passed another guest and, looking back at me, loudly sneered to him: ‘My God, you just can’t tell from the outside, can you…’
(Ironically, that guest was also a tabloid editor, this proving Philip’s point.)
Now, I don’t blame Philip for being so damn rude to me.
If someone published endless stories about my family, many scandalous and embarrassing, then I’d be just the same if I met them too.
But what staggered me was how he was prepared to be SO rude to someone who was an invited guest at his son’s birthday party.
That takes some kind of brass neck.
I was reminded of our extraordinary encounter over the past few days, when the whole world has got to see just how brassy Philip’s neck can really be.
Last Thursday, he was involved in a serious car crash on a public road near the royal estate of Sandringham in Norfolk on the East Coast of England.
Philip, driving a Land Rover Freelander, drove out from a side road into a busy main road and collided with a Kia carrying two women and a nine-month-old baby.
Emma Fairweather, the passenger in the Kia, broke her wrist.
Her friend, the driver, suffered minor injuries, and the baby, thankfully was unhurt.
Philip, miraculously given he is 97 years old and his Land Rover rolled over onto its side, was also unhurt.
He has reportedly blamed bright sunshine for temporarily blinding him, so he was unable to see the Kia coming when he pulled out into its path.
Other witnesses have suggested it was a cloudy day, and the more likely explanation is his old age impaired his ability to drive.
Frankly, I don’t believe ANY 97-year-old should be allowed to drive a car – especially if they have a whole array of servants and bodyguards who can do it for them.
But that’s not what bothered me most about this story.
No, what ENRAGED me is what happened next.
The very next day, a new Land Rover was ostentatiously delivered to Philip in full view of the media.
And within just a few hours he was driving it around public roads without wearing a seatbelt – an illegal act.
The pictures showed a defiant Philip snarling at the wheel.
His message was clear: ‘You won’t stop me driving, I’m rich enough to get a new car whenever I like, and I don’t care about obeying the law of the land.’
Emma Fairweather, the passenger in the Kia, broke her wrist. Her nine-month-old baby was in the back seat +5
Emma Fairweather, the passenger in the Kia, broke her wrist. Her nine-month-old baby was in the back seat
And frankly, he made me sick to my stomach.
What astonishing arrogance!
And how staggeringly insensitive to the people whose car he smashed into only hours earlier!
Just imagine the outrage that would have erupted if a famous footballer like David Beckham had behaved like this?
He’d have rightly been crucified both in the press, and in the court of public opinion.
He’d have also faced almost certain prosecution.
Yet Philip, we’re told, has been given just a friendly warning by police.
To make matters worse, he hasn’t even bothered to contact the people he hit. Instead, an aide for his wife, the Queen, left a voicemail message saying they were ‘thinking of you very much’.
It doesn’t seem to me that Philip has been thinking of anyone but himself, in the most selfish, aloof and inconsiderate possible manner.
I’m a big fan of the royals; I think they do a huge amount of good for Britain, and our image around the world, that fully justifies – and repays – the vast amount of tax-payer money we spend on them.
I also think, notwithstanding his extreme aversion to media people like me, that Prince Philip is an extraordinary man who has devoted most of his life to serving his country superbly well in myriad ways.
He certainly fully deserves his recent long-overdue retirement from public life. bandar poker online
But he needs to understand this incident has shown him at his privileged worst, and reflects badly on all the royals.
The bottom line is he nearly killed three of Her Majesty’s subjects with his reckless driving, then compounded his victims’ distress by refusing to apologise to them, and getting straight back on the road in a new car, with no seatbelt.
To be so openly, flagrantly contemptuous of public opinion, members of the public, and the law of the land is completely unacceptable – especially if you’re the husband of the Queen.
Where is his contrition, or common courtesy?
Philip, as I know to my cost, won’t care what I have to say about his conduct.
And he won’t care what the rest of the media thinks either.
Nor, it is sadly obvious, does he seem to care about the on-going condition and feelings of the people he careered into.
It’s equally apparent he is refusing to listen to a word any of his protection officers are saying to him – because they would have surely begged him not to go back out driving on his own on public roads so soon after an accident, without even belting up.
No, there’s only one person in the world who Philip ever listens to and that’s his wife.
So I respectfully suggest Her Majesty now has a very firm word in the Duke of Hazard’s cantankerous, belligerent ear, tells him to stop being such a stubborn callous fool, and orders him to give up driving.
For his sake, and ours.