Prince Philip’s most controversial gaffes: From ‘slitty-eyed’ China remark to saying ‘British women can't cook’
While speaking at a World Wildlife Fund meeting once, Prince Philip quipped: 'If it has four legs and is not a chair, has wings and is not an aeroplane, or swims and is not a submarine, the Cantonese will eat it'
Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, the husband of British monarch Queen Elizabeth II, and the father of Prince Charles died on Friday at the age of 99. And while the royal family and a sizable part of the UK are in mourning, his death has triggered conversations about his controversial life.
The British royal family has battled with allegations of racism -- the most recent one came thanks to Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, who in a tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey made some highly charged claims about an unnamed member of the royal family inquiring about the color of a yet-to-be-born Archie.
So, let’s look at five of Prince Philip’s most controversial moments.
His comments on China
During a royal visit to China in 1986, Philip described Beijing as "ghastly" and told British students: "If you stay here much longer you'll all be slitty-eyed." He also quipped while speaking at a World Wildlife Fund meeting the same year: "If it has four legs and is not a chair, has wings and is not an aeroplane, or swims and is not a submarine, the Cantonese will eat it."
As per a report on the South China Morning Post, it came on October 16, 1986, on the first and only British state visit to China, when the duke, the chancellor of Edinburgh University since 1953, met students from the institution who were starting a year of learning. The article says, however, that the reporting only came about thanks to a mix-up, adding that the Chinese saying that puts his quip into context did not feature.
Chinese youngsters, the report in SCMP noted, were told in jest by their elders not to stay too long in the West, lest they go “round-eyed” -- effectively, come home before losing their Chinese nature. It also said that the comments would never have surfaced as The Sun’s 1976-1990 royal reporter Harry Arnold said the chit-chat with students should have been observed from a distance from a pool position, where one delegated journalist is posted to a prearranged position and shares the material with the rest of the pack.
“The reporter was missing from that position, so I sent back as pool captain to have these youngsters interviewed,” Arnold said. “It was a fluke, absolute fluke, and it caught them floundering and of course my newspaper then had great fun by all these crazy headlines. It was just a terrible time for the duke and he suffered a lot of criticism as a result.”
"I don't think a prostitute is more moral than a wife, but they are doing the same thing," said Prince Philip reportedly dismissing claims that those who slaughter for meat have greater moral authority than those who partake in blood sports in 1988, as per a report. But this was not a one-off. "British women can't cook," he told the Scottish Womens' Institute in 1961.
"You are a woman, aren't you?" he reportedly asked a Kenyan woman, who was presenting him with a gift in 1984. "Is it a strip club?" he asked when meeting a female Sea Cadet who told the prince she worked in a nightclub, in 2009. And, he also asked Annabel Goldie, a Scottish Conservative leader, "That's a nice tie ... Do you have any knickers in that material?” when welcoming Benedict XVI to Edinburgh in 2010.
Alleged racism towards South Asians
In 2002, Philip shocked a Bangladeshi teenager in London after allegedly branding him a drug addict. The duke pointed out 14-year-old Shahin Ullah at a London youth club and commented, "He looks as if he is on drugs."
As per a report, he was visiting the Bangladesh Youth Club in Marylebone when he sat down with some of Ullah's friends and asked, "So, who's on drugs here?" Ullah said he had never taken drugs in his life and was shocked when the "rude" prince singled him out. "He called me a druggie when I am not a druggie", Ullah said. "I didn't like that and my friends did not like that. I was very upset. Just because he is rich and has money does not mean he can say anything to anyone."
The same year, Philip reportedly asked British Indian Labour MP Parmjit Dhanda what he did before becoming an MP. When Dhanda replied that he had been a student and then trade union official, the prince replied: "So you didn't do anything then."
When Dhanda responded by asking, "What did you do before becoming the Prince of Edinburgh?" Philip replied, "I served in the Royal Navy during the war" and delivered a two-fingered salute before turning on his heel and walking off.