The Duke – A Portrait of Prince Philip


Staff member
Sep 24, 2012
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It was a road trip like no other. They hit the track and didn't look back till they got to, ooh, the edge of the Sandringham estate. Behind the wheel, squinting at the horizon, exuding irritation through every pore, was the dude they call The Duke. Sitting in the passenger spot, squirming, trussed up in his seatbelt, poor Sir Trevor McDonald eyed The Duke nervously. This was less like a buddy movie, more a hostage situation. To try to calm The Duke, everything McDonald said was prefaced by "sir" and delivered in amiable, pacifying tones. It didn't work. Dukey was on a hair-trigger. Anything could set him off. Even a grazing hind: "Ghastly little deer!"

It was delightfully uncomfortable viewing, but at least this sequence felt fresh, which is more than can be said for the rest of the stiff, airless documentary The Duke – A Portrait of Prince Philip. Pre-recorded tributes flowed in thick and fast, some of them more plausible than others. "He's fun, he's flirty and he's a game, game guy!"

"The Duke of Edinburgh was someone who brought verve and dynamism to our university at Edinburgh," offered Gordon Brown. Sadly for Edinburgh, I think he meant it. When Brown was elected rector of the university as a student, the Duke supported him more than most. But the real problem with the Prime Minister's contribution was that it was couched entirely in the past tense. It seemed to have been filmed with an eye to another, less happy occasion.

Usually, royal documentaries fill you with pity for their duty-bound, formality-shackled subjects, pit ponies working for the preservation of unfashionable values and their own dynasty. But this time it was different. Prince Philip's life looked utterly enviable, a concatenation of leisure activities. Painting (he's inspired, get this, by Gauguin). Cricket (dutifully, he's played with the best). Travel (the sacrifice!). And founding sadistic award schemes that make young people get blisters and eat mud. (Sorry, I still haven't got over my Silver Orienteering experience.)

When we tell ourselves that being royal is a Faustian pact, who are we kidding? Attending all those ceremonial functions seems a small price to pay for the life of Riley.

Source: independent