‘You’re too fat to be an astronaut’ and other ‘off-the cuff’ remarks by Britain’s Prince Philip
Duke of Edinburgh’s reputation for plain speaking has led to controversy
Britain’s Prince Philip has shocked and sometimes delighted the public with his outspoken comments. File photograph: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty
The 95-year-old has shocked and sometimes delighted the public with his outspoken comments and clangers.
His reputation for plain speaking has often led to controversy, but he was once branded a “national treasure” by the British press for his inability to curb his off-the-cuff remarks.
He claimed he was misunderstood. In fact, the Duke has been “misunderstood” almost everywhere he went.
Here are some of Philip’s famous phrases:
- “British women can’t cook” (in Britain in 1966).
- “What do you gargle with, pebbles?” (speaking to singer Tom Jones after the 1969 Royal Variety Performance).
- “I declare this thing open, whatever it is.” (on a visit to Canada in 1969).
- “Everybody was saying we must have more leisure. Now they are complaining they are unemployed” (during the 1981 recession).
- “If it has got four legs and it is not a chair, if it has got two wings and it flies but is not an aeroplane, and if it swims and it is not a submarine, the Cantonese will eat it.” (at a 1986 World Wildlife Fund meeting).
- “It looks like a tart’s bedroom.” (on seeing plans for the Duke and Duchess of York’s house at Sunninghill Park in 1988)
- “Yak, yak, yak; come on get a move on.” (shouted from the deck of Britannia in Belize in 1994 to the Queen who was chatting to her hosts on the quayside).
- “We didn’t have counsellors rushing around every time somebody let off a gun, asking ‘Are you all right? Are you sure you don’t have a ghastly problem?’ You just got on with it.” (about the Second World War commenting on modern stress counselling for servicemen in 1995).
- “How do you keep the natives off the booze long enough to get them through the test?” (to a driving instructor in Oban, Scotland, during a 1995 walkabout).
- “If a cricketer, for instance, suddenly decided to go into a school and batter a lot of people to death with a cricket bat, which he could do very easily, I mean, are you going to ban cricket bats?” (in 1996, amid calls to ban firearms after the Dunblane shooting).
- “Bloody silly fool!” (in 1997, referring to a Cambridge University car park attendant who did not recognise him).
- “It looks as if it was put in by an Indian.” (pointing at an old-fashioned fusebox in a factory near Edinburgh in 1999).
- “Deaf? If you are near there, no wonder you are deaf.” (to young deaf people in Cardiff, in 1999, referring to a school’s steel band).
- “They must be out of their minds.” (in the Solomon Islands, in 1982, when he was told that the annual population growth was 5 per cent).
- “You are a woman, aren’t you?”(In Kenya, in 1984, after accepting a small gift from a local woman).
- “If you stay here much longer, you’ll all be slitty-eyed.” (to British students in China, during the 1986 state visit).
- “Your country is one of the most notorious centres of trading in endangered species in the world.” (in Thailand, in 1991, after accepting a conservation award).
- “Oh no, I might catch some ghastly disease.” (in Australia, in 1992, when asked to stroke a koala).
- “Aren’t most of you descended from pirates?” (to a wealthy islander in the Cayman Islands in 1994).
- “You managed not to get eaten, then?” (suggesting to a student in 1998 who had been trekking in Papua New Guinea that tribes there were still cannibals).
- “You’re too fat to be an astronaut.” (to 13-year-old Andrew Adams who told Philip he wanted to go into space. Salford, 2001).
- “I wish he’d turn the microphone off.” (muttered at the Royal Variety Performance as he watched Sir Elton John perform, 2001).
- “Do you still throw spears at each other?” (In Australia in 2002 talking to a successful aborigine entrepreneur).
- “You look like a suicide bomber.” (to a young female officer wearing a bullet-proof vest on Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, in 2002).
- “Do you know they’re now producing eating dogs for anorexics?” (to a blind woman outside Exeter Cathedral, 2002)
- “Well, you didn’t design your beard too well, did you?” (to designer Stephen Judge about his tiny goatee beard in July 2009).
- “There’s a lot of your family in tonight.” (after looking at the name badge of businessman Atul Patel at a Palace reception for British Indians in October 2009).
- “Do you have a pair of knickers made out of this?” pointing to some tartan (to Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie a papal reception in Edinburgh in September 2010).
- “Bits are beginning to drop off.” (on approaching his 90th birthday, 2011)
- “I would get arrested if I unzipped that dress.” (to 25-year-old council worker Hannah Jackson, who was wearing a dress with a zip running the length of its front, on a Jubilee visit to Bromley, Kent, in May 2012)
- “The Philippines must be half empty as you’re all here running the NHS.” (on meeting a Filipino nurse at a Luton hospital in February 2013)
- “(Children) go to school because their parents don’t want them in the house.” (prompting giggles from Malala Yousafzai, who survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban after campaigning for the right of girls to go to school without fear — October 2013)
- “Just take the f***ing picture.” (losing patience with an RAF photographer at events to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain — July 2015)
- “You look starved.” (to a pensioner on a visit to the Charterhouse almshouse for elderly men — February 2017)
- “I’m just a bloody amoeba.” (on the Queen’s decision that their children should be called Windsor, not Mountbatten).
- “Gentlemen, I think it is time we pulled our fingers out.”(to the Industrial Co-Partnership Association on Britain’s inefficient industries in 1961).
- “Are you asking me if the Queen is going to die?” (on being questioned on when the Prince of Wales would succeed to the throne)
- “If the man had succeeded in abducting Anne, she would have given him a hell of a time while in captivity.” (On a gunman who tried to kidnap the Princess Royal in 1974).
- “I hope he breaks his bloody neck.” (when a photographer covering a royal visit to India fell out of a tree)
- “If it doesn’t fart or eat hay, she’s not interested.” (on Princess Anne)
- “When a man opens a car door for his wife, it’s either a new car or a new wife.” (on marriage).
- “It’s a pleasant change to be in a country that isn’t ruled by its people.” (to Alfredo Stroessner, the Paraguayan dictator).
- “Where did you get that hat?” (supposedly to Queen at her Coronation).