Prince Philip emerges as a complicated figure with an even more complicated history

Finn McRedmond: We should dismiss impulse to order the world into simple, moral categories

Prince Philip at Government Buildings, Dublin, in 2006. The British press’s reaction to his death last week sought to acknowledge his complicated legacy. Photograph: Eric Luke

Prince Philip at Government Buildings, Dublin, in 2006. The British press’s reaction to his death last week sought to acknowledge his complicated legacy. Photograph: Eric Luke

Was Prince Philip the paragon of duty or an embittered racist? Depends who you’re asking, of course. His fans may revere him as a worthy traditionalist who understood how to make sacrifices for causes bigger than himself. Others are happy to see him as final evidence that monarchy is out of step with the character of a modern democracy.

The British press’s reaction to the death of the Duke of Edinburgh last week sought to acknowledge this complicated legacy. His varied gaffes received plenty of attention (“If you stay here much longer you’ll all be slitty-eyed,” he said to some British students in China; “Still throwing spears” he quipped to an Australian Aboriginal; “And what exotic part of the world do you come from?” he asked a Black British politician).

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