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The Telegraph

‘Prince Philip was a wonderful listener – you could tell him anything as long as you were honest’

There is an image of Prince Philip from the time when he arrived in this country as having been rather a lost boy. In truth, when he came to Britain he was absorbed into a world of cousins, aunts and uncles – all relatives of his mother, Princess Alice. The Duke’s father, Prince Andrew of Greece, sent him, aged seven, to live with my great grandmother, Victoria, the Dowager Marchioness of Milford Haven, at Kensington Palace. His guardianship was soon assumed by my grandfather, George, whose home at Lynden Manor, on the Thames near Maidenhead, quickly became The Duke’s home too until he went away to school. It was there that my own father, his cousin, David, 3rd Marquess of Milford Haven and the young Philip became firm friends. My father was two years older, and as they were the only two boys among the cousins, they had an awful lot of fun. There were great family stories of derring-do. They’d go boating up the Thames and once got lost and ended up sleeping in a barn. I was seven when my father died, so have few memories of him, but I’m told they shared a fantastic sense of humour and love for adventure. After my father died of a heart attack in 1970, Prince Philip, then 49, and Uncle Dickie stepped up and supported my mother, who’d been left a widow aged just 31. She was hugely grateful to The Duke for keeping an eye on her and for being a sort of father figure to us, her two boys. In later years, I would sit with him and ask endless questions about my father. It was wonderful to have someone who could tell me everything about him. I went to Heather Down and then on to Gordonstoun, following in The Duke’s footsteps. He was always there to talk and give advice if I needed it. Prince Philip was a wonderful listener; you could tell him anything as long as you were being honest and forthright. He was happy to listen to your thoughts. But if he had some advice he thought you ought to hear, he’d give it to you. Some of my happiest memories are of one-on-one time with him at Balmoral, where I would often help him start the barbecue before the rest of the party arrived. More recently, after my divorce, I’d take one of my three daughters with me as my plus one. I would always say, “If you’re sitting next to him, he has a very enquiring mind so know what you’re talking about. The girls would inevitably come back and say: “No, Papa, he was charming. Really interesting and interested!” I’d jokingly say: “He was? He clearly treats girls differently to boys then…” The girls would prepare a list of questions, always about their grandfather. I think he really enjoyed telling those stories, because I suspect not too many people asked him about that side of the family. His sense of humour and love of mischief was like none other. I remember once, on Royal Yacht Britannia, he played a fantastic trick on my then wife, Penny. The Duke was sitting on the veranda deck reading the newspaper. Wanting to be helpful, Penny asked if he’d like a cup of tea. The Duke looks up and says: “Oh, OK, thank you very much,” and carries on reading. Penny made the tea and about ten minutes later The Queen came in, took one look and exclaimed: “Who made the tea?” Her Majesty was obviously surprised as it was customary she prepared the tea herself. The Duke was giggling and hiding behind the shaking newspaper, knowing he’d got Penny into trouble.

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Topics #China #David #Dickie #George #Kensington Palace #Prince #Queen #Thames #The Telegraph #United Kingdom #Victoria