Prince Philip, the grandfather of political incorrectness

Imagine if Donald Trump, meeting a Kenyan for the first time, asked, “You are a woman, aren’t you?” Or, if during a recession, he muttered, “Everybody was saying we must have more leisure. Now they are complaining that they are unemployed.” Or to a group of Australian Aborigines: “Do you still throw spears at one another?”

Fortunately, these are not Trumpisms. The president has his own collection of doozies, whether in public gatherings or leaked by his oh-so-loyal administration.

FILE - In this Oct. 26, 2011 file photo, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, left, and her husband Prince Philip attend the opening of the new Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne, Australia. Australia's prime minister on Monday, Jan. 26, 2015 dismissed criticism of his decision to the Duke of Edinburgh an Australian knight, saying Philip has a long history of service Down Under. Prime Minister Tony Abbott's announcement that the duke would be awarded Australia's highest honor came on Australia's national holiday, prompting some to question the wisdom of knighting a British royal on a day meant to commemorate Australians. (AP Photo/Andrew Brownbill, File)

FILE - In this Oct. 26, 2011 file photo, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, left, and her husband Prince Philip attend the opening of the new Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne, Australia. Australia's prime minister on Monday, Jan. 26, 2015 dismissed criticism of his decision to the Duke of Edinburgh an Australian knight, saying Philip has a long history of service Down Under. Prime Minister Tony Abbott's announcement that the duke would be awarded Australia's highest honor came on Australia's national holiday, prompting some to question the wisdom of knighting a British royal on a day meant to commemorate Australians. (AP Photo/Andrew Brownbill, File) (The Associated Press)

No, the above gaffes – and hundreds more – are the wit, wisdom and legacy of Prince Philip, the royal consort of Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom. When Philip, 96, retired from public life this week, he took with him not only a royal standard for patriotism and devotion to duty, but a scalding – some might say scarlet -- streak of biting sarcasm.

He loved what Britain stood for, though even he could see its weak spots. “People think there’s a rigid class system here, but dukes have been known to marry chorus girls. Some have even married Americans.”

Born into Greek royalty in 1921, Philip was a dashing naval officer who wooed and wed Elizabeth, the young woman who would become queen. Even before the term political correctness had been coined, Philip was politically incorrect. “I would like to go to Russia very much,” he said in 1967, “although the bastards murdered half my family.” After attending a concert by Tom Jones, Philip asked the crooner, “What do you gargle with, pebbles?”

He did not mellow with age. On a visit to China in 1986, he warned a group of British exchange students, “If you stay here much longer, you’ll all be slitty-eyed.” Years later, he defended his comment. “The Chinese weren’t worried about it, so why should anyone else (be)?”

June 6, 2013: Prince Philip, center, the husband of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II attends a garden party at Buckingham Palace in London.  Buckingham Palace says Queen Elizabeth II's husband was later admitted to a London hospital for an exploratory operation. The palace said the operation on 91-year-old Prince Philip will come after "abdominal investigations," but did not elaborate.  (

June 6, 2013: Prince Philip, center, the husband of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II attends a garden party at Buckingham Palace in London. Buckingham Palace says Queen Elizabeth II's husband was later admitted to a London hospital for an exploratory operation. The palace said the operation on 91-year-old Prince Philip will come after "abdominal investigations," but did not elaborate. ( (AP)

It wasn’t just foreigners he offended. He once asked a driving instructor in Scotland (home of scotch whiskey), “How do you keep the natives off the booze long enough to get them through the test?”

Some of his witticisms damaged not only his reputation, but his wife’s popularity. Imagine being at the dinner table at Buckingham Palace after some of his comments became public. Yet to the outside world, the queen and Philip presented a rock-solid image of unity.

June 17, 2013 - Britain's Prince Philip leaves the London Clinic in central London, Monday . The husband of Queen Elizabeth II, who turned 92 last week walked out 10 days after undergoing exploratory surgery on his abdomen.

June 17, 2013 - Britain's Prince Philip leaves the London Clinic in central London, Monday . The husband of Queen Elizabeth II, who turned 92 last week walked out 10 days after undergoing exploratory surgery on his abdomen. (AP)

As he removes himself from the glare of publicity, Philip will be remembered not only for his caustic wit, but his unfaltering loyalty to the crown, and the traditions of Great Britain. He loved what Britain stood for, though even he could see its weak spots. “People think there’s a rigid class system here, but dukes have been known to marry chorus girls. Some have even married Americans.”

Enjoy your rest, your royal highness. You’ve earned it.