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12 April, 2021 06:39:54 PM

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Prince Philip and his vision of the ‘complete man’

The man who spent seven decades in the shadow of his wife, the UK's Queen Elizabeth II had much more qualities to discuss or write about. The force of his personality meant he would never be simply a professional spouse rather there are many more things to talk about the man.
Khandoker Montasir Hassan
Prince Philip and his vision of the ‘complete man’

Philip, duke of Edinburgh, in full Prince Philip, duke of Edinburgh, earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich, also called Philip Mountbatten, original name Philip, prince of Greece and Denmark, breathed his last on April 9, 2021, in Windsor Castle, England at the age of 99. How was Prince Philip and how were his decades of royal duty? Was he just the duke of Edinburgh or husband of a queen who never became a king? Or, Was he just, as BBC says, the world's most famous husband? Of course not, and to those other than the British, who have even the slightest information about him know the fact that his acquaintance is not just limited to the grounds of being a husband of a queen or a prince.

The man who spent seven decades in the shadow of his wife, the UK's Queen Elizabeth II had much more qualities to discuss or write about. The force of his personality meant he would never be simply a professional spouse rather there are many more things to talk about the man.
Prince Philip was born in1921 on the Greek island of Corfu. He was the youngest child and only son of Prince Andrew of Greece and Princess Alice of Battenberg, and that heritage made him a prince of Greece and Denmark. Unfortunately, in 1922 the family was banished from Greece after a coup and Philip's journey to Buckingham Palace began in that same year. The rest is well documented in the history of the British Monarchy. The history of the British Monarchy will perhaps remember him as an extraordinary public servant. They will remember his service as the Duke of Edinburgh or his extraordinary commitment and devotion to The Queen as a husband and a loyal companion. This loyal companionship was so strong that the Guardian says “only a minority of British people can remember a time when the Queen and the Duke were not together”. And, as the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has expressed his reaction, “We remember the Duke ... above all for his steadfast support for Her Majesty the Queen, not just as her consort, by her side, every day of her reign, but as her husband, has strength and stay of more than 70 years. And it is to Her Majesty, and her family, that our nation's thoughts must turn today. Like the expert carriage driver that he was he helped to steer the royal family and the monarchy so that it remains an institution indisputably vital to the balance and happiness of our national life”.

Our honourable Prime Minister has said “Bangladesh and the British-Bangladeshi community have lost a true friend and ally with the demise of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh”. In a condolence letter, to Queen Elizabeth II, the prime minister said, "To the People of Bangladesh, HRH the Duke will always remain an example of duty and honour, and a pillar of strength and support to Your Majesty, and to the Commonwealth People."
For many he may also be remembered for his role at the forefront of many community service initiatives. In spite of spending much of his time in fulfilling the duties of his station, Philip engaged in a variety of philanthropic endeavours. He served as president of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) from 1981 to 1996, and his International Award programme allowed more than six million young adults to engage in community service, leadership development, and physical fitness activities. But what the history of the British Monarchy may not record is his outspoken right-wing views, the public expression of which he sometimes found hard to resist, occasionally embarrassed a monarchy trying to put aside its traditional upper-crust image. As when he was asked to sum up his contribution to British life, Prince Philip responded with typical frankness:

"I've just done what I think is my best. Some people think it's all right. Some don't. What can you do? I can't change my way of doing things. It's part of my style. It's just too bad, they'll have to lump it."

In this way, the prince drew repeated attention by making outspoken and witty comments and for that sometimes the media tagged him as a “Duke of Jokes.”
However, the Duke has been such an imposing figure in the royal household so long that his impact is not easy to summarise. But the image of this man that motivated me to write about him or some of the qualities of the man that forced me to recognise him a bit differently have been nicely summarized by the Guardian: “Royalty is a role attained by birth or marriage. But Prince Philip was also, perhaps paradoxically,   the trailblazer for the idea of the royalty as a profession. His diligence helped to reshape the postwar monarchy. He was a genuine modernizer and wanted the monarchy to change with the time. He wanted family to be publicly active and useful and he was opposed to royal flummery. He saw television as a medium that could reinvent the monarchy for the era of mass culture, and pushed for the family to accept the televised documentary on them which aired in 1969.”  
He also did another thing that was most required of him in life was fathering and as Prince Andrew remembered how his father made time to invent bedtime tales, or listen to his children read Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories.

As soon as I heard the news of his death, I suddenly remembered one of his speeches that I had read almost ten years ago. The reason I still remember it is not because of my sharp memory but because I liked it so much that it made a lasting impression on me. I read it in a book titled Twentieth Century Prose 1940-1960 Ward, A.C. (selected with an Introduction by). The title of the essay was “The Complete Man” by Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh: from Selected Speeches (1955). His views on the role of universities were like this:

“A university must do more than merely provide a high class professional apprenticeship. It does not matter in the least what a student’s specialized line happens to be; the fact that he is a specialist cannot excuse him from his responsibilities as a man. Students must emerge as complete human beings capable of taking their proper place in a society as a credit to their universities both for their professional knowledge and as men.”

And, his definition of complete man was: “nobody can be termed a complete man who has no knowledge of what science has to teach, and, equally, human obligations cannot be escaped on the grounds of being a specialized scientist or technologist.” By human obligations he meant

“The ability to behave in a reasonable way, to observe restraint so that restraints do not have to be imposed, to be able to think clearly and objectively so that false doctrines cannot gain ground.”

Perhaps these lines quoted from his speech will give the readers an impression about Prince Philip’s sympathetic understanding, his clear vision and wonderful ability to combine courtesy and plain speaking.

Royal biographer Ingrid Seward quotes Prince Andrew as saying of his childhood: "Compassion comes from the Queen. And the duty and discipline comes from him." Repeating the words of our honourable Prime Minister I would like to say that the People of Bangladesh will always remember Prince Philip as an example of duty and honour. And, finally, I would recognize him as a complete man and remember him for his extraordinary words: “The conflict in this modern world lies not between anything else but between man and the world he has made for himself. Man has succeeded in changing many things but he has not changed much himself.” How true he was!

The writer, Associate Professor of English, is Director, Institute of Modern Languages, (IML), Jagannath University, Dhaka. E-mail: [email protected]

 

 

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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