We asked students how they feel about Prince Philip in the aftermath of his death
‘Terrible guy, two out of 10’
Following Buckingham Palace’s announcement on the 9th April that Prince Philip had died, a series of tributes flooded all corners of the media, painting Philip as a fierce, respectful and innovative man who helped bring the monarchy into the 21st century.
Naturally though, many of these tributes glossed over some dark moments in Philip’s past, labelling them “controversial” but still idolising him as a man in their efforts to pay respects. Upon seeing the announcement and mannered news coverage, I personally jumped straight on Twitter to see what the rest of the world had to say.
Just as I knew Twitter would, it exposed the good, the bad and the ugly. People were sharing memes before poor Phil had even gone cold, others were calling out his racist behaviour and yet more were feeling sorry for Liz, having just lost her husband of over 70 years.
Twitter really was, and remains, a goldmine and, as our generation clearly has some interesting takes on the topic, I thought I’d dig a little deeper and ask students to let it all loose. Considering this man was around before we were even a twinkle in our great-grandparents’ eye, he’s definitely had an impact on how we view the Royal Family throughout our lives, so who better to ask than people growing up in a new age?
The most overwhelming response was that Philip’s death has been given way too much airtime. Yes, he was a public figure, yes, the people that love him should mourn him, but for our generation he was no longer an idolized symbol, and in fact brought reminders of an imperialist past that we no longer want.
“I think there’s been too much news coverage on this for our generation who don’t really relate to an old man,” one student told me. “So many people have died during Covid that I think it’s just insensitive to have so much focus on a 99 year old’s death.”
Other students echoed this view, saying: “I don’t really care either way, I get why people are sad but it doesn’t affect me” and “I understand the news coverage but other shit happened that day too.” After 99 years on the earth, I think it’s safe to say that Philip lost his novelty for us, and ultimately fizzled out way before his death.
For this reason, a lot of students expressed anger at “putting another human being on such a high pedestal”, saying: “It’s gross to watch. I’ll be mourning the death of my nan three years ago this month – I don’t see an entire service dedicated to her.”
There was also talk of relaxing Covid rules for Philip’s funeral so that more than 30 people could attend, though it didn’t end up happening, it was still a pretty pertinent representation of how dominating the monarchy can be.
A huge part of the frustration directed at the Royal Family derives from the idolization of Prince Philip’s behaviour, which conveniently neglects his “archaic views and actions” that we simply have no cause to mourn for. “Obviously I feel sorry for his family, but at the end of the day why should people who suffered at the hands of his actions mourn for him? He has enough people to do that,” another student told me.
Two culprits have been clearly highlighted for this “artificial and exaggerated” perspective of Philip: the media and the monarchy.
“The media play a huge part in ignoring the issues around racism and controversial statements he made,” one student said, with another going further: “By excusing his racism as banter to defend the royals, the media becomes an enabler.”
This strong response also sums it up as: “Massively overblown coverage on the death of a racist nonagenarian. The monarchy needs to be abolished, why is this country full of so many bootlickers.”
Whether the two institutions are in cahoots or whether they just enjoy brushing over actions that definitely should not be glorified, they both seem to be pretty guilty of this right now. “An institution, not a modern institution by any stretch of the imagination” one responder puts it, highlighting the routinely backward ways of the Royal Family.
However a surprising amount of students commented to defend Philips’ past actions, overly giving the message that he was “from a time where racist and sexist behaviour was acceptable.”
One student said: “He may be objectively ‘bad’ based on today’s societal standards, but I don’t think it’s fair to judge his past on the present”, with another emphasising that we must be aware of his racist behaviour but acknowledge that “it can be really disrespectful to share that kind of stuff with the world after his death, it should be shown in private.”
Most of Philip’s scandals involving offensive jokes and questionable behaviour happened much earlier in his life, spurring on the argument that it was a different era where he was actually seen as a prime figure for modernity. It’s pretty clear that he was no longer this important character in the new generation’s lives before his death, and hadn’t even spoken publicly, let alone said anything overtly offensive, for a very long time beforehand.
A student I spoke to firmly sticks to this view, saying: “The majority of people his age have that “sense of humour” – I don’t think he was racist nor sexist, they were just what was considered acceptable jokes at the time but are now offensive.
“I just think people are too quick to judge and don’t realise that their grandparents or family could be the same; they just want to hate on Philip because he was a privileged white man.”
For some, he is still considered a role model – of misogyny or old age, I’m not quite sure. One student said: “He was still an important person in Britain and obviously made mistakes because he was human – if people always look for the bad then there would be no good role models.”
One very politically correct and cautious word being used everywhere surrounding Prince Philip at the moment is “controversial”. Some people endorse this description of him, saying that he was a “controversial character who doesn’t deserve a huge amount of airtime but will get it because of tradition”, and others really don’t:
“Calling him “controversial” disregards the feelings and experiences of BIPOC people. Miley Cyrus swinging on her wrecking ball is “controversial”, not someone who was blatantly racist.”
While there are some pretty wild opinions on Philip, most students honestly “couldn’t care less” about his death. He was not a symbol for much in this age, but he was a symbol for an outdated institution that holds on to a past that no longer represents us. Whether it’s the person or the monarchy behind it all, interest is definitely waning, and some would even say:
“One down x”
Featured image by Tim Rooke/Shutterstock