Prince Philip's Most Inappropriate Comments Ever

From the time that she reached a marriageable age, Queen Elizabeth II was said to be desperately in love with Prince Philip. As the queen's biographer, Sally Bedell Smith, explained in an interview with People, Philip captured Elizabeth's attention from the very beginning: "She fell in love at age 18 and she never looked at anyone else." 

Although Elizabeth and Philip's romance is lauded by many as one of the most successful royal pairings of all times, there exists another side to this love story. While Elizabeth battled to create a new image for the British crown — one that sought to replace colonialism with charity — Philip made inappropriate jokes, oftentimes at the expense of former British colonies. Over the years, the prince mocked Indian engineers, Ethiopian artists, and Cantonese cooks. His bigoted remarks ultimately reflected poorly on the monarchy, leaving some to wonder when the British royal family would be held accountable for its offensive positions. As one 2015 piece for The Guardian posited, "The average woman or man on the street can't get away with publicly uttered racial slurs or bullying. But ... in the case of Prince Phillip [sic], it's shrugged off ... If you're powerful and privileged by birth, you can say what you like." 

Ultimately, Philip's racism and sexism have tarnished not just his own legacy, but also Elizabeth's. From the horrific words he uttered in China to the offensive question he asked a British lord, these are some of the prince's worst moments.

Prince Philip made racist remarks to British students in China

In 1986, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip headed to China, where Elizabeth became the first British monarch to ever step foot in the country of the Great Wall. Far from being a typical British royal tour, this trip was considered to be of the upmost importance. After all, just two years before, Britain and China had signed a historical accord, known as the Sino-British Joint Declaration. This was essentially an agreement between the two countries, stating that the sovereignty of Hong Kong would be passed peacefully from Britain to China in 1997. Thus, Elizabeth and Philip's 1986 trip was considered a vital demonstration of the friendship that was forming between the two polities. 

Unfortunately, however, British diplomacy on this visit fell short, no thanks to some of Philip's inappropriate comments. According to a 1986 piece in the SunSentinel, Philip met with some British students, who were studying in Xian. He reportedly told them that Peking was "ghastly." As per the South China Morning Post, Philip also told the students not to stay too long in China, lest they become "slitty-eyed." These words were not just offensive from a diplomatic standpoint, but they were also objectively racist. 

To make matters worse, rather than issue a sincere apology for his words, Philip criticized the students who leaked his words to the press. As reported by the SunSentinel, Philip said, "I thought the Edinburgh students were tactless."

He asked a journalist about her underwear

During his time as prince consort, Prince Philip was expected to attend formal charity events as a sign of dedication to the crown. Unfortunately, Philip's inappropriate comments often got in the way of his social graces. At one particular event, which sponsored the World Wildlife Fund, the prince approached a young Canadian journalist by the name of Serena French. As French would later write in a piece for the New York Post, Philip came up to her while she was taking notes. When she told him that she was writing an article about fashion, Philip allegedly responded: "Oh, fashion ... I suppose you'll be looking out for people wearing mink coats, then ... Surely no one would wear fur to [a conservation event] like this."

Although the exchange mostly consisted of playful banter, Philip did make a comment that was, at best, in poor taste. The way that French remembers things, the prince asked her, "You're not wearing mink knickers, are you?" While the writer later insisted that the question did not offend her, not every woman would necessarily feel the same way. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines sexual harassment as, "verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature." Indeed, Philip's choice to ask a journalist — who was attending a function in a professional capacity — about her underwear would be considered sexual harassment by many. 

The prince told a public worker he would get arrested for unzipping her dress

In 2012, Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her Diamond Jubilee in commemoration of the six decades that she had spent on the throne. Although the celebration was intended to be lighthearted and fun, it was ultimately tarnished by Prince Philip's inappropriate comments. Indeed, when the prince and the queen were traveling the country on the Jubilee Tour, they stopped in Bromley. It was there that Philip made a crude remark about Hannah Jackson, a graduate of the prestigious London School of Economics who was present at the event in a professional capacity. As a coordinator for the Bromley Council, Jackson was standing apart from the crowds as a part of the council line-up. Unfortunately, however, Philip failed to treat Bromley with the respect she deserved. 

Jackson, who was wearing a red zip-down dress, apparently caught Philip's eye. As reported by the Daily Mail, the prince took one look at Jackson's attire, turned to the police officer next to him, and said, "I would get arrested if I unzipped that dress!" Although the policeman laughed at Philip's uncouth comment, Jackson did not seem to find the blatantly sexual remark amusing. Instead, the then-twenty-five-year-old public employee remained silent. Following the event, Jackson refrained from commenting the Prince's sexist words, directing all questions to the council press office. However, her mother-in-law, Angela Jackson, said: "Well, some people might find it amusing, but I don't want to comment."

Philip defended guns immediately following a school shooting

Scotland may have a reputation for being a relatively safe country, but, in March 1996, tragedy struck. An armed man entered Dunblane Primary School and open fired, killing seventeen people, sixteen of whom were children. The shooter also injured fifteen others. This event, known in Britain as the Dunblane Massacre, opened a conversation about the need for gun control in Britain. Unfortunately, right after the tragic incident, Prince Philip made some of his famously inappropriate comments. 

According to a 1996 report by the Los Angeles Times, Philip went on a radio show and stated that shooting is no more dangerous than playing squash, golf, or cricket. He went on to ask: "I mean, if a cricketer, for instance, suddenly decided to go into a school and batter a lot of people to death with a cricket bat– which he could do very easily– I mean, are you going to ban cricket bats?" 

Although the prince was certainly entitled to his own opinion about gun laws, his commentary seemed to lack empathy for all those who died at Dunblane. The Los Angeles Times reported that even pro-gun voices criticized Philip's "choice of words." Meanwhile, those who supported gun control found his comments harmful. Rod Mayor, whose wife Gwen died in the massacre, implied that the prince's words were thoughtless and harmful. "There are times when people should think a little before coming out and saying what they like," he said.

Prince Philip asked Native Australians if they threw spears

Over the course of his lifetime, Prince Philip traveled to Australia twenty times. However, his familiarity with the country did not prevent him from making a racist remark about Australia's Aboriginal peoples. In 2002, the prince accompanied his wife to the land "Down Under," where they were invited to Tjapukai Aboriginal Park to watch a Native Australian cultural presentation. Although many of the people participating in the display were likely excited to share a bit of their culture with the royal couple, Philip's inappropriate comments, once again, got in the way of the event. 

Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, Buluwai elder William Brim recalled that the trouble started when Philip noticed that more than one tribe was represented at the presentation. "He noticed that there were different tribal groups there, so he asked my father if we still threw spears at our neighbors. So dad said: 'Of course we do', jokingly, then had a little laugh and said 'No, we don't.'" According to Brim, this joke was not funny. If anything, the elder perceived this comment as deeply insensitive. As he told the Sydney Morning Herald, "Dad took it lightly but, my God, I just didn't think [Philip] should have been saying things like that. I thought he should learn a little bit more about our culture." Indeed, Philip's remarks were deeply bigoted, insinuating that Aboriginal cultures were somehow violent and "less than."

The prince cursed at a car attendant

They say that a true sign of character is how one treats the people around them. Unfortunately, Prince Philip aired his nasty side when he started cursing out an older car park attendant. As per the Independent, this interaction occurred in 1997 when Philip was on a visit to Cambridge. Apparently, the car park attendant did not recognize him when he came looking for his car. The elderly man's oversight upset Philip so much that he proceeded to make one of his famously rude remarks. "You bloody silly fool," Philip told him.

Unfortunately, this was not the only time that Philip's inappropriate comments were directed at someone who was just trying to do their job. During a 2015 event at the Royal Air Force club, Philip was asked to pose for a photograph alongside Prince Edward, Prince William, and a number of veterans. However, as demonstrated by a video released by the BBC (via YouTube), Philip did not want to waste any time to get the perfect shot. Thus, he turned to the photographer and bellowed, "Take the f***ing picture!" 

Philip body shamed a child

Body shaming is never ok, but in 2007, Prince Philip managed to bring the harmful practice to a whole new level. On a visit to a space-focused exhibit at the University of Salford in Manchester, Philip told 13 year-old Andrew Adams that he would need to shed a few pounds if he ever wanted to be an astronaut. As reported by the Daily Mail, the prince made this cruel comment just after Adams admitted his dream of going on holiday to outer space. Apparently, Philip told the boy, "You could do with losing a little bit of weight."

Speaking with the Daily Mail, Adams opened up about how this interaction made him feel. The boy recalled, "Prince Philip said I would have to lose a bit of weight before I went up in the spacecraft. The other people were laughing but I didn't find it a very good joke because I am sensitive about my weight. I felt like crying but I had to keep a strong face." Despite his age, Adams seemed aware of the way that class dynamics allowed Philip to face few, if any, consequences for his words. As the thirteen-year-old told the outlet, Philip "thinks he's special because he's married to the Queen but I think he should be more careful about what he says." The boy's mother, Jacqueline Booth, agreed, saying, "I couldn't understand why someone of that calibre should make such a distasteful remark."

The prince told Malala that school was not important

Malala Yousafzai is without a question one of the most impressive young people in the world. The Nobel Peace Prize Winner has been known to advocate for children's right to get an education — even at great personal risk. When the Pakistani activist spoke out about the Taliban's suppression of girls' education in her home country, she was shot in the head as retribution. Malala survived the attack. However, symbolically, she was sitting on a school bus at the time of the assassination attempt.

In the wake of these intense events, Malala headed to Buckingham Palace, where she met with Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip to discuss the future of education. As reported by the Mirror, Malala seemed pleased with the visit, stating, "It's such an honor for me to be here at Buckingham Palace. It's really an honor to meet the queen ... I also wanted to raise the issue of girls not being educated on a higher platform so that the government in each country takes action on it."

Although Malala visited the palace with the intention of discussing the importance of education, the conversation took another turn, thanks to one of Philip's inappropriate comments. Recalling the prince's words, Malala told the press, "He said parents are tired of children, and that's why they send them to school." Luckily, Malala did not take Philip too seriously. "I laughed," she said.

Philip implied that Indians are bad at engineering

On a 1999 trip to Scotland, Prince Philip's inappropriate comments continued. During this royal visit, The Guardian reports that the prince stopped by a factory in Edinburgh. There, he noticed a fuse box that had several different wires coming out of it. Philip then proceeded to make a bigoted remark, commenting that the contraption looked "as if it was put in by an Indian." This cruel and prejudiced comment was immediately critisized.

One of the largest voices to speak out against Philip's words was Kumar Murshid, who was the chairman of the National Assembly Against Racism. As reported by The Guardian, Murshid lamented Philip's failure to use his royal position to spread a more positive message. The chair reportedly stated, "This sort of thing is of great concern to us because people expect the royal family to set an example." Interestingly, many people agreed. For example, a Scottish National Party spokesperson criticized Philip's ability to say whatever he wanted without taking accountability: "If anyone else had said it I'm sure the repercussions for them would be far more severe than for him. He needs to respect other races and cultures far more the he does."

Perhaps, as a result of this blowback, Buckingham Palace issued a statement on Philip's behalf: "The Duke of Edinburgh regrets any offense which may have been caused. With hindsight he accepts that what were intended as light hearted comments were inappropriate" (via The Guardian).

Prince Philip asked a cadet if she worked in a strip club

The British royal family may be considered a military family, but that doesn't mean that all its members have respect for the armed forces. Prince Philip, who had a successful career in the Navy, went on to, years later, ask an inappropriate question to a young sea cadet instructor. As reported by the Daily Mail, Philip asked 24-year-old Elizabeth Rendle what she did for a living. When she told him that she worked in a club, he proceeded to ask her if it was a strip club. Luckily, Rendle said that she didn't find his comment too off-putting: "It was a joke and we were all laughing which drew everyone else's attention. I don't think he put his foot in it. It was a joke and I didn't take any offense."

While Rendle said that she didn't mind Philip's crude joke, the same could not be said about everyone who was present at the event. One Huffington Post article even quoted an onlooker, who shared their view with a separate piece in the Daily Mail: "Is it appropriate for a man of his age to make a strip club joke to a 24-year-old girl who is there with young sea cadets?" For some, naturally, the answer to that question was: no.

He offended deaf teenagers

Prince Philip was apparently not afraid to insult people of all ages — even teenagers. In 1999, Philip made some rude remarks at the Festival of the Future event that was taking place at Cardiff Castle. The bad interaction started when Philip was approached by Eva Fielding-Jackson, who was accompanying a group of young deaf people to the event. As reported by The Guardian, Fielding-Jackson said she, "stopped [Philip] and said 'My group would like to meet you we are the British Deaf Association from Cardiff.'" 

Unfortunately, however, Philip was less than responsive to Fielding-Jackson's introduction. Noticing that the young deaf people were standing close to where the music was playing, the prince gave a rude reply. Fielding-Jackson told The Guardian, "He said 'Deaf? If you are near there' — meaning near the music — 'no wonder you are deaf.' And he walked away. He was not joking."

When the teenagers discovered what Philip had said about them, they were apparently quite upset. Seventeen-year-old Neil Roach told the outlet, "He should have shaken our hands and shown us some respect." Meanwhile, nineteen-year-old Elizabeth Jenkins seemed to agree, stating, "It was such a shock."

Philip was rude to a Black lord

Part of Prince Philip's job as a member of the British royal family was to act respectfully when he met people of different backgrounds. However, when he ran into Lord Taylor of Warwick at a 1999 Commonwealth party, Philip made one of his wildly inappropriate comments. As reported by the BBC, the prince asked the British lord: "And what exotic part of the world do you come from?" Lord Taylor simply responded, "Birmingham."

As explained in an opinions piece published in The Guardian, there were strong racial overtones apparent in this question. After all, it's hard to imagine that Philip would have asked a white politician that same thing. Even so, Lord Taylor's background points to the worst moments in the crown's history. Per his personal website, he is descended from the people enslaved on the Taylor Plantation in Jamaica — where the British monarchy supported human trafficking for centuries.