'You look like you've had a heavy Christmas!' When the public met the duke

By Owen Amos
BBC News

image copyrightPA Media
image captionPrince Philip at Sandringham for the Christmas service in 2017

It was a cold morning on the Sunday between Christmas and New Year, and Cat Kidd was among the well-wishers at Sandringham in Norfolk, waiting for the Royal Family to arrive at church.

Cat, now 34 and living in Cambridge, is from the area, and would often visit Sandringham with her family to see the royals' traditional Christmas church visit.

On this morning, five or six years ago, Prince Philip spotted Cat in the crowd. To her surprise, he said something. So what was his festive greeting?

"He shouted out: 'You look like you've had a heavy Christmas!'" says Cat.

"And I think he followed it up with: 'You're looking very pale.' I'm quite a pale person anyway, but obviously he picked up that I was extra pale."

The well-wishers are asked not to take pictures, so there is no record of the exchange. But it remains a fond memory.

"I guess technically he was insulting me - but it was still a bit of an honour to have him speak to you," she says.

"It's a nice story to have - I've told it a few times over the years. But it's a nice badge of honour to have been insulted by the duke."

And the final question - was the duke correct? Was she feeling a little worse for wear?

"Well it was Christmas..." Cat replies.

image copyrightCat Kidd
image captionCat Kidd

In 1997, Trevor Adams was a journalism student in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. He was due to interview a businessman for an assignment, but at the last minute, it fell through.

He needed something to fill the gap. "Or," says Trevor, "I was looking at an F - for fail."

Then a friend, who worked in a downtown hotel, mentioned that Prince Philip was in Halifax for a World Wildlife Fund event. Trevor grabbed his camera operator, rushed to the Prince George Hotel, and crossed his fingers.

Somehow - he's not sure how - he was able to breeze past the police and into the same room as the prince. He tapped the duke on the arm - "Which I now understand to be a major faux pas," he says - and made his pitch.

"I explained to him - probably very quickly - that I was a journalism student and desperately needed an interview today, or I was going to get an F. I said if he helped me out, I would be the envy of my classmates."

The duke chuckled, says Trevor, and "immediately" agreed to rescue his assignment. Prince Philip spoke for a few minutes on camera about the WWF, with one question about football, before the duke shook Trevor's hand and ended with a joke.

Sadly, Trevor cannot remember the joke. "I wish I'd written it down," he says. Nonetheless, Trevor's scoop earned him an A.

"My classmates wondered how on earth I had managed to get the interview," he says. "And really, it amounted to walking into a room I wasn't supposed to be in."

The scoop certainly didn't do Trevor's career any harm - 24 years after meeting the duke in a downtown hotel, he is now the editor of Halifax Magazine.

image copyrightTammy Fancy
image captionTrevor Adams, photographed by wife Tammy Fancy

According to a 2018 YouGov poll, 22% of the British public had seen or met Prince Philip - that's around 14 million people. Only the Queen, whom 31% had seen or met, was more visible.

Darren Johnson is one of that 22% - he met Prince Philip in February 2008, when the duke accompanied the Queen at the opening of the London Fire Brigade headquarters.

Darren was there as a "backbench" member of the London Fire Authority - the body that ran the brigade. So was the small talk formal and buttoned-up? Not quite...

"We lined up to be introduced to the royal guests," says Darren. "Ken Livingstone (then London mayor) introduced me as the Green member of the fire authority.

"Immediately, Prince Philip said: 'So did you choose to be on this body - or did someone make you do it?'

"I said there were two Greens on the London Assembly and one of us had to do it!"

Darren, who was on the London Assembly for 16 years, says he is "not a fanatical royalist, or anything like that".

"But I did like his spirit of irreverence, definitely," says Darren, now 54. "I do think one of his qualities was he was able to cut through a lot of that formality."

Indeed, as the countless tributes have proven, there are many words to describe the Duke of Edinburgh. But - as Cat, Trevor, and Darren know - formal was not one of them.

image copyrightDarren Johnson
image captionDarren Johnson

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