UK Politics

MPs' tribute to Prince Philip's 'unique turn of phrase'

Senior British politicians have been paying tribute to the wit and wisdom of Prince Philip - ahead of his 90th birthday on Friday.

David Cameron and Ed Miliband both quoted "repeatable examples" of his remarks, as MPs paid a "humble address" to the Duke of Edinburgh.

The duke has often been taken to task by the press for his blunt comments - often characterised as "gaffes".

Mr Cameron said the public found his "inimitable approach" endearing.

Prince Philip is the longest serving royal consort in British history, and was praised for his public service in a special debate in the Commons following Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday.

Worshipped 'as a god'

His experience as a wartime officer in the Royal Navy and his work on the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme were praised by politicians from all parties.

Prime Minister David Cameron said the duke had been a "source of rock solid strength" for the Queen and had conducted hundreds of public engagements a year - with many overseas visits. He was worshipped on the island of Tanna, Vanuatu, "as a god".

After paying tribute to his wartime record, work on the Duke of Edinburgh awards and his work as president of the World Wildlife Fund, Mr Cameron praised his "down-to-earth, no-nonsense approach that the British people, I believe, find endearing".

He said his famous remarks had filled several books and he recounted his favourite: "When after a long flight, the umpteenth eager-to-please official asked him: 'How was your flight?', he replied: 'Have you been on a plane? Well, you know how it goes up in the air and then goes back down again? Well, it was just like that.'"

And there was laughter in the Commons when the prime minister said MPs could learn from the duke's advice on church sermons which overran: "The mind cannot absorb what the backside cannot endure."

Labour leader Mr Miliband, himself just married, said he had admiration for the 64-year marriage of the Duke of Edinburgh and the Queen and paid tribute to his "enormous contribution to public life".

'Where did you get that hat?'

He also quoted Prince Philip, whom he described as "a prince among consorts" and "a king amongst characters". "His unique turn of phrase has become a much-loved feature of modern British life," said Mr Miliband.

He quoted "two repeatable examples" of the duke's wit. "To the matron of a hospital he visited in the Caribbean he commented: 'You have mosquitos, I have the press'," - to appreciative laughter from MPs.

Image caption Prince Philip has been married to the Queen for nearly 64 years

"Legend also has it that following the Coronation in 1953 he turned to Her Majesty and said: 'Where did you get that hat?'" Mr Miliband said.

"Humour is a great part of British life and we thank the duke for his unique contribution."

Conservative MP Nicholas Soames told MPs he had known the Duke of Edinburgh for 50 years and considered him "the most exceptional man of his generation" and said MPs felt gratitude, respect and pride for his service to the UK.

He added: "He certainly is formidable man and refreshingly does not suffer fools gladly - as I know to my cost."

But as tributes continued to the duke, Labour MP Paul Flynn, who described himself as a republican, questioned the 700-year-old rules of the debate.

He said: "Why on earth is this a humble address in this age? Are the Royal Family superior beings to the rest of us? Are we inferior beings to them?"

He complained that MPs were "denied the chance of making any derogatory comment" about even minor royals under historic rules - and suggested that "sycophancy" must "sicken the Royal Family when they have an excess of praise of this kind - and it's devalued by that".

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