Dublin: 13 °C Sunday 23 June, 2024
Oops, I did it again: Prince Philip Steve Parsons/PA Wire
Royal Visit

Duking it out: Our tips for gaffe-prone Prince Philip on his way around Ireland

The Queen’s consort verged on creating another of his trademark foot-in-mouth moments at the Guinness Storehouse this morning so has come up with an etiquette checklist for the Duke of Edinburgh.

OF ALL THE BURDENS Queen Elizabeth II must bear on a State visit, her husband must be one of the heaviest. Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, has an impressive track record of causing offence wherever the monarch’s party goes.

This morning, as the royal party visited the Guinness Storehouse, he teetered on the edge of creating another awkward moment when enquiring about the ingredients in the national tipple. Referring to the less than crystal clear, occasionally whiffy Liffey river nearby, AP reports that Philip joked with master brewer Fergal Murray:

Is it made with Liffey water?

So to help give Her Maj some peace of mind, here’s’s quick list of topics to avoid if the Duke is to leave Ireland without causing a right royal embarrassment. Because the gardai might have welded the manholes closed, but Phil’s runaway lips are a trickier challenge altogether.


Coming from the closely interrelated confines of the European aristocracy may have left Philip a little bamboozled by the variety of modern society. Meeting multi-ethnic dance group Diversity at the 2009 Royal Variety Performance, he asked: “Are you all one family?” And at a reception for 400 British Indian businessmen at Buckingham Palace the same year, he found himself talking to one Mr Atul Patel. “There’s a lot of your family in tonight,” Philip remarked. At least he’ll be alright with our politicians – they are practically all related.


The prince, it seems, is easily confused about the sexes. On a trip to Kenya in 1984, a local woman handed him a small gift. His graceful response? “You are a woman, aren’t you?” So we’ll just say this, Elizabeth: When you’re learning about the Easter Rising, you should prep Philip before he sees any pictures of Constance Markievicz.


The prince is in for a special treat on Thursday, when he’ll be treated to a special concert with the best of Ireland’s musical talent. But let’s hope he doesn’t head for the Green Room afterwards. Following a Royal Variety Performance in 1969, he asked Tom Jones: “What do you gargle with, pebbles?”

The next day Philip told reporters: “It is very difficult at all to see how it is possible to become immensely valuable by singing what I think are the most hideous songs.” Just wait ’til he hears Westlife.


At the same occasion, the prince will be faced with an entire fashion show featuring the cream of new Irish couture. It’s probably best that he doesn’t comment. During Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Glasgow last year, Philip found himself sitting next to Scottish Conservative party leader Annabel Goldie, who was wearing a tartan scarf. “Do you have any knickers in that material?” he asked the veteran politician.

In fact, the hapless Duke has decades of form. Way back in 1956 he met the president of Nigeria, who was dressed in traditional African robes, telling him: “You look like you’re ready for bed.”

International relations

Visiting British students in Beijing in 1986, Philip famously told them: “If you stay here much longer, you’ll all be slitty-eyed.” An unnamed friend later defended the Duke, insisting: “He was referring to standing out in the bright sunshine.” Well, that’s alright then. And we just won’t mention the time when he asked a successful Aboriginal Australian businessman whether his people still threw spears at each other.


We learnt last week that we are a nation in denial about our collective weight problem. Not for long, if Prince Philip has anything to do with it. Back in 2001, Phil visited the Space Technology Unit at Salford University – where he told 13-year-old schoolboy Andrew Adams, who was looking at a spacecraft: “Well, you’ll never fly in it. You’re too fat to be an astronaut.”

Ireland’s long-standing love affair with pub culture may also prove a flashpoint. In 1995, the Duke inquired of a Scottish driving instructor: “How do you keep the natives off the booze long enough to get them through the test?”

In fairness to Prince Philip, perhaps we should add that the royal marathon of State occasions and media scrutiny can’t be easy. But luckily, he has his own tried and true methods of coping. Asked how he handles appearing in public so much, Philip is said to have answered: “Never pass up the chance to go to the loo or take a poo.”

And in case there’s anything we haven’t covered, Philip…

… here are some final pointers.

  • Saying “Is this another potato famine?” won’t get a laugh, no matter how long you have to wait for the State dinner.
  • The National Stud is a riding stables, not a reference to Ronan Keating.
  • People will take it the wrong way if you refer to the Irish Defence Forces as “little green men”.
  • Martin McAleese isn’t allowed to take you out on “the razzle”. Yes, even after the Queen has gone to bed.
  • If anybody asks whether you are enjoying the visit, don’t say “To be sure.”
  • Enda Kenny may well look a bit like a happy little leprechaun, but asking him if he is one will only cause trouble. And no, he doesn’t have a pot of gold.
Your Voice
Readers Comments
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.