I meet Philip at Fortnums for coffee. To say that his glumness exceeds the already fairly high standards that he sets would not be an exaggeration.
It started with the wedding - “Too many fucking common people there”, he complains. I think that he is alluding to the presence of the Parker Bowles family, the archbishop of Canterbury and Stephen Fry.
Even the traditional ceremonies don’t cheer him any more.”Trooping the fucking Colour? Same every fucking year. They should make it more interesting by making it a steeplechase.” I point out to him that the queen no longer rides on horseback during the ceremony, but uses a carriage. He fixes me with a withering glare. “Are you fucking telling me that it is beyond the fucking wit of the British army to construct a few fucking ramps?”
His family are of decreasing comfort to him. He shows me a spoof letter which he has received, informing him that he is to be returned to Greece together with the Elgin marbles. “Must be that fucking Camelia person”, he conjectures. I disagree, it is too clever for her, but I know it is from within the family because of the atrocious spelling, but the terrible grammar and syntax points towards an Eton rather than a Gordonstoun education. He detests Camilla only slightly less than Diana. “Thank God I won’t be here to see it, but I have visions of her 100th birthday the nation's favourite step-grandmother, with her waving to the cheering crowds from the balcony at the Palace, and then doing something execrable such as flashing her tits”, he sobs.
He performs very few public duties these days, but even this is a cause for further misery. “Visiting a prosthetic device factory in Peebles, opening a nursery school for children of carpet weavers in Swindon, meeting a delegation of Ecuadorian pomegranate growers – are these people taking the fucking piss?” I detect frowns from the staff - anyone else would have been asked to leave by now. He bemoans missing his new favourite television programme because of these engagements. “It’s American, but I have to say it is the funniest thing I’ve seen in years”, he chortles, “it’s called ‘Extreme Makeover’, and what happens is that they visit the home of some downtrodden poor people, send them on holiday, and then while they’re away, they knock their fucking house down. I laughed so much last Tuesday, my false teeth shot across the room and ripped a hole in one of Liz’s favourite Reubens’. Got one of the footmen to fix it with a Pritt Stick and a magic marker – can’t tell the difference.” I don’t have the heart to tell him that what he has assumed to be the end of the program is, in fact, the first commercial break, and that the show then goes on to show a new home being constructed.
At this point the chauffeur comes to collect him, before he gets any more suicidal. I told Liz she ought to send him into retirement at Sandringham, out of the public gaze, for his own good, but she still affects to be fond of the old bugger.