LIFE BEGINS AT 80 FOR PRINCE PHILIP
by Eric Shackle
The Queen is planning events to demonstrate her gratitude for her husband's role in public life over the past 50 years... -- The Times (London), May 28.
An open letter to His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich, also called Philip Mountbatten (original name Philip, Prince Of Greece and Denmark) on the occasion of his 80th birthday, June 10, 2001.
Hi Phil (as you know, we're a bit informal here on the Internet). I have good news for you. Please read these consolatory words written many years ago by Frank C. Laubach:
Our paths have crossed only once, Phil. That was when you, as a handsome young officer in Royal Navy uniform, visited Sydney soon after the start of World War II. Because of wartime censorship, your ship's arrival was not recorded by the media, but the news that you were here spread throughout the city like a bushfire. For years, the world's social pages had referred to you as the world's most eligible bachelor, so you quickly cut a swathe through Sydney's cafe society. Hostesses swamped you with invitations to parties hurriedly arranged in your honour. Lovely girls threw themselves at your feet.
I was working as a young reporter on Frank Packer's Daily Telegraph. Already a member of the militia, I was awaiting a call-up for full-time military service, which came shortly afterwards. The Telegraph occupied a rundown building in Castlereagh Street, conveniently flanked by two friendly pubs, where most of the newsroom staff spent much (too much, in retrospect) time and money. Almost opposite was a pawnshop, where certain reporters and cameramen (whose names can't be revealed even today) occasionally popped their employer's typewriters and cameras as security for cash loans to tide them over until next payday.
The noisy, smoke-filled, uncarpeted newsroom was sparsely furnished, with a few ancient typewriters, battered dial telephones with separate earpieces on tangled and often frayed cords, tattered directories with whole sections missing, and wobbly chairs. A long table was littered with old newspapers, stacks of copypaper, and a few pots half-filled with crusted paste.
One evening, you may recall, you visited the building, in the company of an attractive female staff photographer. You made your way to the pictorial department on the fourth floor, where you chatted amiably and knowledgeably with the cameramen.
Word of your unexpected arrival swept through the newsroom on the floor below. It was rumoured that you spent a long time inspecting the darkroom with your companion, but that may have been inspired by envy or wishful thinking. Be that as it may, I think you probably still cherish memories of that visit to Sydney.
You've come a long way since those days, Phil. You have retained your interest in photography, although sometimes your relations with the cameramen have not always been so cordial.
Since you'll be an octogenarian on June 10, you should think of easing up. Why don't you get away from England's bleak weather for a while (it's bad for arthritis) and take a long break in sunny Greece, the country of your birth? Maybe you could help organise the Athens 2004 Olympics.
You would also enjoy revisiting your birthplace, the lovely island of Corfu. I've never been there myself, but I've found out about it on the Internet, at CORFU.
Surprisingly, they seem to have overlooked your name in their list of famous Corfusians (or should that be Corphans?). Surely you would be remembered as a local Lothario who achieved fame and fortune in Britain by marrying the boss's daughter?
Copyright © 2001. Eric Shackle Story first posted June 2001.