Prince Philip: Duke of Edinburgh, king of dontopedalogy

Ahead of The Duke at 90 on BBC1, we jump aboard the gaffes bandwagon


As Fiona Bruce interviews the self-proclaimed sufferer of foot-in-mouth disease in The Duke at 90 (Thursday 9 June, 9:00pm, BBC1), here’s a look back at some of Prince Philip’s more breathtaking pronouncements on topics ranging from women to wine, politics to foreign policy.


Know thyself

Addressing the General Dental Council in 1960: “Dontopedalogy is the science of opening your mouth and putting your foot in it, a science which I have practiced for a good many years.”

Addressing a group of industrialists in 1961: “I have never been noticeably reticent about talking on subjects about which I know nothing.”

Giving advice for a successful marriage in 1997: “Tolerance is the one essential ingredient. You can take it from me that the Queen has the quality of tolerance in abundance.”

The fairer sex

During a 1984 visit to Kenya, being presented with a gift by a native woman: “You are a woman, aren’t you?”

Approaching a group of female Labour MPs during a drinks party at Buckingham Palace in 2000: “Ah, so this is feminist corner then.”

Discussing a tartan design with Scottish Tory leader Annabel Goldie in 2010: “That’s a nice tie… Do you have any knickers in that material?”

Context is everything

Accepting a conservation award in Thailand in 1991: “Your country is one of the most notorious centres of trading in endangered species in the world.”

At the 50th anniversary of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards scheme in 2006: “Young people are the same as they always were. They are just as ignorant.”

At a 1986 World Wildlife Fund meeting: “If it has got four legs and it is not a chair, if it has got two wings and it flies but is not an aeroplane, and if it swims and is not a submarine, the Cantonese will eat it.”

Foreign policy

In 1967, asked if he would like to visit the Soviet Union: “I would like to go to Russia very much – although the bastards murdered half my family.”

To British students during a visit to China in 1986: “If you stay here much longer you’ll all be slitty-eyed.”

To an Australian Aborigine during a visit in 2002: “Do you still throw spears at each other?”


During the 1981 recession: “Everybody was saying we must have more leisure. Now they are complaining they are unemployed.”

Responding to calls for a firearms ban following the Dunblane massacre in 1996: “If a cricketer, for instance, suddenly decided to go into a school and batter a lot of people to death with a cricket bat, which he could do very easily, I mean, are you going to ban cricket bats?”

To Sir Rennie Maudslay, Keeper of the Privy Purse in the 1970s: “You’re just a silly little Whitehall twit: you don’t trust me and I don’t trust you.”

Equal opportunities

Talking to young deaf people in Cardiff in 1991 about the school’s steel band: “Deaf? If you are near there, no wonder you are deaf.”

To a blind woman in a wheelchair with a guide dog in 2002: “Do you know they have eating dogs for the anorexic now?”

To a nursing home resident in a wheelchair in 2002: “Do people trip over you?”

Food and drink

On being offered a selection of Italy’s finest wines by Prime Minister Giuliano Amato at a dinner in Rome in 2000: “Get me a beer. I don’t care what kind it is, just get me a beer!”

On being offered some fish at Rick Stein’s seafood delicatessen in 2000: “No, I would probably end up spitting it out over everybody.”


Waiting to be fed at a dinner party in 2004: “Bugger the table plan, give me my dinner!”