Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

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Constitutionally I don't exist.

Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (born Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, 10 June 19219 April 2021) was the husband of Queen Elizabeth II. He was the longest-serving, oldest-ever spouse of a reigning British monarch, and the oldest-ever male member of the British royal family.




  • You have mosquitoes. I have the Press.
    • In a 1966 conversation with the matron of a hospital while on a tour of the Caribbean as quoted in Andrew Duncan The Reality of Monarchy (1970).
  • British women can't cook.
    • Statement of 1966, as quoted in "Long line of princely gaffes", BBC News (1 March 2002)


  • The man who invented the red carpet needed his head examined.
    • About to disembark on state visit to Brazil (November 1968), as quoted in Andrew Duncan The Reality of Monarchy (1970).
  • It seems to me that it's the best way of wasting money that I know of. I don't think investments on the moon pay a very high dividend.
    • On the U.S. Apollo program, press conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil (November 1968) as quoted in Andrew Duncan The Reality of Monarchy (1970).
  • Education, journalism, technology, entertainment and business may also find better methods for their purpose than books and writing. But this does not mean that tapes and films have made books obsolescent—the contention is almost too ludicrous to be taken seriously. Books are certainly old fashioned, but only people with a very limited perception are silly enough to condemn ideas because of their age. It is, of course, equally silly to condemn the new fangled simply because it is strange, and I am full of admiration for the technologists who have developed all sorts of gadgets for the purpose of improving communications. However, I believe that all these fascinating machines are complementary to, and not substitutes for, books and the printed word.

The Environmental Revolution: Speeches on Conservation, 1962–77 (1978)

  • For conservation to be successful it is necessary to take into consideration that it is a characteristic of man that he can only be relied upon to do anything consistently which is in his own interest. He may have occasional fits of conscience and moral rectitude but otherwise his actions are governed by self-interest. It follows then that whatever the moral reasons for conservation it will only be achieved by the inducement of profit or pleasure.
    • World Wildlife Fund: British National Appeal Banquet, London (1962).
  • The conflict between instinct and reason has reached a critical stage in man's affairs, largely because the explosion of facts has revealed the instincts for what they are and at the same time it has undermined traditional philosophies and ideologies. The explosion of facts has effectively altered mankind's physical and intellectual environment and when any environment changes, the process of natural selection is brutal and merciless. «Adapt or die» is as true today as it was in the beginning.
    • Fawley Foundation Lecture. Southampton University (24 November 1967).
  • Why then be concerned about the conservation of wildlife when for all practical purposes we would be much better off if humans and their domestic animals and pets were the only living creatures on the face of the earth? There is no obvious and demolishing answer to this rather doubtful logic although in practice the destruction of all wild animals would certainly bring devastating changes to our existence on this planet as we know it today...The trouble is that everything in nature is completely interdependent. Tinker with one part of it and the repercussions ripple out in all directions... Wildlife — and that includes everything from microbes to blue whales and from a fungus to a redwood tree — has been so much part of life on the earth that we are inclined to take its continued existence for granted...Yet the wildlife of the world is disappearing, not because of a malicious and deliberate policy of slaughter and extermination, but simply because of a general and widespread ignorance and neglect.
    • World Wildlife Fund Dinner, York, (1969).
  • We talk about over- and underdeveloped countries; I think a more exact division might be between underdeveloped and overpopulated. The more people there are, the more industry and more waste and the more sewage there is, and therefore the more pollution.
  • The sheer weight of numbers of the human population, our habitations, our machinery and our ruthless exploitation of the living and organic resources of the earth; together these are changing our whole environment. This is what we call progress and much of this development is naturally to the direct and welcome benefit of mankind. However, we cannot at the same time ignore the awkward consequences and the most direct and menacing, but not the only consequence of this change, is pollution... Pollution is a direct outcome of man's ruthless exploitation of the earth's resources. Experience shows that the growth of successful organic populations is eventually balanced by the destruction of its own habitat. The vast man-made deserts show that the human population started this process long ago. There are two important differences today. In the first place the process has gone from a walking pace to a breakneck gallop. Secondly we know exactly what is happening. If not exactly in all cases, we know enough to appreciate what is happening and the need to take care... Pollution is no longer a matter of local incidents, today it has the whole biosphere in its grip. The processes which devastated the Welsh valleys a hundred years ago are now at work, over, on and under the earth and the oceans. Even if we bury all this waste underground there still remains the risk that toxic materials through chemical reactions will be washed out and into underground water courses. If ever there was an area of research more closely related to human welfare it is the problem of the safe disposal of waste and effluents... The fact is that we have got to make a choice between human prosperity on the one hand and the total well-being of the planet Earth on the other. Even then it is hardly a choice because if we only look for human prosperity we shall certainly destroy by pollution the earth and the human population which has existed on it for millions of years... If the world pollution situation is not critical at the moment it is as certain as anything can be that the situation will become increasingly intolerable within a very short time. The situation can be controlled and even reversed but it demands co-operation on a scale and intensity beyond anything achieved so far...I realise that there are any number of vital causes to be fought for, I sympathise with people who work up a passionate concern about the all too many examples of inhumanity, injustice, and unfairness, but behind all this hangs a really deadly cloud. Still largely unnoticed and unrecognised, the process of destroying our natural environment is gathering speed and momentum. If we fail to cope with this challenge, all the other problems will pale into insignificance.
    • Edinburgh University Union (24 November 1969).
  • If we are to exercise our responsibilities so that all life can continue on earth, they must have a moral and philosophical basis. Simple self-interest, economic profit and absolute materialism are no longer enough... It has been made perfectly clear that a concern for any part of life on this planet — human, plant or animal, wild or tame — is a concern for all life. A threat to any part of the environment is a threat to the whole environment, but we must have a basis of assessment of these threats, not so that we can establish a priority of fears, but so that we can make a positive contribution to improvement and ultimate survival.
  • It is frequently more rewarding merely to ask pertinent questions. It may get someone to go and look for an answer. If you get a silly answer, which can easily happen, you can return to the charge with even more telling effect. Whatever happens, don't give up and don't despair. Results may not be immediately apparent, but you may have touched a receptive chord without knowing it. Even the most unsympathetic and unenlightened politician, industrialist or bureaucrat begins to take notice when a lot of people write about the same subject.
  • It is an old cliche to say that the future is in the hands of the young. This is no longer true. The quality of life to be enjoyed or the existence to be survived by our children and future generations is in our hands now.
    • The World Wildlife Fund Congress, London, (1970).
  • A new criterion has been added, the conservation of the environment so that in the long run life, including human life, can continue. This new consideration must be taken into account at all levels and in all departments of government and in the boardrooms of every industrial enterprise. It is no longer sufficient simply to quantify the elements of existence as in old-fashioned material economics; conservation means taking notice of the quality of existence as well... The problem is of course to give some value to that quality and perhaps the only way to do this is to try and work out the cost in terms of loss of amenities, loss of holiday and recreation facilities, loss of property values, loss of contact with nature, loss of health standards and loss of food resources, if proper conservation methods are not used. Looked at in that light it may well turn out that money spent on proper pollution control, urban and rural planning and the control of exploitation of wild stocks of plants or animals on land and in the sea, is the less expensive alternative in the long run... The conservation of nature, the proper care for the human environment and a general concern for the long-term future of the whole of our planet are absolutely vital if future generations are to have a chance to enjoy their existence on this earth.
    • The Australian Conservation Foundation, Canberra (April 1970).
  • There may be disagreements about the time scale, but in principle there can be little doubt that the population cannot go on increasing indefinitely. Resources presently being used will not last for ever and pollution in its broadest sense, unless severely checked, is bound to increase with population and industrial activity.
    • Address at the Salford University Degree Ceremony (16 July 1973).


  • If the world pollution situation is not critical at the moment, it is as certain as anything can be that the situation will become increasingly intolerable within a very short time. The situation can be controlled, and even reversed; but it demands cooperation on a scale and intensity beyond anything achieved so far.
    I realize that there are vital causes to be fought for, and I sympathize with people who work up a passionate concern about the all too many examples of inhumanity, injustice, and unfairness; but behind all this hangs a deadly cloud. Still largely unnoticed and unrecognized, the process of destroying our natural environment is gathering speed and momentum. If we fail to cope with the challenge, the other problems will pale into insignificance.
    • The Fairfield Osborne Lecture, New York (1 October 1980).
  • Everybody was saying we must have more leisure. Now they are complaining they are unemployed.
    • In 1981, in reference to an economic recession, as quoted in "Long line of princely gaffes", BBC News (1 March 2002).
  • I suspect that the single most important gift of progress to conservation has been the development of human contraception techniques.
    • Address to All-Party Conservation Committee in London (18 February 1981).
  • Q: What do you consider the leading threat to the environment?
    A: Human population growth is probably the single most serious long-term threat to survival. We're in for a major disaster if it isn't curbed--not just for the natural world, but for the human world. The more people there are, the more resources they'll consume, the more pollution they'll create, the more fighting they will do. We have no option. If it isn't controlled voluntarily, it will be controlled involuntarily by an increase in disease, starvation and war.
    Q: Is birth control part of the solution?
    A: Yes, but you can't legislate these problems away. You've got to get people to understand the need for it: the more important people, the ones who have responsibilities have got to do it because they're at the receiving end. They've got to accept the measures.
    • Interview in "Vanishing Breeds Worry Prince Philip, But Not as Much as Overpopulation" People magazine (21 December 1981).
  • It is curious how many philosophers from Plato to Keynes' time have believed in and advocated the control of society by "philosopher kings". According to Plato, "its kings must be those who have shown the greatest ability in philosophy", but--realistically--he added, "and the greatest aptitude for war". Such people may exist in the imagination and occasionally someone with the necessary qualities may briefly dominate the stage of history, but it is a naive appreciation of human nature to imagine that such processed paragons can be invested with the necessary powers and not be tempted to take advantage of their situation.
    • A Question of Balance, Michael Russel (Publishing) Ltd. (1982).
  • As long ago as 1798, Malthus explained what happens when the factors limiting the increase in any population are removed. One of the factors noticed by Darwin was that all species are capable of producing vastly greater populations than can be sustained by existing resources; populations did not increase at the rate at which they are capable was the basis for his theory of Evolution by Natural Selection.
    The relevance to natural selection of this capacity for overproduction is that as each individual is slightly different to all the others it is probable that under natural conditions those individuals which happen to be best adapted to the prevailing circumstances have a better chance of survival. Well, so what? Well, take a look at the figures for the human population of this world. One hundred fifty years ago it stood at about 1,000 million or in common parlance today, 1 billion. It then took about a 100 years to double to 2 billion. It took 30 years to add the third billion and 15 years to reach today's total of 4.4 billion. With a present world average rate of growth of 1.8%, the total population by the year 2000 will have increased to an estimated 6 billion and in that and in subsequent years 100 million people will be added to the world population each year. In fact it could be as much as 16 billion by 2045. As a consequence the demand on resources of land alone will mean a third less farm land available and the destruction of half of the present area of productive tropical forest. Bearing in mind the constant reduction of non-renewable resources, there is a strong possibility of growing scarcity and reduction of standards. More people consume more resources. It is as simple as that; and transferring resources and standards from the richer to the poorer countries can only have a marginal effect in the face of this massive increase in the world population.
    The object of the WWF is to "conserve" the system as a whole; not to prevent the killing of individual animals. Those who are concerned about their conservation of nature accept that all species are prey to some other species. They accept that most species produce a surplus that is capable of being culled without in any way threatening the survival of the species as a whole.
    • The Chancellor's Lecture, Salford University (4 June 1982).
  • For example, the World Health Organization Project, designed to eradicate malaria from Sri Lanka in the postwar years, achieved its purpose. But the problem today is that Sri Lanka must feed three times as many mouths, find three times as many jobs, provide three times the housing, energy, schools, hospitals and land for settlement in order to maintain the same standards. Little wonder the natural environment and wildlife in Sri Lanka has suffered. The fact [is] ... that the best-intentioned aid programs are at least partially responsible for the problems.
    The industrial revolution sparked the scientific revolution and brought in its wake better public hygiene, better medical care and yet more efficient agriculture. The consequence was a population explosion which still continues today.
    The sad fact is that, instead of the same number of people being very much better off, more than twice as many people are just as badly off as they were before. Unfortunately all this well-intentioned development has resulted in an ecological disaster of immense proportions.
    • Address on Receiving Honorary Degree from the University of Western Ontario, Canada (1 July 1983).
  • So long as they [birth control methods] ... remained taboo subjects the chances of making any impression on the human population explosion were that much more remote.
    In the introduction to the IUCN Red Data Books which list all animals and plants under threat of extinction, it says that virtually everywhere the major threat to a wild species is loss of habitat to a rapidly increasing human population requiring more space in order to build villages and cities and grow more food. But starvation and poverty cannot be eradicated solely by increased food and resources at the expense of what remains of the natural world. Any increase in the provision of food and resources must be accompanied by a drastic reduction in the rate of increase in the human population.
    • Speech at the Margaret Pyke Memorial Trust Dinner in London (14 December 1983).
  • Ninety-five per cent of the Atlantic rainforest in Brazil has disappeared in the last hundred years. There is simply nowhere for the animals to live. At the basis of it all is this colossal increase in the human population which is reaching plague proportions.
    • In a 1984 interview
  • The difference between a free society and one in which all issues are governed by inflexible dogma is the constant change of ideas. I hope this book helps people to see some of the problems of this life from a different point of view.
    • In the book "Men, Machines and Sacred Cow" (1984)
Flag of China
  • If it has four legs and is not a chair, has wings and is not an aeroplane, or swims and is not a submarine, the Cantonese will eat it.
    • 1986 statement as quoted in "Long line of princely gaffes", BBC News (1 March 2002)
  • If you stay here much longer, you'll all be slitty-eyed.
    • Said to a group of British students in China in 1986, as quoted in "Long line of princely gaffes", BBC News (1 March 2002).
  • As its name implies, World Wildlife Fund is in the business of raising money for the conservation of nature and to that end Fleur Cowles — a long time and dedicated supporter of the Fund — has offered a proportion of the royalities from the sale of this book to WWF.
    It is easy enough to feel an affinity to a particular species of animal, but I just wonder what it would be like to be reincarnated in an animal whose species had been so reduced in numbers that it was in danger of extinction. What would be its feelings towards the human species whose population explosion had denied it somewhere to exist and by sheer indifference had destroyed any chance of it finding a mate and producing a family? There are not just a few such species, there are a great many and the list is getting longer every day. When I look at the shelf with all the volumes of the Red Data Books listing endangered species I must confess that I am tempted to ask for reincarnation as a particularly deadly virus, but that is perhaps going too far. I would much rather see the human species voluntarily restrict its numbers out of consideration for the rest of the living world with which it still has a chance of sharing this planet.
    • Foreword to If I Were an Animal (1986) by Fleur Cowles; United Kingdom, Robin Clark Ltd. ISBN 9780688061500
  • The great difficulty about "life" is that we humans are part of it, and it is therefore almost impossible to study objectively.... It therefore tends to be anthropocentric and gives scant attention to the welfare of all the other life-forms which share this planet with us. ...When the Bible says that man shall have "dominion" over God's creation, the choice is between understanding dominion as in "having power over", or dominion as "having responsibility for".
    Once you have interfered with the balance of nature it becomes necessary to maintain the balance by artificial means. This means that some animals have to be killed in the interest of maintaining the health and viability of the species as a whole as well as the benefit of other more vulnerable species. Unfortunately there are many people who object to that sort of thing.
    Ecology is not concerned with the fate of individual animals. It accepts the concept of the exploitation of surplus natural resources because that is in the way the natural system works, but it must always be done on the principle of maintaining a sustainable yield. ...The inexorable rule of nature is that if you mess up your environment you will have to pay a heavy price sooner or later.... Just look around the globe today and you cannot fail to notice areas which at one time supported highly successful and civilized populations are either deserts or they have reverted to jungle. The reason is quite simple: they over-exploited their natural resources and they paid the price. It is naive to think that we can escape the same fate for very much longer. We are only managing to put off the evil hour by frantically digging up and using mineral resources that can never be renewed. As if that were not enough, we are polluting the atmosphere, the land and the waters with every kind of noxious substance. The "greenhouse effect" alone could well have devastating consequences for all life on earth.
    This is a reflection of the duality of man's brain. The left brain produces the reasonable answers after objective scientific research, while the right brain prefers the acceptable and the emotionally satisfactory answers. How often do people say, "That may be so, but I prefer to 'believe' or I like to believe ... this, that or the other?"
    The duality of the brain has created great problems for modern man.... It is ... significant that successful engineering makes money. This is in stark contrast to the supernatural, whether it is religious or mythological. In the latter cases the truth may be equally certain, but it is not verifiable, and the outcome of following rules is seldom predictable. It is, of course, possible to exploit magic and mythology commercially, but it could hardly be described as a manufacturing industry...
    There is an understandable public pressure for schools and colleges to concentrate on utilitarian subjects to the exclusion of cultural and aesthetic development. In other words, the development of the left brain is given a great deal more attention than that of the right brain.... The trouble is that neglect of the development of the right brain leaves it in a state of vacuum.... This means that the right brain is ready to absorb the first plausible ideas it happens across. The occult, obscure religious rites, parapsychology, astrology and similar attractive but irrational notions are sucked into the vacant space without any discrimination or critical faculty.... I also suspect that the use of drugs might be seen as a substitute, or short cut, to filling the vacuum of the right brain. ...
    I mention all this because man's attitude to nature is partly a function of the left brain and partly a function of the right brain. It is easy enough to encourage an emotional concern for nature and the living world.... Everyone can comprehend the idea of cruelty, very few can comprehend the extinction of a species.
    • Lecture to the European Council of International Schools. Montreaux, Switzerland (14 November 1986)
  • I do believe ... that human population pressure--the sheer number of people on this planet--is the single most important cause of the degradation of the natural environment, of the progressive extinction of wild species of plants and animals, and of the destabilization of the world's climatic and atmospheric systems.
    The simple fact is that the human population of the world is consuming natural renewable resources faster than it can regenerate, and the process of exploitation is causing even further damage. If this is already happening with a population of 4 billion, I ask you to imagine what things will be like when the population reaches six and then 10 billion.... All this has been made possible by the industrial revolution and the scientific explosion and it is spread around the world by the new economic religion of development.
    • Address to the Joint Meeting of the All-Party Group on Population and Development and the All-Party Conservation Committee in London (11 March 1987).
  • I don't claim to have any special interest in natural history, but as a boy I was made aware of the annual fluctuations in the number of game animals and the need to adjust the "cull" to the size of the surplus population.
    It took about three and a half billion years for life on earth to reach the state of complexity and diversity that our ancestors knew as recently as 200 years ago. It has only taken industrial and scientific man those 200 years to put at risk the whole of the world's natural system. It has been estimated that by the year 2000, some 300,000 species of plants and animals will have become extinct, and that the natural economy, upon which all life depends, will have been seriously disrupted.
    The paradox is that this will have been achieved with the best possible intentions. The human population must be properly fed, human life must be preserved and human existence must be made safer and more comfortable. All these things are obviously highly desirable, but if their achievement means putting the survival of future generations at risk, then there is a pressing obligation on present generations to apply some measure of self-restraint.
    What has been described as the «balance of nature» is simply nature's system of self-limitation. Fertility and breeding success create the surpluses after allowing for the replacement of the losses. Predation, climatic variation, disease, starvation--and in the case of the inappropriately named Homo sapiens, wars and terrorism--are the principal means by which population numbers are kept under some sort of control.
    Viewed dispassionately, it must be obvious that the world's human population has grown to such a size that it is threatening its own habitat; and it has already succeeded in causing the extinction of large numbers of wild plant and animal species. Some have simply been killed off. Others have quietly disappeared, as their habitats have been taken over or disturbed by human activities.
    • Introduction to "The Population Factor" section of Down to Earth (1988).


  • It is now apparent that the ecological pragmatism of the so-called pagan religions, such as that of the American Indians, the Polynesians, and the Australian Aborigines, was a great deal more realistic in terms of conservation ethics than the more intellectual monotheistic philosophies of the revealed religions.
    • Press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on the occasion of the "Caring for Creation" conference of the North American Conference on Religion and Ecology (18 May 1990).
  • People usually say that after a fire it is water damage that is the worst. We are still trying to dry out Windsor Castle.
    • Said on a visit to Lockerbie in 1993 to a man who lived in a road where eleven people had been killed by wreckage from the Pan Am jumbo jet, as quoted in "Prince Philip's gaffes", BBC News (10 August 1999).
  • You can't have been here that long—you haven't got a pot belly.
    • Said to a Briton in Budapest, Hungary in 1993, as quoted in "Long line of princely gaffes", BBC News (1 March 2002).
  • Aren't most of you descended from pirates?
    • Said in 1994 to an inhabitant of the Cayman Islands as quoted in "Long line of princely gaffes", BBC News (1 March 2002).
  • I sympathise desperately with the people who are bereaved at Dunblane, but I'm not altogether convinced that it's the best system to somehow shift the blame onto a very large and peaceable part of the community. I mean if ... look, if somebody ... 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? I'm not sure that the reaction is the most rational. I think one's got to make a difference between what the weapons can do and what the people can do.
  • It looks as if it was put in by an Indian.
    • Of a fuse box, whilst on a tour of a factory in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1999, as quoted in "Long line of princely gaffes", BBC News (1 March 2002)


  • You are a woman, aren't you?
    • After accepting a gift from a Kenyan woman, as quoted in "Long line of princely gaffes" BBC News (1 March 2002).
  • How do you keep the natives off the booze long enough to get them through the test?
  • You managed not to get eaten then?
    • Said to a British student in Papua New Guinea, as quoted in "Long line of princely gaffes" BBC News (1 March 2002).
  • Ah good, there's so many over there you feel they breed them just to put in orphanages.
    • Said while presenting a Duke of Edinburgh Award to a student. When informed that the young man was going to help out in Romania for six months, he asked if the student was going to help the Romanian orphans and was told that he was not, as quoted in "Duke under fire for Romanian orphans 'joke'" in The Scotsman (8 July 2006).
  • The food prices are going up – everyone thinks it’s to do with not enough food but it's really that demand is too great, [there are] too many people. It’s embarrassing and no one knows how to handle it because nobody wants their family life to be interfered with by Government... overpopulation is to blame for many of the problems afflicting millions of people around the world... It seemed to me that most religions attributed the world to some special creation and I said, ‘Well, look, if you believe God created the world, you ought to take an interest in its wellbeing... People don’t realise it is the species that matter – not the individual – from the conservation point of view. You’ve got to be fairly hard-hearted about it. Conservation is not a romantic business. It’s a very practical business, trying to ensure as many different species of wildlife can exist, and which means in some cases controlling some so the others can have a better chance.
    • Television interview with Sir Trevor McDonald for the ITV documentary The Duke: A Portrait of Prince Philip (2008)


  • Oh, what, a strip club?
    • Response to Elizabeth Rendle, a 24-year-old, who, when introduced to the prince, said that she worked as a barmaid in a nightclub, as quoted in "Prince Philip in strip club gaffe" Yahoo! News (12 March 2010).
  • There is nothing like it for morale to be reminded that the years are passing—ever more quickly—and that bits are dropping off the ancient frame. But it is nice to be remembered at all.
  • Q: "What do you see as the biggest problem in conservation?

A: "Well, the growing human population. From where we are, there's nothing else."

Q: And do you have views about what should be done about that?"

A: "Well, I think it might be described as voluntary family limitation."

    • From an interview for the BBC documentary "The Duke at 90" (2011)

Quotes about Prince Philip

  • Philip was the unsettling definition of a full-on alpha male: devastatingly handsome, vigorously self-assured, impatient with fools — and not just fools. When he leaned from his considerable height and bore down on a recalcitrant fact or factotum, it could be a shriveling experience for whoever had got it wrong.
  • Then we go back to the Duke of Edinburgh; I recall an amazingly ridiculous campaign against him because, on a visit to India, he was invited to go tiger-shooting (such an invitation is a great honour there) and after a few days of the newspapers back home yelling and screaming and jumping up and down, he had to pretend that he had a whitlow on his trigger-finger and so couldn't shoot anything, not even a tabloid journalist.
    • Bernard Levin, "Uneasy Lies the Head" The Times (23 January 1989).
  • My father, for I suppose the last 70 years, has given the most remarkable devoted service to the queen, to my family, to the country and also to the whole of the Commonwealth.
    • Charles told reporters, wearing a black necktie of mourning (2021).