Friday, 10 June 2011

Fiona Bruce and Prince Philip

In case you didn't know, Prince Philip is 90 today.

We watched last night's interview with Fiona Bruce on BBC1, and I must admit in one area I was a little disappointed - not in Fiona Bruce's questions but in some of Prince Philip's answers, or lack of them. He's a fascinating and likeable man, and when he is forthcoming he's obviously highly entertaining, but he seemed to resent the intrusion enough to resort to monosyllable or even silence more than once, which at times made for uncomfortable viewing.

He began by saying that the interview hadn't been arranged by his choice, to which Bruce not unreasonably said, 'You didn't want to do this?' 'No,' he replied. 'Since you ask..'

Throughout, Fiona Bruce maintained an even-tempered tone, which can't have been easy. At one point she asked Prince Philip about the self-evident difficulties of maintaining a balance between his relationship with the future Queen and his career as a naval officer in command of his own vessel, and he said (I'm working from memory but I don't think I'm far off), 'It was a profession. I suppose you haven't had one so you wouldn't know.' Dear love her, Fiona Bruce was professional enough to rise above it and contented herself with saying, 'I flatter myself I have one now, but perhaps you don't think so,' before moving graciously on.

It was more documentary than interview, with a good deal of archive material and some insightful thoughts from, among others, Lady Mountbatten, Giles Brandreth and David Attenborough; and to be fair, when he was on form in the interview segments - that's to say, when he wasn't talking about himself - the charismatic, driven and playful sides to Prince Philip's character were on display:

'Would you describe yourself as "green"?'
'There's a difference between conservationists and bunny-huggers.'
'What are the biggest challenges to conservation?'
'And what would you do about it?'
'Can't you guess?' He actually had her guess, then suggested, 'Voluntary family limitation?'

He refused to take the credit for them, but was clearly passionate about some of the things which others have said stand as his greatest achievements - the Playing Fields Association, for example, and the Duke of Edinburgh Awards Scheme. On the latter he was quite expansive, believing the secret of the scheme's longevity to be that it is structured so that young people challenge themselves.

On Prince Philip's famously private private life, and his relationship with the Queen, Giles Brandreth recalled a moment when Queen and consort caught each other's eye across a crowded room, and Prince Philip tipped a glass in her direction. 'Something,' said Brandreth, 'has been going on here for sixty years that we probably can't get at.'


PS: Re yesterday's post - sadly I didn't manage to spot the otter/s, but Eddie and I had a very pleasant interlude in the boat - will perhaps post about it tomorrow.
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