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Prince Philip, who retires from public duties, often hit headlines in India

Prince Philip performed the role of Queen Elizabeth’s consort for 70 years. He was patron, president or member of 785 organisations, and around four million people participated in the Duke of Edinburgh Awards.

world Updated: Aug 02, 2017 22:34 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Prince Philip,Prince Philip retires,Queen Elizabeth
File photo of Britain's Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.(Reuters)

Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth’s consort and the nephew of India’s last viceroy Louis Mountbatten, retired from public duties on Wednesday after meeting the Royal Marines as his last engagement.

According to Buckingham Palace, Prince Philip, 96, performed the role of Queen’s consort for 70 years, had 22,219 solo engagements since 1952, and delivered 5,496 speeches. He was patron, president or member of 785 organisations, and around four million people participated in the Duke of Edinburgh Awards.

Many in India and in the British Indian community here remember him for his connect with the country.

The Duke of Edinburgh visited India four times — three times as Queen Elizabeth’s consort.

India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, received Prince Philip during his first visit in January 1959. He was then better known in New Delhi as the nephew of Louis Mountbatten.

He subsequently accompanied Queen Elizabeth to India in 1961, 1983 and 1997. They toured Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata in 1961, and returned in 1983 for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh wave to supporters from Buckingham Palace following her coronation at Westminster Abbey. London on June. 2, 1953. (AP)

During his last visit in 1997, he hit the headlines for his comments on the number of casualties in the 1919 Jallianwallah Bagh massacre. There were demands that the royal couple apologise for the massacre.

There have been different estimates of the casualties of the firing ordered by Col Reginald Dyer over the decades. British estimates put it at 379, while Indian estimates are in the thousands. A plaque at the memorial says: “This place is saturated with the blood of about two thousand Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims who were martyred in a non-violent struggle.”

During the visit, the Queen bowed her head and placed a wreath at the memorial. On the way out, Prince Philip stopped to query an official on the number of those killed: “Two thousand? It wasn’t, was it? That’s wrong. I was in the navy with Dyer’s son. That’s a bit exaggerated…it must include the wounded.”

The British news media have often compiled a list his gaffes over the decades.

During a tour of a Scottish factory in August 1999, he reportedly said a fuse box was so crude that it “looked as though it had been put in by an Indian”. He later clarified his comment: “I meant to say cowboys. “I just got my cowboys and Indians mixed up.”

During a Buckingham Palace reception in 2009 for 400 influential British Indians, he reportedly told guest Atul Patel after glancing at his name badge: “There’s a lot of your family in tonight.”

First Published: Aug 02, 2017 22:34 IST