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These Are Prince Philip's Most Controversial Moments

The Duke has made some shockingly politically incorrect statements.

While Queen Elizabeth has always been the model of decorum and discretion, her husband, Prince Philip, has never shied away from controversy and always says what's on his mind—with seemingly little thought about the consequences. The Brits have dubbed him the "Iron Duke," thanks to his incredibly resilient physical condition. (For example, in 2018, just few months after hip replacement surgery, he was up and about at the wedding of his grandson, Prince Harry, and Meghan Markle.) But Philip has also spent decades confounding royal watchers by making some wildly inappropriate statements at the least opportune times. In celebration of Philip's 98th birthday on June 10th, here's a look at his most controversial moments. We suspect these gaffes won't be his last.

When he crushed a little boy's dreams

Prince Charles, son of Prince Philip, who's had many controversial moments

A notoriously tough father to Prince Charles when he was a little boy, Prince Philip gave people a glimpse of what Charles endured growing up during a visit to Salford University in 2001. Philip stunned 13-year-old Andrew Adams when he looked the boy up and down and then told him, "You could do with losing a little bit of weight," according to the Daily Mail.

When he made clear he's not an Elton John fan

Elton John offended by Prince Philip among his controversial moments
Getty Images / Pascal Le Segretain

According to Newsweek, Philip once told the Rocketman himself he wasn't a fan of his Aston Martin. "Oh, it's you that owns that ghastly car, is it?" he said. "We often see it when driving to Windsor Castle."

Then at the Royal Variety Performance during the singer's set in 2001, Philip said, "I wish he'd turn the microphone off," according to The Guardian.

And when he dissed another beloved British entertainer, Tom Jones

Tom Jones stands in grey three piece suit with grey hair, offended by Prince Philip among his controversial moments
Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock

At the 1969 Royal Variety Performance, where Prince Philip apparently loves to diss singers, he alleged asked Tom Jones, "What do you gargle with, pebbles?"

To add insult to injury, the next day, he apparently said at a luncheon: "It is very difficult to see how it is possible to become immensely valuable by singing what I think are the most hideous songs."

When he thought Pirates of the Caribbean was based on fact

pirates of the caribbean curse of the black pearl johnny depp, Prince Philip controversial moments
IMDB/Buena Vista Pictures

Apparently, Prince Philip didn't know that the events of the Disney ride-based film franchise are fiction. According to The Daily Beast, during a 1994 trip to the Cayman Islands, he asked a native, "Aren't most of you descended from pirates?"

When he disrespected the president of Nigeria

 Queen Elizabeth II is escorted by Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo whom Prince Philip offended among controversial moments
PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo

During a 2003 visit to the African country, Philip reportedly took one look at Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who was dressed in traditional robes, and observed, "You look like you're ready for bed!"

When he made multiple racist remarks in China

A stamp printed in the Hong Kong dedicated to the visit of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, who offended the people amid controversial moments
Sergey Kohl / Shutterstock

When Philip spoke to some British exchange students who were staying in Xian, China, in 1986, he reportedly told them, "If you stay here much longer you will all be slitty-eyed." He also offered his opinion on Beijing, calling the country's capital city "ghastly."

On that same trip, when he addressed a World Wildlife Fund meeting, Philip said, "If it has four legs and it is not a chair, if it has two wings and flies but is not an airplane, and if it swims and it is not a submarine, the Cantonese will eat it."

In a BBC documentary to mark his 90th birthday in 2011, Philip said, "I'd forgotten about it. But for one particular reporter who overheard it, it wouldn't have come out. What's more, the Chinese weren't worried about it, so why should anyone else?" Hindsight isn't always 20/20, it seems.

When he had some choice words about Russia

St. Basil's Cathedral on Red Square in Moscow in front of water, Russia among Prince Philip controversial moments
Baturina Yuliya / Shutterstock

During a very politically unsettled period in 1967, Philip offered this insight on Russia, according to The Telegraph: "I would like to go to Russia very much, although the b******* murdered half my family." Alrighty then.

When he insulted Aboriginals in Australia

australian flag prince philip

In 2002, his comment to a group of Aboriginals while on a visit to Australia with the Queen made international headlines. According to The Telegraph, he asked the indigenous peoples, "Do you still throw spears at each other?" The founder of an Aboriginal culture park responded: "No. We don't do that any more."

When he said he doesn't think veterans need mental health counseling

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In 1995, Philip offered his take on soldiers dealing with PTSD after going to war. "It was part of the fortunes of war," he allegedly said in a TV documentary on the 50th Anniversary of D-Day. "We didn't have counselors rushing around every time somebody let off a gun, asking, 'Are you all right—are you sure you don't have a ghastly problem?' You just got on with it!"

Perhaps Prince Harry's work with wounded veterans and the young royals' Heads Together mental health campaign has changed his thinking—one can only hope.

When he asked a cadet if she worked at a strip club

Bottom of stripper pole on stage in dark light with crumpled bill, Prince Philip controversial moments
Inked Pixels / Shutterstock

In 2010, Philip met a 24-year-old female sea cadet named Elizabeth Rendle at Wyvern barracks in Exeter, according to The Telegraph. She told him she worked in a nightclub and he allegedly joked, "Is it a strip club?" When she looked shocked, he noted that it's "probably too cold for that anyway."

When he said British women can't cook

Person is baking and shaping dough

In 1961, Philip told the Scottish Womens' Institute, "British women can't cook," according to The Independent. That explains why he always mans the barbecue at Balmoral Castle.

When he made an outrageous remark to a group of deaf children

Back of child's head shows hearing ad, deaf children Prince Philip controversial moments
GUNDAM_Ai / Shutterstock

It's hard to believe the Prince uttered these words, but in 2000, he reportedly told a group of hearing impaired school children who were standing near a Caribbean steel drum band: "Deaf? If you're near there, no wonder you are deaf." Yikes!

When he cracked a tasteless joke about Papau New Guinea

president trump cognitive test scores

In 1998, he spoke to a British student who had been trekking in Papua New Guinea, according to The New York Times. After hearing where he'd been, Philip cracked, "You managed not to get eaten then?"

When he dissed Ethiopian art

Colorful baskets lined up in Ethiopia, Prince Philip controversial moments
Alex Sinclair Lack / Shutterstock

Upon inspecting some works of Ethiopian art in 1965, Philip observed, "It looks like the kind of thing my daughter would bring back from her school art lessons." We're not sure who should be offended—the Ethiopians, a young Princess Anne, or both!

And when he offended the Scottish

Scottish bagpiper dressed in traditional red and black tartan dress stand before stone wall, Prince Philip controversial moments

In 1995, according to the BBC, Philip asked a Scottish driving instructor: "How do you keep the natives off the booze long enough to pass the test?" And for punch lines that'll actually make you smile instead of cringe, here are 50 Dad Jokes So Bad They're Actually Hilarious.

Diane Clehane is a New York-based journalist and author of Imagining Diana and Diana: The Secrets of Her Style.

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