PATRICK JEPHSON: What comes next – old white men – is a brand manager’s nightmare…

Yesterday’s funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh saw the nation and much of the world authentically united in sorrow at the passing of such a stalwart, not just of the British Monarchy but of the whole great generation of which he was one of a dwindling rearguard.

The simple military dignity of the ceremony was a timely reminder of our great inheritance of understated patriotic excellence. 

And it can’t have just been former Navy men like me whose eyes grew suddenly misty as the hymn Eternal Father Strong To Save carried us back to a time when we too went ‘down to the sea in ships’.

It was a day to remember and treasure, like the man it commemorated. Despite Covid restrictions, the Palace executed a fitting farewell for the Duke’s great final voyage.

But what now for those who remain? 

Yesterday's funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh saw the nation and much of the world authentically united in sorrow at the passing of such a stalwart, writes PATRICK JEPHSON. But here's the simple actuarial fact: old, balding, white men will follow each other in a procession of future Monarchs that lasts until kingdom come

Yesterday's funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh saw the nation and much of the world authentically united in sorrow at the passing of such a stalwart, writes PATRICK JEPHSON. But here's the simple actuarial fact: old, balding, white men will follow each other in a procession of future Monarchs that lasts until kingdom come

Yesterday’s funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh saw the nation and much of the world authentically united in sorrow at the passing of such a stalwart, writes PATRICK JEPHSON. But here’s the simple actuarial fact: old, balding, white men will follow each other in a procession of future Monarchs that lasts until kingdom come

The simple military dignity of the ceremony was a timely reminder of our great inheritance of understated patriotic excellence

The simple military dignity of the ceremony was a timely reminder of our great inheritance of understated patriotic excellence

The simple military dignity of the ceremony was a timely reminder of our great inheritance of understated patriotic excellence 

His widow and daughter are once again leading by example in their determination to prove that work can be the best remedy for grief, and he would surely approve, too, of his grandson Prince William’s moving promise to ‘get on with the job’.

But despite the good sense – and good PR optics – of quickly getting back to business as usual, the Windsors and their advisers would be wrong to think that public sympathy can be equated with public support.

If ‘wars aren’t won by retreats’, as Churchill said after the miracle of Dunkirk, even less are the Monarchy’s problems resolved by national moments of beautifully orchestrated sadness, even if these are an inevitable part of the hereditary system.

For great dynasties, funerals raise more questions about the future than the past, while also tempting us to linger over the comforting certainties of times gone by.

White men are set to lead the monarchy in a country, and a Commonwealth, in which youth and cross-cultural appeal will become far more than recruitment targets for Palace HR departments or diversity graphics on a PR consultant's Powerpoint

White men are set to lead the monarchy in a country, and a Commonwealth, in which youth and cross-cultural appeal will become far more than recruitment targets for Palace HR departments or diversity graphics on a PR consultant's Powerpoint

White men are set to lead the monarchy in a country, and a Commonwealth, in which youth and cross-cultural appeal will become far more than recruitment targets for Palace HR departments or diversity graphics on a PR consultant’s Powerpoint

Old, balding white men will be central to Monarchy's survival as a system of inherited privilege in an unforgivingly puritanical, race-and-gender-obsessed networked world

Old, balding white men will be central to Monarchy's survival as a system of inherited privilege in an unforgivingly puritanical, race-and-gender-obsessed networked world

 Old, balding white men will be central to Monarchy’s survival as a system of inherited privilege in an unforgivingly puritanical, race-and-gender-obsessed networked world

It was one of the Duke’s defining qualities that even when his famous sense of humour sent some tender souls into a fit of the vapours, most reasonable people saw the underlying good intent and gave him the benefit of the doubt; and because there was often a pearl of wisdom hidden in his jokes, it was usually in their own interest to hear him out.

Such forgivability is a priceless asset when you are a public figure, especially one who can claim no democratic mandate. 

Just as rare – and even more essential – is an authenticity that reassures a sceptical public that you are the worthwhile person you seem to be. 

To quote Socrates: ‘The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavour to be what you desire to appear.’

Prince Philip was a man who knew who he was and was happy for the world to form its own opinion based on what it saw.

 ‘I can’t change myself,’ he memorably said, as if challenging us to make him try.

Modern fashion in what’s considered desirable attitudes or behaviour might have pressured him to become somebody different but his refusal to do so not only earned him respect, it became a reassuringly fixed point in a world of constantly shifting values.

But the Duke’s children and other Royal figures may find sympathy in more limited supply. 

To watch Prince Andrew’s opportunistic on-camera tribute to his father last week was to realise how far he has yet to travel on the road to rehabilitation.

Together with the Sussex circus – in town for one show only – it reminds us how much Prince Philip’s family, like the rest of us, are diminished by the loss of such a steadfast, charismatic figure. 

To watch Prince Andrew's opportunistic on-camera tribute to his father last week was to realise how far he has yet to travel on the road to rehabilitation

To watch Prince Andrew's opportunistic on-camera tribute to his father last week was to realise how far he has yet to travel on the road to rehabilitation

To watch Prince Andrew’s opportunistic on-camera tribute to his father last week was to realise how far he has yet to travel on the road to rehabilitation

Together with the Sussex circus – in town for one show only – it reminds us how much Prince Philip's family, like the rest of us, are diminished by the loss of such a steadfast, charismatic figure

Together with the Sussex circus – in town for one show only – it reminds us how much Prince Philip's family, like the rest of us, are diminished by the loss of such a steadfast, charismatic figure

Together with the Sussex circus – in town for one show only – it reminds us how much Prince Philip’s family, like the rest of us, are diminished by the loss of such a steadfast, charismatic figure

They doubtless measure themselves against what has gone and some will wonder how to fill the gap. 

Ambitious advisers may be doing the same and already thinking of future headlines.

Imagine taking on the task of re-packaging the Duke of Edinburgh in an effort to win favourable tweets, suppress criticism or gain advantage over a family rival. 

These are services Royal news managers routinely perform yet to imagine them trying their crafty arts on Prince Philip is instantly laughable.

Princess Diana's former aide Patrick Jephson is pictured

Princess Diana's former aide Patrick Jephson is pictured

Princess Diana’s former aide Patrick Jephson is pictured 

Undeniably, modern Royal image control, especially in our feelings-obsessed age, is no laughing matter. 

Some Windsors continue to be good customers of the best spin doctors money can hire. 

And it’s a habit not confined to the much-criticised California branch of the organisation. 

Perhaps that’s because modern orthodoxy on both sides of the Atlantic increasingly teaches that saying and signalling the right thing is at least as important as actually doing it – if not more so.

Whereas most people believe actions are more important than words, cynical practices invite cynicism in return, eating away at the simple belief and trust that are the bedrock of Britain’s faith in its Monarchy. 

How much better to learn from the defiantly un-spinnable Prince Philip.

Thank goodness the equally un-spinnable Queen remains not just in good health but also quite clearly very much in control. 

Yesterday's funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh saw the nation and much of the world authentically united in sorrow at the passing of such a stalwart, writes PATRICK JEPHSON. But here's the simple actuarial fact: old, balding, white men will follow each other in a procession of future Monarchs that lasts until kingdom come

Yesterday's funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh saw the nation and much of the world authentically united in sorrow at the passing of such a stalwart, writes PATRICK JEPHSON. But here's the simple actuarial fact: old, balding, white men will follow each other in a procession of future Monarchs that lasts until kingdom come

Yesterday’s funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh saw the nation and much of the world authentically united in sorrow at the passing of such a stalwart, writes PATRICK JEPHSON. But here’s the simple actuarial fact: old, balding, white men will follow each other in a procession of future Monarchs that lasts until kingdom come

It’s no secret that her advisers have sometimes flirted with strategies to boost or massage our perception of her but all such attempts wither in the sunlight of a simple reality.

Like her father and mother, the Queen puts service before self and everybody knows it.

We don’t just know it, we feel it. It’s practically in our DNA. We have grown up with it and never known anything different. 

And, God willing, we won’t have to for many years to come.

But as yesterday reminded us, even the seemingly indestructible generation forged in the Second World War will eventually pass from sight.

It is no disrespect to them to begin to wonder how their example might shape a Monarchy to lead us in the new era they leave behind.

Behind Palace walls there will be influential but misguided voices who say now is the time for more spin, not less. 

After all, unlike the youthful and beautiful Queen Elizabeth who took the throne at 25 (supported by her handsome husband), tomorrow’s Monarchs look as if they’ll be a brand manager’s nightmare.

Leave aside recent, and hotly denied, accusations of racism, bullying and heartless neglect. 

Here’s the simple actuarial fact: old, balding, white men will follow each other in a procession of future Monarchs that lasts until kingdom come – or at least until the end of the 21st Century.

This in a country, and a Commonwealth, in which youth and cross-cultural appeal will become far more than recruitment targets for Palace HR departments or diversity graphics on a PR consultant’s Powerpoint.

They will be central to Monarchy’s survival as a system of inherited privilege in an unforgivingly puritanical, race-and-gender-obsessed networked world.

The Duke, ever the realist, knew better than anybody the delicate contract between the people and the family they allow to reign over them

The Duke, ever the realist, knew better than anybody the delicate contract between the people and the family they allow to reign over them

The Duke, ever the realist, knew better than anybody the delicate contract between the people and the family they allow to reign over them

The solution, sadly, is not a new Royal yacht, much as we might enjoy paying for it. It’s not statues, to be revered or defaced according to the emotion of the moment. 

Nor a new face on the coinage and a grandiose new court in the same old Palace. Nor even a celebrity-endorsed crusade to save a heart-rending list of endangered animal wildlife.

All these have their place but only in a world made safe for kings. 

If we look closely, as things stand, the post-Philip Windsors might easily become an endangered species themselves.

What would the Duke do? It’s a fair bet he’d tell his family to just get on with it. 

And to remember that the public aren’t interested in them and their problems but in the institution and the good causes they serve.

To paraphrase his own words, this is not about personal popularity but about proving value – financial, moral, aspirational – through hard work and sacrifice.

Put that first, be content to fulfil your destiny and everything important will follow, especially if you spare us your second-hand opinions in the meantime. 

It’s what his wife publicly dedicated her life to. 

It’s why he committed his own life to his Queen as her ‘liege man of life and limb’ and supported her with all his might till only death could them part.

Old fashioned? Perhaps. But the alternative is stark. In little more than Prince Philip’s lifetime, royal houses have vanished in Russia, Germany, Austria, Greece, Portugal and Italy – the list goes on.

There is no law of nature that grants the Windsors immunity from the viruses of complacency and hypocrisy to which monarchies are particularly prone.

n little more than Prince Philip's lifetime, royal houses have vanished in Russia, Germany, Austria, Greece, Portugal and Italy – the list goes on. Pictured: Russian Tsar Nicholas II

n little more than Prince Philip's lifetime, royal houses have vanished in Russia, Germany, Austria, Greece, Portugal and Italy – the list goes on. Pictured: Russian Tsar Nicholas II

n little more than Prince Philip’s lifetime, royal houses have vanished in Russia, Germany, Austria, Greece, Portugal and Italy – the list goes on. Pictured: Russian Tsar Nicholas II

There is no law of nature that grants the Windsors immunity from the viruses of complacency and hypocrisy to which monarchies are particularly prone

The Duke, ever the realist, knew better than anybody the delicate contract between the people and the family they allow to reign over them. 

After all, most of those deposed in the 20th Century were his relatives.

With typical clarity, he cut through all the double-speak and pomposity that the subject attracts in an interview in Australia in March 1967: ‘If the Monarchy is of value, retain it. Otherwise, get rid of it.’

Perhaps it was a dare. After all, more than half a century later, Australia has kept the Queen as Head of State. 

But as the Windsors put away their mourning attire – for now – the question of Monarchy’s value is back on the agenda.

Maybe it’s time to help them decide where to invest the limited reserves of credibility and affection, of energy and promise.

Time to acknowledge the crucial importance of reconnecting with untarnished ideals of duty and service.

Time, in short, for a new generation to write a vigorous new chapter to honour the vigorous life it has just lost.

Link hienalouca.com

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