Zaki Cooper

Prince Philip was a 'Dafka-nik'

'For a man at the apex of the nation, it is strange that he saw himself as an outsider'


WINDSOR, ENGLAND - JULY 22: Prince Philip (C), Duke of Edinburgh takes part in the transfer of the Colonel-in-Chief of The Rifles at Windsor castle on July 22, 2020 in Windsor, England. The Duke of Edinburgh has been Colonel-in-Chief of The Rifles since its formation in 2007. HRH served as Colonel-in-Chief of successive Regiments which now make up The Rifles since 1953. The Duchess of Cornwall was appointed Royal Colonel of 4th Battalion The Rifles in 2007. (Photo by Adrian Dennis - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

April 15, 2021 11:24

In the spotlight for over 70 years as the husband of the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh stood out as someone who eschewed flattery or narcissism.

Given who he was as the patriarch of the British royal family, and an object of global fascination, it was somewhat paradoxical that he didn’t want any fuss. While he understood that media coverage was a necessary ingredient of royal life, he rarely hid his disdain for journalists and reporters. 

In my years at the Palace working in the communications team, I saw the Duke and the Queen on dozens of engagements. I remember one visit to a Hindu school in North London in March 2012, when I chaperoned a group of press photographers and we took a wrong-turn, almost bumping into the Duke. Braced for a royal rollocking, I was relieved and surprised when he told us to relax and that we needn’t worry.  Always walking a few yards behind his wife, there would often be outbreaks of laughter from the cluster the Duke was speaking to. His quips would punctuate the solemnity of many a royal engagement. 

Such was his importance that his absence was felt keenly when he fell ill, such as the Diamond Jubilee weekend in 2012 or, memorably for me, when I was dispatched to Papworth Hospital  on Christmas Day 2011, where HRH had been taken following chest pains. 

My time at the Palace also allowed me to come to know some of his trusted lieutenants. There were a group of three courtiers, in particular, all in their 80s, who had been with him for decades. One of them, his librarian was Dame Anne Griffiths, became a particular mentor to me. 

He had a special affinity with the Jewish community, which was fostered by his mother’s heroic actions sheltering Jews in Greece during the Holocaust. His outlook on life also chimed with Jewish values of individual responsibility, enterprise and resilience. 

For a man at the apex of the nation, it is strange that he saw himself as an outsider. It can be attributed to a peripatetic and traumatic childhood. That feeling of an outsider’s perspective may also have encouraged the warmth of his feelings to the Jewish community. 

In the rigour and independence of his thought, he was a contrarian — or even a Dafka-nik. 

Zaki Cooper is the Co-Founder of Integra.

April 15, 2021 11:24

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