Philip, Prince

The Royal Philanderer

Sun Herald (Melbourne)

Sunday January 28, 1996


A new biography of the Queen questions the fidelity of Prince Philip and claims he has a roving eye. JAMES ORAM reports.

HE wasn't the Duke of Edinburgh then. Merely a Greek prince who had been born on a dining room table in a house on the island of Corfu. His first name was Philoppos and he suffered under the surname of Schleswig-HolsteinSonderburg-Glucksburg.

A naval lieutenant during WWII, his duties have taken him to the far corners of the antipodes. Sydney was Prince Philip's favourite port.

He was in his early 20s, handsome with sandy hair and women "queued up" to be introduced. His best friend, Michael Parker, then a first lieutenant in the Royal Australian Navy, described his impact on Australian women: "There were always armfuls of girls."

Philip's cousin, Queen Alexandria of Yugoslavia, wrote in her biography of the prince: "Philip hit feminine hearts, first in Melbourne, then in Sydney, with terrific impact."

Further evidence that Philip captured many a Sydney heart is offered by British journalist Nicholas Davies in his book Queen Elizabeth II, A Woman Who Is Not Amused.

Davies wrote: "One hostess, a middle-aged Sydney woman involved in charity work, put it bluntly: 'The girls were queuing up to bed him. He was gorgeous, and royal'.

"When asked if Philip did in fact bed any, she replied: 'Of course he did; he was a real lady's man. He loved his time in Australia. He had a whale of a time'."

During one boozy night at the Rocks, Philip was arrested by legendary cop Frank (Bumper) Farrell for urinating in the street.

Philip gave a bodgie name and it wasn't until years later when Farrell saw a photo of Philip, who had become engaged to Princess Elizabeth, did he realise who he had nabbed.

A good-looking young man with royal blood, a serving naval officer living in times of extreme danger, could be forgiven for having as many flings as the body allowed. The next could be his last.

What has revived the stories is a new book on the Queen that has questioned Philip's fidelity.

The book, Elizabeth, A Biography Of Her Majesty The Queen, is not a tinpot muckraker in search of a fast buck but by historian Sarah Bradford, alias Viscountess Bangor, who had access to private diaries.

I've shared a drink with Philip, laughed with him, argued with him, have had the honour of being berated by him in the saltiest of language for writing stories with which he has disagreed.

He is a strange man, at times cruelly arrogant, at others witty and charming, possessed of a quick temper and given to shouting.

He can be oddly insensitive, including the time, when visiting Paraguay, he told its vicious dictator, Alfredo Stroessner: "It's a pleasant change to be in a country that isn't ruled by its people."

Or the occasion during a visit to the People's Republic of China, when he said to British students there: "If you stay here much longer you'll go back with slitty eyes." This prompted a tabloid to produce the headline which dubbed him the Great Wally of China.

The marriage of Elizabeth and Philip is not a subject raised often in the British press, keener to chase the younger royals.

In the early days of their marriage some public mention was made of the Thursday Club, often held in the luxurious Grosvenor Square flat of David Milford Baven.

Philip was originally taken to the club by Mike Parker. Frequented by rich layabouts and others well connected, the nights would begin with drinking and cards.

But then, according to author Nicholas Davies, "girls would be brought in. The eight or so men at the party would start betting on the women in games ... Whoever won could go off to one of the adjoining bedrooms with whichever woman he fancied ... "

The tabloids brought the Thursday Club to the attention of Elizabeth, who would be reassured by her maid and great confidante, Bobo Macdonald: "Don't you worry about such things. We all know that boys will be boys."

Another clubbish scene was the Bohemia Grove retreat in California, where such powerful figures as Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, as well as some of America's wealthiest businessmen, gathered for important discussions and blokey companionship.

Women were banned at the Grove. The rich and powerful sometimes made their way to the nearby town of Guerneville, where 10 bars were enhanced by call girls.

According to Manu Kanaki, who operated one such establishment, Northwood Lodge, Philip was a visitor and was seen in the company of the girls.

The names of many women have been linked with Philip, including Pat Kirkwood, a musical star, and Helene Cordet, a nightclub owner. In her autobiography in 1961, Born Bewildered, Miss Cordet denied any involvement with Philip.

Her son, Max, is Philip's godchild. In 1988 Max proclaimed he was not Philip's child.

Other names gossip has connected with Philip include British TV personality Katie Boyle and actress Merle Oberon. It is said, and not in whispers, that Philip spent two weeks at Oberon's Acapulco home.

One story that persists, and will never fade because it is the brightest thread in Britain's amusing tapestry of sexual political scandals, is Philip's role in the Stephen Ward affair.

A sophisticated and elegant man, Ward was an osteopath and skilful artist who sketched Princess Margaret, the Duke of Kent, the Duchess of Kent and Prince Philip.

Ward was also a little kinky. He ran discreet dinner parties where "models" Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies were in attendance. There was much dressing up and spanking of bottoms.

Things got messy. Working for British Intelligence, Ward introduced Keeler and Rice-Davies to a London-based Russian naval attache, Eugene Ivanov, in the hopes the Soviet office would defect.

He also introduced Keeler to John Profumo, then the Tory Government's War Minister. It blew up in Parliament, Profumo resigned in disgrace and Ward committed suicide, or was, as has been suggested, murdered by British Intelligence.

Some strange things happened. In their book, Secrets Of The Royals, Gordon Winter and Wendy Kochman say that several of Ward's sketches were on show at a Bloomsbury art gallery.

"A tall, elegant and well-spoken man walked into the gallery, selected every drawing of the Royal Family, including those of Prince Philip, paid ?5,000, and carried them away without giving his name," the authors allege.

"The man was never identified, although some journalists insist he was Sir Anthony Blunt, the British Intelligence agent (later exposed as a double agent for the KGB) who then worked at Buckingham Palace as the Keeper of the Queen's Pictures."

A more serious allegation was made in 1987 by Anthony Summer, co-author of Honeypot, a detailed account of the affair. He said photographs removed from Ward's home showed a likeness of Prince Philip alongside naked girls.

As for Keeler, she has kept quiet.

I have asked her if the Queen's husband was involved. She answers with a smile. She is keeping the secrets - if there are any.

1996 Sun Herald