Late Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, here seen in April 2015, speaks to guests and members of the Calgary Highlanders, the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry and the Canadian Scottish Regiments during a reception at Canada House. The Queen and Prince Philip joined the three Canadian military regiments in London to commemorate the regiments’ role in a historic First World War battle. (Charla Jones/Photo Courtesy of the Canadian Scottish Highlanders)

Late Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, here seen in April 2015, speaks to guests and members of the Calgary Highlanders, the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry and the Canadian Scottish Regiments during a reception at Canada House. The Queen and Prince Philip joined the three Canadian military regiments in London to commemorate the regiments’ role in a historic First World War battle. (Charla Jones/Photo Courtesy of the Canadian Scottish Highlanders)

Sidney man who met late Prince Philip twice remembers his wicked sense of humour

Richard Talbot first met the Duke of Edinburgh in 1971, then again in 2015

“You had a feeling of being with somebody truly unique. It was almost like meeting a legend.”

This is how Sidney’s Richard Talbot described his two meetings with the late Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. The husband of Queen Elizabeth II – perhaps the most famous Queen consort since Prince Albert, the influential husband of Queen Victoria – died on April 9, just short of his 100th birthday.

“He was very direct,” said Talbot of Prince Philip. “You really felt that he was talking to you personally and really was interested in hearing what you had to say.”

Talbot met the prince when he and daughter Princess Anne visited Victoria in 1971 as B.C. celebrated the centenary of joining confederation.

Recently promoted Major Talbot was serving then Lt.-Gov. John “Jack” Nicholson as an aide-de-camp when an impromptu, day-of strike by Nicholson’s two senior aides-de-camp saw Talbot assume a much greater role in hosting the Windsors at Government House during a state dinner.

With all the guests minus the Windsors seated, Talbot eventually found himself in their drawing room along with Nicholson. He wanted to lead the royal visitors into the dining hall through a door that would have seen the Queen enter from behind a temporary bar, an optical no-no, as Talbot told his skeptical but insistent boss, reminding him of the present television cameras.

RELATED: Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, dies at 99

“At that stage, Prince Philip chuckled and said, ‘Well, I think we better follow the Major instead. Let’s go the way he suggests.’”

The last-minute absence of Princess Anne due to an upset stomach, and her lady in waiting, earned Talbot and his wife Jinny spots at a table occupied by Scotland Yard agents protecting the Queen and Prince Philip.

“So you can imagine we have had a wonderful evening down there, with every possible story you can imagine, most of which I have luckily forgotten,” said Talbot, who was 30 at the time.

Talbot met Prince Philip a second time in April 2015 at Canada House in London. Talbot was leading a delegation of veterans and current soldiers serving in his unit, the Canadian Scottish Regiment, at a centennial for a First World War battle. Delegations from two other regiments — the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry and the Calgary Highlanders — also participated in the trip to London to mark the occasion, which included an informal tea party (with slightly stronger beverages) that included the respective colonel-in-chief of the regiments: the Queen’s first cousin Princess Alexandria for Talbot’s unit, as well as Prince Philip for the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry and Queen Elizabeth II for the Calgary Highlanders.

As delegation leader, Talbot met the Queen as she entered the room, with Prince Philip two paces behind. “They stopped just beside me,” said Talbot. “And the Queen said to Prince Philip, ‘now, Philip, you know what you have to do next.’ And he said, ‘oh yes, dear. I have to follow behind you and not be rude to anybody’ and gave me a great, big wink. And she said, ‘no, you are supposed to look after you own regiment and I am going to look after mine.’”

The Queen’s advice did not necessarily take, as Prince Philip soon started to visit with members from the other regiments. “You could hear his laugh all afternoon,” said Talbot. “He was chuckling away and telling awful stories, no doubt.”

At one stage, Prince Philip picked out Talbot’s oldest son Michael, who had served in his father’s regiment. During the conversation, Talbot’s son revealed to Prince Philip that he was accompanying his father as his unofficial aide-de-camp.

“And Prince Philip said, ‘so you are really just sponging here,’” said Talbot in recalling the story.

Talbot said that gathering made an impression on all the Canadian visitors, with one soldier from Port Alberni describing the occasion as the best day in his life.

“Everybody was totally overwhelmed by them,” said Talbot. “They were so friendly and amusing and informal. I think they created a whole bunch of fans they did have before.”

RELATED: A look at the more than 20 trips Prince Philip made to Canada

Like millions around Canada and the rest of the Commonwealth, Talbot knew of Prince Philip from an early age. As a young boy, he listened to the 1947 radio broadcast of Philip’s wedding with then Princess Elizabeth. He also watched the Queen’s coronation ceremony in June 1953, first on a large television set up at his dad’s office in Whitehall, then in person from a balcony as the coronation procession wound its way through London.

Over the years, Prince Philip made headlines for various statements, earning him the nickname of Duke of Hazard.

But Talbot sees him in a more charitable light in praising his wit. “On both occasions, he had a wicked sense of humour, and often, there was a little dig in it,” said Talbot.

When asked whether Prince Philip might have recognized Talbot when they met for the second time in 2015 after their meeting in 1971, Talbot said he does not think so.

“I was tempted to remind him of it, but as you heard it is a rather long story,” he said. “I rather regret it because I think he would rather have enjoyed that story.”


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wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

Saanich Peninsula