Prince Philip, Feminist Icon 1921-2021


Today we are gripped as a nation by the passing of HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, our beloved Prince Philip. We have also lost a feminist icon, and for those of us seeking male role models in the world, you’d be hard pressed to find a more dignified man to emulate.

Setting aside his ribald humour and penchant for occasional gaffes and inappropriate asides, which all served to humanise him, he set a benchmark for all men.  To quietly and dutifully support his wife.

When Queen Elizabeth married Philip Mountbatten in 1947, the world was a very different place.  At her coronation in 1953, the 31-year-old Duke removed his own coronet, knelt at the feet of the young Queen, and swore an oath of allegiance. “I, Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, do become your liege man of life and limb and of earthly worship … so help me God.”

Wow!

He was the ultimate “alpha male”. Tall, devastatingly good-looking, totally confident. But she loved him, and he loved her “completely and unreservedly.”

And the Queen? She may be the first female leader with a global presence. She was surrounded by men in every position of power–her advisors, but also every other head of State.  The Duke’s oath of allegiance meant he had to walk two paces behind her for 70 years.  His early struggles to come to terms with this subservient role are well-documented and understandable, given the times, and given his personality.  That he mastered it with such elan is a testament to his success as a man.

He was not weak. He was her strength and succour. You could see in her gaze how she adored him. Yes, men, that is more than enough. The love and respect of a woman that you adore is more than enough. Philip’s belief in commitment and duty carried him through, became the bedrock of one of the most important marriages in British history.

This is a man who gave up his promising naval career to be the quiet strength by her side.  This is a man in a patriarchal world who served the ultimate matriarch.  Here was the only man in England who was not able to pass his surname onto his children.  This is nothing new to most women in the world.  And yet, how few men have done this? 

For seven decades he stood loyally by the side of the most iconic woman in the world, supporting her, supporting the nation.  If that doesn’t make him a feminist icon, I don’t know what does.

Where are we going to find more Prince Philips? By educating our sons to be respectful, by teaching our daughters to dream. That can be his legacy. That a great man can thrive in the shadow of the one he loves.

Goodbye dear Philip.  Thank you for your service to us all.

4 thoughts

  1. Men can’t be feminist, they can be pro-feminist. Phillip was a misogynistic patriarchal as they come. Here is classic Phillip: I don’t think a prostitute is more moral than a wife, but they are doing the same thing.. He was the Patriarchy personified.

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  2. Thank you for your comment. “Feminist” is someone who supports feminism, so the “pro” feels redundant, but am curious as to why you think a man cannot be feminist. What about Dennis Thatcher? Another man who was the rock for a very public female leader. There are so few men who stand out in the world for taking a back seat to their wives. People like Prince Philip and Dennis Thatcher surely make it easier for other men to realise there is nothing wrong with being subservient to your wife.

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  3. ROFL! Dennis! Are you kidding me? Because it is a patriarchal system men cannot remove themselves from their power and privilege in relation to women. you must be in the group having had direct lived experience of the patriarchy as a woman. Men, you included, can be sympathetic, but NOT feminist. The fact you don’t see why the pro is needed, and see it as redundant shows in abundance why you dont fucking get it, boy!

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  4. Thank you for your spirited reply. I also see on your blog that my post led to an outpouring on your own. Fantastic.

    But I think you are tilting at windmills. According to the OED, the word feminist means “a person who supports the belief that women should have the same rights and opportunities as men”. The last I checked “person” does not have a gender. So, to say that men can’t be feminists is patently false.

    I don’t disagree with you that a man who calls himself a Feminist is suspect. In my experience, those men, admittedly not many, who called themselves feminists had ulterior motives.

    At the very least, Philip is a role model for a man in a patriarchal society that it is okay to be second fiddle to your wife. At best, he is indeed an icon. You support the thesis by your own argument calling Philip “patriarchy personified”. That is precisely why it was so powerful for him to abjure his interests to those of the Queen. 70 years of walking behind her is a powerful legacy. I googled “Philip as feminist icon” and found that it is not such an original idea…quite a few papers published the same–Guardian, Independent…The power of his oath, “I, Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, do become your liege man of life and limb, and of earthly worship. And faith and truth I will bear unto you, to live and die, against all manner of folks. So help me God,” rests in that he did it, lived it for 70 years. That it was difficult for him has often been quoted, which itself reinforces the argument that in a patriarchal system, where he had every expectation of being an alpha, he chose not to be.

    I don’t disagree with your other points…many of the things he said were insensitive. Humour is often insensitive, sometimes off-colour, and sometimes just plain insulting.

    It is okay to femsplain to me, but the use of the “f-bomb” and calling me “boy” undermine your own point of view.

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