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Some sailors in the Royal Navy were not so approving when Philip was given command of the frigate Magpie. It was his first command, and Philip was eager to make good. "I'd rather die than have to serve on that bloody ship again," said one sailor. "A man'd thought it was some big bloody battleship, the way he walked around giving orders." By the time Philip's tour ended, the Magpie was not the happiest ship in the Royal Navy, but it was among the best, got top marks for efficiency during the Mediterranean Fleet's summer exercises.
For all his talent at leadership, Philip neither has nor wants a key to the Queen's crested dispatch boxes, and beyond some cordial chitchat when the work is done, he is careful not to intrude when her ministers come for consultation. But to the increasing number of royal chores he himself is called upon to perform, Philip has brought an individual approachoften to the consternation, sometimes to the grudging approval of the kingdom.
The Shut-Eyes. Philip struck terror into palace officials by refusing to let them vet his speeches, or even read them. What was worse, he did his level best to say something. In his inaugural speech as the president of the complacent British Association for the Advancement of Science, he startled both his listeners and the world by telling the learned gentlemen assembled, in well-informed and vigorous terms, to get cracking. "It's no good shutting your eyes and saying 'British is best' three times a day after meals and expecting it to be so," he told another group of smug Britons in the same tone.
For more than two years, Philip was the prime mover in an effort to get industrialists, labor leaders and workers from all over the Commonwealth together over a round-table conference. "He's the sort of young fellow who tries to teach his grandmother how to suck eggsif you know what I mean," huffed at least one of Britain's great magnates. Explained a British newsman: "Philip puts their backs up because he asks one question too many. He will say to a man on the bench: 'What's your job? How is it done?' But then he always goes on to say, Isn't there some way of doing it better?' The workman is pleased as Punchbut the boys upstairs feel like telling him to go home and play bridge with the Queen."
Meanwhile, omnipresent Mrs. Grundys were busily clacking their sharp tongues over their suspicion that "this foreign Prince spends all his time roistering about town, playing polo on Sundays or sailing boats, when he should be in church." Philip is unmoved. "I am completely stoic," he once told a gathering of newspaper publishers. "I now read about myself as if I were an animal at the zoo."
Bloody Rude. His sharpest critics are not those who view him in ignorance, from afar, but those who struggle in vain to keep up with his exacting demands.
Philip, whose duty often calls on him to make up to three speeches a day, was once outraged when an aide suggested he beg off an engagement on grounds of fatigue. "That's what they pay me for, isn't it?" he snapped in rebuke.