An upcoming documentary on the life of Prince Philip gives a rare glimpse inside the Duke’s private study at Buckingham Palace, which remains exactly as he left it before his death. The Duke of Edinburgh, who died in April at the age of 99, conducted his affairs from a private office that connects to the office of his private secretary. In the BBC documentary Prince Philip: The Royal Family Remembers, airing tomorrow at 9pm, members of staff and senior royals pay tribute to the Duke and give an insight into his private quarters.
The glimpse inside his study (pictured) revealed portraits of Her Majesty’s parents, George VI and Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, which were gifted to the couple on their wedding day in November 1947 as well as a clock from the Royal Collection. Prince Philip also adorned his study with tributes to his love of riding and horses, featuring an equestrian statue on the windowsill and sculptures of himself and the monarch playing Polo and riding at Trooping the Colour, respectively.
1) Equestrian sculpture: Many-a-time throughout his life would Prince Philip be pictured haring through the grounds of Windsor on his beloved driving carriage, so it’s no surprise that perched on his windowsill is an equestrian-themed sculpture. Carriage driving would provide the Duke of Edinburgh with both a hobby to enjoy with family and friends and a sport to focus his competitive spirit. The Duke spent 22 years as a respected president of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI), the world governing body for everything from dressage to showjumping. He took up carriage-driving in his fifties in 1971, switching from polo due to an arthritic wrist. Philip would regularly compete – even helping Britain to a world championship win on the grounds of Windsor in the 1980s. The Duke was credited with shaping the sport in the UK and was still competing in his eighties, representing Britain in three European championships and six world championships in total. Prince Philip had spoken of his love of haring through the countryside at high speed, whip in hand, in his horse-drawn carriages. In a book he wrote about the sport, he said: ‘I am getting old, my reactions are getting slower, and my memory is unreliable, but I have never lost the sheer pleasure of driving a team through the British countryside.’
2) Collection of figurines: In typical humorous fashion, the Duke owned large figurines of politicians and other high-profile figures, some of whom appear to be members of the Royal Family, with large oversized heads. The duke was known for his cheeky sense of humous, and, in his 70 years of public duty, always brought a sense of fun, making members of the public, foreign dignitaries and his own family laugh and smile during outings. Even as his health worsened, His Royal Highness never lost his sense of humor and was often pictured pulling very expressive faces and laughing and joking with his wife, children and grandchildren. In the BBC documentary, William revealed how the Duke of Edinburgh would get his grandchildren to hold a tube of mustard in their hands and then take the lid off when they were BBQ-ing at Balmoral. ‘He used to get into a lot of trouble with my grandmother for covering most of the places where we had lunch with mustard on the ceiling’, he said.
3) 19th century French clock: On the Duke’s desk sits a Fabergé clock from the Royal Collection made by Johann Victor Aarne, one of the famous Finnish jewelers of the 19th century, between 1896 – 1908. The clock is made from enamel and silver with applied silver decoration in the form of a bow from which the dial is suspended. The 12 hours are represented in Arabic numerals. As on the majority of Fabergé’s clocks, the dial is plain white with clear numerals. In addition to his patronage of British artists, Prince Philip took an active interest in the conservation and display of the Royal Collection. He was the initiator of the original Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace, opened in 1962, and was consulted on the design of the current Queen’s Gallery, opened 2002. He chaired the Restoration Committee following the 1992 fire at Windsor Castle.
4) Television screen: Also present in the Duke’s study is a small television screen. It was said that Philip was the initial driving force in pushing the monarchy into the modern age by embracing television and modern media. Speaking to the BBC, royal biographer Gyles Brandreth said that Philip was ahead of his time and understood the challenges regarding conservation, technology or public perception. Sarah Gristwood, a historian and the author of ‘Elizabeth: The Queen and the Crown’, told NBC: ‘The queen inherited from her father a model of monarchy that was very hands-off, old-fashioned and slightly invisible. It wasn’t equipped to deal with a new media age, and Prince Philip played a huge role in moving it forward then.’
5) Photographs of George VI and Queen Elizabeth: Also from the Royal Collection is a Fabergé double frame holding photographs of George VI and Queen Elizabeth, which was presented to The Duke by the Queen’s parents as a wedding gift when they tied the knot in 1947. The frame contains portraits of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth taken by Dorothy Wilding in 1946, in advance of the tour of southern Africa undertaken by the King and Queen with their daughters in 1947. Despite the thoughtful gift, it has been reported that Philip and the Queen Mother ‘never really got on’ and the Duke apparently clashed with his mother-in-law over his decision to install telephones in Buckingham Palace. According to Channel 5’s The Queen Mum: The Reluctant Queen, the Queen Mother, real name Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, disliked Philip’s ‘progressive’ attitude toward technology.
6) Statue of The Queen on a horse at Trooping the Colour: In the corner of his study, the Duke featured a pair of bronze equestrian sculptures, one of The Queen in the saddle at Trooping the Colour and another of the Duke playing polo. The statues were designed by Doris Lexley Margaret Lindner, a British sculptor who shot to fame in the 1960s and specialized in creating figures of animals and birds. Polo and Prince Philip were intertwined for more than 60 years, after his uncle Earl Mountbatten of Burma introduced him to the sport in the 1940s. Despite retiring from polo at the age of 50, it remained a key interest and he continued to take an active role in the work and development of his own Club – Guards Polo Club until his death.
The documentary also gives a glimpse into the private secretary’s office, known as the Pine Room, which features a printer beside Prince Philip’s desk. Pictured: 1) Printer; 2) Beech bookcase; 3) Gifts from around the world; 4 Houseplant; 5) Painting of Duke during a carriage driving marathon; 6) Model of the Duke’s racing yacht.
1) Printer: While the Duke may have been an advocate of introducing new technologies into Buckingham Palace, he often grew frustrated while trying to get to grips with new gadgets. In the BBC documentary, Peter Phillips – the elder child of the Princess Royal – recalled that he would often hear Philip shouting at a new printer, denouncing the gadget as a ‘bloody stupid’ machine so loudly it could be heard from the breakfast room. ‘I have memories of him getting a new laptop or a new printer – and hearing him shouting at it, he said. ‘He loved technology… but it was always quite entertaining to see him trying to figure them out!’
2) Beech bookcase: A huge beech bookcase bursting with various works of literature sits in the office behind a wooden kneehole desk, scattered with busy in-trays. The bookcase was first recorded in the Royal Collection in the possession of George V. The Duke had a love of literature and, upon his death, the Duchess of Cornwall shared a tribute with ‘great fellow reader’ Prince Philip as she launched the second season of her online book club. She shared the titles alongside a special message in which she mentioned her Patronage of Booktrust, the UK’s largest children’s reading charity, which she inherited from the Duke. The Duchess wrote: ‘As Patron of Booktrust, which I inherited from my late father-in-law His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, I would like to dedicate the next series of my Reading Room to him, in memory of a great fellow reader….. C.’
3) Gifts from around the world: Philip, who completed a total of 22,219 solo engagements and thousands more at the side of his wife, became the Queen’s consort when she acceded to the throne in 1952. He completed his last public event in August 2017. On the top of the bookshelf were various gifts and mementos from engagements across the globe, including 229 visits to 67 Commonwealth countries on solo visits without The Queen over a 67-year period between 1949 and 2016. Among Philip’s various travel destinations was Vanuatu, a remote South Pacific village that worshipped Prince the Duke as the reincarnation of an ancient warrior. People from the Yakel village on the Vanuatu island of Tanna have for decades venerated Philip. The Prince Philip Movement is believed to have started in the late 1970s following a visit by the Duke of Edinburgh to Vanuatu in 1974.
4) Houseplant: In front of the secretary’s desk sits a large houseplant. The Royal Family have long had links with conservation, and Prince Philip previously said he learned the principles of of conservation from farming. In 2020, Prince William took over as Patron for the British Trust for Ornithology, which aims to empower communities to protect local bird species and their natural habitats. They aim to ensure wildlife is preserved for generations to come, whilst also working to promote the benefits of the natural world on our health and wellbeing. The Duke of Edinburgh has been Patron of the BTO for more than 30 years and is a lifelong ornithology enthusiast. His interest was first sparked in 1956 while traveling in the Royal Yacht Britannia between New Zealand and Antarctica, where the Duke began to identify and photograph the seabirds native to the region.
5) Painting of Duke during a carriage driving marathon: On the wall of the private office hangs a painting by Alexander Talbot Rice depicting the Duke in a carriage riding in a marathon. The end of the Duke driving four in-hand teams came toward the end of the 1980s, but the royal continued to drive competitively with teams of ponies and took part non-competitively in his nineties. Prince Philip loved nothing more than to go haring through the countryside at high speed, whip in hand, in a horse-drawn wheeled carriage. ‘I am getting old, my reactions are getting slower, and my memory is unreliable, but I have never lost the sheer pleasure of driving a team through the British countryside,’ he explained in the book he wrote about the sport.
6) Model of the Duke’s racing yacht: Alongside his gifts from all over the world sits a model of the Dragon-Class racing yacht, Bluebottle, which was a wedding present from the Island Sailing Club on the Isle of Wight. Prince Phillip had a long association with the Island Sailing Club and wrote the foreword for The Island Sailing Club History 1889 to 2014. A keen yachtsman, the Duke competed regularly in Cowes Regatta and became a friend of boat designer Uffa Fox, racing in Cowes Week in 1957 in the Dragon Bluebottle. The club hosted The Queen and Prince Phillip at the Island Sailing Club, on their Diamond Jubilee in 2012 during a visit to Cowes. In, 1948, Her Majesty and the Duke were listed as new members of the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) and given Honorary Membership.