Ray Martin has revealed that he was only allowed to ask Prince Philip about wildlife and conservation in his landmark 1981 interview.
The Duke of Edinburgh died at Windsor Castle on Friday aged 99 after a long illness, with his death confirmed by Buckingham Palace at 3pm local time.
The veteran 60 Minutes reporter remembered his somewhat stilted 45-minute conversation with the high-ranking royal almost 40 years ago on Sunday night’s program.
The opportunity arose when he got a phone call from the British High Commission asking whether he was interested in interviewing the prince on the condition that he would only ask about his role as international president of the World Wildlife Fund.
Pictured: Prince Philip during his interview with Ray Martin on 60 Minutes in 1981
‘They made it quite clear that we had to talk about world wildlife only, otherwise no interview – it would be over,’ he told 60 Minutes.
The interview marked Prince Philip’s first interview since gaining the conservationist position, and took place on his yacht, the Royal Britannia.
‘Before I met Prince Philip, I guess I thought he was going to be elegant, eloquent and pompous. He proved to be all three,’ Martin, who was 37 at the time, said.
The now 72-year-old said he had butterflies before walking into the room with the royal because ‘I thought he would be very picky and I thought he would second-guess every question I had about him, and he did’.
Limited to speaking about flora and fauna, one of the reporter’s first questions was about when he started his work as a conservationist.
Pictured: Ray Martin, age 37, interviewing Prince Philip about world wildlife conservation
Pictured:Queen Elizabeth ll and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh look on during an official visit to Australia in October 1981
‘Well I wasn’t born a conservationist, if that’s what you’re thinking,’ the Prince cheekily replied.
Martin then asked ‘are we learning at all, in the 20th Century?’, referring to habitat protection.
The Duke of Edinburgh asked ‘We? Which people?’
Martin replied: ‘Well in this case I can only speak as an Australian, but are we…’
Prince Philip cut him off: ‘Are you learning? Well I hope you are,’ he smiled. ‘I mean, it’s almost impossible to say ‘are we learning’ – I don’t know what Australians learn.’
In reflection, Martin said he never felt as though Prince Philip felt relaxed at all with cameras in his face, or that they developed a connection during the conversation.
‘He never let his guard down,’ he said.
Ray Martin (pictured) said the prince never let his guard down during their 45-minute conversation
Pictured: The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh set off for Brisbane during their 1954 visit to Australia
But it wasn’t until the end of the interview when the journalist asked if he could take a photograph that he caught a glimpse of the real Prince Philip.
‘He said, in a very pompous voice, “Is this for you?”, as though, “Is this for your private collection?”
‘And I said, ‘Your Royal Highness, it’s not. Actually, it’s for publicity, but I must confess that I’m a republican”,’ Martin said.
The veteran journalist said the royal laughed and said: ‘That’s all right, we have all types in this world.’
He was also passionate about wildlife and conservation and was the founding table-thumping president of the World Wildlife Fund.
Following the Prince’s death on Friday, Australian flags flew at half staff.
Pictured: Men in traditional dress line the road during a visit by Queen Elizabeth (centre) and Prince Philip (centre, right) to Port Vila, Vanuatu, off the north-east coast of Australia, February 1974
Pictured: Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh at the Royal Military College Duntroon where the Queen presented new colours on October 22, 2011 in Canberra
In his speech outside Kiribilli House on Saturday morning, Prime Minister Scott Morrison praised Prince Philip’s charitable commitment as patron of 50 national organisations, including the Duke of Edinburgh Award that 775,000 Australians have participated in.
‘The Duke’s life was one of the duty and of service, of loyalty and honour. Memories of him will of course tell stories of his candour, and a unique and forceful and authentic personality,’ he said.
Former Prime Minister John Howard, who was the last PM to greet the Prince to Australia, described his marriage to the Queen as ‘a partnership for the ages’ and paid tribute to his sense of humour.
‘He gave short shrift to political correctness when he encountered it, and that endeared him to millions of people,’ Mr Howard said on Saturday morning.
Pictured: Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh on a guided tour of Tasmania on their Commonwealth Visit to Australia, 1954
Pictured, left to right: Tim Mathieson, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Queen Elizabeth II and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard attend a Parliamentary Reception at Parliament House on October 21, 2011 in Canberra
‘And so far from those responses constituting gaffes, they were things that people warmed to. He had quite a connection with Australia.’
Mr Howard said he last saw the Prince at a luncheon at Windsor Castle where he was honoured by his dedication and interest.
‘He spoke quite affectionately to my wife of the years he had spent in Australia as a young, the time he spent in Australia as a young naval officer stop so this is an occasion, obviously, of sadness.
‘But it’s also an occasion to salute and honour a remarkable marriage, a remarkable partnership in service. And two, again, see how valuable, how strengthening, how reassuring that marriage, that partnership has been to the Queen’s role, both as the Queen of Australia and also as the head of the Commonwealth.
Pictured: Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh greets well-wishers on the final day of the Queen’s Australian tour at the Great Aussie BBQ on October 29, 2011 in Perth
‘I think his easy informality and a just remember that he was always, remarks about how long we had all been around.
‘He had a very good knowledge of Australian politics. I remember one of his earlier visits when I was a minister in the Fraser Government, and we were at a reception at Government House.
‘He came over to me and to several of my other colleagues, all of whom had to come from Sydney, he said “this is the Sydney cabal, is it?” I thought this was not bad. He had done his homework, obviously.’
Pictured: Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh greet the crowds on arrival at Perth airport on October 29, 2011
Mr Morrison extended his sympathies to The Queen and assured her, and the British people, that Australia grieved with them.
‘On behalf of the Australian people, and the Australian government, I extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to Her Majesty and the royal family to the passing of the Royal Highness, the Duke of Edinburgh,’ he said.
‘Your Majesty, here in Australia, and indeed across the world, your Commonwealth family joins in your sorrow and your morning and that of your family.
‘But also, we give thanks for the life of who you described as your strength and your stay. Your Prince, Prince Philip. Husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather.