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Esther Rantzen grills Gyles Brandreth on Gogglebox invite
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Gyles will delight his fans when he returns to Celebrity Gogglebox on Channel 4 this evening to review the latest TV. The author, broadcaster and former MP is known both for his wit and his strong connections with the Royal Family. He had the unusual opportunity to interview the Duke of Edinburgh several times over the decades and so came to know the royal well.
However, in his new book ‘Philip: The Final Portrait’, Gyles noted that Philip was not always forthcoming about his personal life — and that there was one line the biographer decided never to cross.
Gyles said: “Did Prince Philip marry for love? It is not a question I dared ask him.”
Philip married the Queen back in 1947, and was the longest-serving royal consort in British history up until his death in April.
Their strong 73-year union is still praised by royal watchers as a story of true romance and dedicated companionship.
While her husband rarely spoke about their relationship in public, the Queen once affectionately referred to Philip as her “strength and stay” and noted he made “an invaluable contribution” to her life during her Golden Jubilee speech.
She is thought to have first fallen for Philip, five years her senior, when she was just 13 — her cousin Margaret Rhodes later wrote in her own autobiography that “Elizabeth was truly in love from the very beginning”.
It is believed that Philip was not included in the Queen Mother’s first 11 suitors for her daughter, but that the Queen — then Princess Elizabeth — was only besotted with the naval officer.
Yet, very little is known about Philip’s initial feelings towards his wife back when they were first getting to know each other — and he remained tightlipped throughout his many exchanges with Gyles, too.
In his new book, Gyles claimed he sometimes received no response to his questions, adding: “He would just look at me balefully and say nothing.”
Writing in The Spectator, reviewer Roger Lewis claimed: “Though the indefatigable Gyles Brandreth met and interviewed Prince Philip over a 40-year period, His Royal Highness managed to give very little away.”
He continued: “The encounters often seemed to splutter to an inconsequential halt, with the Prince shrugging his shoulders.”
This was also noticed by The Telegraph’s Jake Kerridge in his review of ‘Philip: The Final Portrait’.
He wrote: “Despite Brandreth’s efforts, the Duke offers few insights into his own personality.
“He seems to have been not so much deliberately obstructive — regarding the writing of the biography as essentially pointless but harmless — as to have genuinely never given much thought to his motivations, his proudest achievements or his regrets.”
However, Gyles noticed years ago that Philip was not an emotional person.
Writing in The Guardian in 2011, the author claimed: “He does not see the need to apologise, or explain, or emote.
“It is generally not what people of his generation do, and resilience and emotional reticence was something he learned early.”
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Philip’s relationship with his wife was a major source of speculation, especially when the heir to the throne announced her engagement to the penniless Greek royal.
Civil servant Jock Colville noted that Philip appeared more “dutiful” during his first few public appearances with the Queen, and reportedly sensed there was an imbalance of emotion between them.
Yet, according to royal author Philip Eade: “By the time of the wedding, however, Colville had come round to the conclusion that the pair ‘really are in love’.”
Another source told the biographer: “He’s not a person who shows love.
“Given the sort of experience he’d had [as a child] you probably would shut yourself away a bit to avoid being hurt. Affection is not his natural currency.”
Philip’s own private secretary, Mike Parker, also claimed: “He doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeve.
“I always wanted to see him put his arms around the Queen, and show her how much he adored her.
“What you’d do for any wife. But he always sort of stood to attention.
“I mentioned it a couple of times, but he just gave me a hell of a look.”
‘Philip: The Final Portrait’ by Gyles Brandreth was published by Coronet Books in 2021 and is available here.
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