The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

How British media is remembering Prince Philip’s legacy

British newspapers covering Prince Philip's death are for sale at a market near Buckingham Palace on Saturday. (Henry Nicholls/Reuters)
Placeholder while article actions load

Over many decades, Prince Philip ran the gamut in the British media: at times scolded, mocked and lauded for everything from cringeworthy comments to his dutiful service to the crown.

Britain mourns Prince Philip with traditions upended by pandemic

On Saturday, Philip’s complicated legacy was center stage in tributes and commentaries after his death at 99 — showing him in various roles as military man, world traveler, husband of 73 years to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and old-school British gent doffing a bowler hat.

Many front pages focused on his close relationship with the 94-year-old queen of England, who once described him as the only man she could love.

Others highlighted Philip’s more youthful days, when he presented, at the time, an idealized image of Britain’s monarchy.

Some newspapers in Britain’s neighbors and across the Commonwealth also marked the passing of the former naval officer with front-page coverage.

But others were frustrated by the attention over the late Duke of Edinburgh in a year when the coronavirus has officially killed nearly 3 million people worldwide and more than 125,000 in Britain. In Britain, there was also concern that coverage of Philip’s death on Friday was overshadowing other pressing developments, such as ongoing unrest in Northern Ireland over Brexit trade rules, as well as glossing over the less flattering parts of his life and the British monarchy’s impact.

Prince Philip was known for quips. It’s hard to think of a group of people he did not offend.

When the news initially broke, the BBC immediately canceled many other planned broadcasts to focus coverage on the prince. Within hours, however, the news organization had received so many complaints about “too much TV coverage” of Philip’s death that it opened a new complaint form for angry viewers on its website, it said.

Initial ratings by Britain’s Broadcasters Audience Research Board found up to a 60 percent decrease in BBC and ITV viewership this week compared to last after both networks replaced regular programing with coverage of the royals, according to the Independent.

“Although the corporation is used to finding itself in the middle of Britain’s culture wars, its handling of Philip’s death points to a deeper question over the ability of a national broadcaster to force the country together to mourn a single individual in an era where audiences are fragmented and less deferential,” reported The Guardian.

Loading...