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Scary trousers and a beard barb – public share memories of meeting Philip

‘He looked at me… and said, ‘well, you're going to have to learn to grow a better beard than that!'

Members of the public who met the Duke of Edinburgh have shared their stories, including the duke’s jokes about corgi-scaring trousers and inadequate beards.

In a life filled with public engagements, the duke met thousands of people.

For many, those meetings lasted long in the memory despite being brief – here are just a few examples.

– Meera Datta, 38, in Fairfax, Virginia, US

Meera Datta met the duke at an RAF show near Swindon, Wiltshire, where she was brought up, about 30 years ago.

“I was walking around and there was this huge plane, inside which you can put multiple vehicles,” she told the PA news agency.

“He was just looking at it, just walking around, and I just happened to be looking at it too. It was very informal.

“And then I realised who he was, and we were standing kind of close. I turned around and we sort of acknowledged each other and instead of curtsying, I stuck out my hand, as you know, sort of a very strong, firm handshake.

“He looked at me and then he laughed and he shook my hand. I ran back and I told my mum and my mum was absolutely mortified – she dragged me back over there, she was convinced that she needed to make me curtsy.

“It never happened because they had moved on from there. That did trigger a two-month, three-month period (where) my mum decided that I needed to become a lady and start wearing Laura Ashley dresses and all sorts of crazy things and learn how to sit and talk and stop throwing your hand out there – and I was a huge tomboy.

“I knew that I had to curtsy – you’re born British, you know you’re supposed to curtsy – but in the moment with no-one else pressing you, there is no formal line or whatever… it was just very casual, very informal and something I will never forget.

“It was a very fun moment for me as a kid.”

– John Loughton, 33, from Edinburgh

John Loughton met the duke through his role with the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme.

“I got very involved as an activist for the Commonwealth, got very involved as a kind of strategic ambassador if you like for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, and it was there that I met him the most frequent way, if you like,” he told PA.

“A story that springs to mind was I was honoured to be a guest speaker in the Palace of Holyrood as a kind of VIP alongside the duke as part of the Gold Award presentation. It was a lovely summer’s day and we’re out in the private garden.

“The duke goes round and meets everyone and I get presented to him as a speaker – I’d met him a couple of times before and I knew he wouldn’t remember, but he kind of pointed as we came across and said ‘ah, we meet again!’

The Duke of Edinburgh
The Duke of Edinburgh (Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA)

“I had on then, it wasn’t a kilt but it was a pair of tartan trousers. They’re kind of bright… it’s the world peace tartan. And he’s kind of chatting to me and he looks down and goes ‘what the bloody hell tartan is that?’

“I said ‘oh, it’s the world peace tartan, sir. It represents the United Nations and peace and reconciliation and all that. He said ‘Oh, well that’s all very nice. But by golly, it would scare away the corgis!’

“I think that was in the final week or two weeks of his formal duties before he stood down as as an active royal.”

– Tim Goodwin, 36, London

Tim Goodwin met the duke at a university event in 2006.

“The Duke of Edinburgh was the chancellor of the University of Edinburgh, which is where I was a student,” he said.

“We had someone appointed to a role. It was quite an important event, and he visited the university as part of that. In my capacity as student president I went to the reception afterwards, and I met him there.

Undated handout photo of Tim Goodwin (right) meeting the Duke of Edinburgh at a university of Edinburgh event. The Duke of Edinburgh has died at the age of 99. Issue date: Saturday April 10, 2021
(Jenny Murdoch/PA)

“As part of our our brief conversation, he asked me what I intended to do when I graduated, and at the time I was giving quite serious, genuine, thought to joining the Royal Navy.

“I knew that he had served in the Navy and had connections with it. So I said to him, ‘I’m thinking of joining the Royal Navy’.

“I’d sort of gone along to this event rather unshaven, probably three or four days of patchy stubble.

“When I said I was going to join, or I was thinking of joining the Royal Navy, he looked at me and sort of squinted his eyes and said, ‘Well, you’re going to have to learn to grow a better beard than that!’

“All very good-humoured, but it stuck with me as as I suppose you’d expect it would.”

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