Commander Keith Evans recalled meeting the then-Lieutenant Moutbatten in 1947, the year he wed Princess Elizabeth. “He was a bit randy,” Cdr. Evans told reporters during a visit to Pangbourne College. Then, collecting himself and deciding he was happy to speak on the record, he qualified his statement with, “Not a ‘bit.’ Very.”
“Like Prince Philip, I’m standing down from most things in August, ” Evans, who served on HMS Hood, continued with the jokes.
“I think it is rather good news,” he said before apparently referring to the Queen: “He will do what he wants rather than what she tells him to do.”
After a service in the chapel celebrating the school’s landmark, the royal couple met current students, parents, staff and college alumni and then watched a parade that reflected the college’s historic military links. During the parade, the Queen presented a new military flag, or “color,” to the college.
Evans recounted how he met Philip – who had first come to Britain as Prince Philip of Greece — when they were both at a base called HMS Royal Arthur in Corsham, Wiltshire. “He was 18 months junior,” Evans said. “He was then Lieutenant Mountbatten – they had got rid of all that Greek nonsense.”
Later, he talked about the old times with Philip and showed the prince a letter he’d sent him that was addressed to “My dear Scratch” — a thank-you after Evans had written to the prince congratulating him on his 1947 engagement.
But one thing he didn’t raise on Tuesday was the moment 70 years ago when the young prince had to see the captain of the base to ask to visit his future father-in-law, King George VI, in order to make the very important confirmation that he wanted to marry the king’s daughter Elizabeth.
Evans told reporters, “I happened to be secretary to the captain. The captain, who was a little mischievous, said to me, ‘He is a bit junior to you. Let’s keep him waiting in your office while we have a glass of gin.’ Which we did.”
Despite his decision to wind down from his public appearances, Philip was lively and still able to use his charm with the ladies on Tuesday.
Deborah Puxley, wife of the Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire, whom he chatted to before the service of thanksgiving at the Falkland Islands Memorial Chapel, said she had cold hands. “He was so sweet. We shook hands, then he held mine in his and said, ‘You’re freezing.'”
Thomas Garnier, the headmaster, said, “Prince Philip was on very good form. I thought that he had plenty of spirit still. I imagine that he could go on for a while. I did not get the impression that he was slowing down.”