【明報專訊】Thanks to the snoopy press and thanks to the sensational dramatisation like the tele series The Crown, season after season, on Netflix, the British Royal family is never too far away from us. When Prince Philip passed away at 99 last week, my mum sighed passionately and nostalgically.
Back in 1975, I was a child while the Queen and Prince Philip paid their first visit to Hong Kong. My mum, a dedicated garment factory worker, took a day off and forced me to take my school day off too (by simply not sending me to school!). We went onto the roadside in San Po Kong where we lived, having waited for the whole morning, to wave to her Majesty's motorcade. We saw her Majesty waving back to the crowd, gently and merrily. Prince Philip must have been sitting next to her Majesty though I don't recall if I saw that indeed that morning. My mum was apparently excited and turned to me in her self-congratulatory voice, ''Now we can tell people that we have seen the Queen!'' (In case that my mum had known the word ''Audience'', I suspect she would have used it on this very occasion!) She didn't mention the Prince but I'm sure her penchant (愛好) for royalty must extend to his Highness for sure. However the next morning my mum didn't cite our sight of royalty as the perfect ground for my school leave. Instead she told my teacher that his boy had gotten a mild fever, unfit for school. That must have been a well-intentioned white lie (善意的謊言). Perhaps she was too afraid that our innocent but unapologetic colonial sentiment might not be approved by everyone.
In fact back in those funny old days we were not very well informed of the history and characters of the royal family. We were only aware that they're no commoners. They dressed fancy, titled fancy and were all living in giant castles and palaces. Fairy tale in modern times indeed. My mum and I were even ignorant of what surnames the Queen and the Prince may carry. Years later I learnt that her Majesty is a descendant of the House of Windsor. And only by reading the English constitutional law (and, of course, also watching Peter Morgan's biopic the Queen on big screen) I happen to realise that the Crown (sometimes it means the Queen or the monarch while in other times it could mean an officer of the Crown, depending on whether you're doing judicial review proceedings) stands tall in the British constitutional order but, as commented by legal scholars, ''the nature of the Crown and its powers remain shrouded in uncertainty and continue to generate controversy.'' It's by evolution not revolution that the Brits shape their ways in unleashing and containing the very beast of power. The constitutional building process is gradual and historical, a matter of negotiations, adjustments and consensus formation. Never a short, sharp and shock overnight overhaul...
The Prince was born Philip Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, then a Greek prince, though his family was of no Greek origin but a branch of the Danish royal family asked to take up the Greek throne. Why so complicated? History, personal or national, is complicated. When I watched the fourth season of The Crown on Netflix, I came to read part of Prince Philip's life story. In particular I was much drawn to his relationship with Lord Mountbatten known as Dickie who's the Prince's father figure, godfather and even surrogate father. Yes, the Prince never had the fortune (or misfortune?) to have his biological father around. And his father, a Prince Andrew, left him no kingdom to reign (his father was nevertheless not the first in the line of succession to the Greek throne) because of the failure in the Greco-Turkish war in 1921 when the Prince was born. Simon Schama, the renowned historian on British history, wrote on the Financial Times last weekend,
''Prince Philip wore his own catastrophic family history on the signet ring he retrieved from the funeral of his father, Prince Andrew, and never removed.''
Here the national and personal history of the Prince crossed path resoundingly. I could almost visualise the scene against the soundtrack of the music composed by JS Bach.
Prince Philip eventually cut a stately figure disguised as the very consort to the Queen, always willing to be two steps behind her Majesty but never invisible. He's no little Prince. If possible, I guess my mum would love to take me to witness the cortège (送葬隊伍) for the Prince.
by Lawrence Lau•劉偉聰
Lawrence is a life debater who has to debate with his life. Being a barrister makes him a living while reading and writing gives him a life. Meet his cat 寅恪.