Young Britons ambivalent on Prince Philip and 'weird' royals

London (AFP) –


Queen Elizabeth II's late husband Prince Philip divided opinion among young British people, who are less likely to take a positive view of his legacy and the monarchy in general.

"You could call him Marmite," said 22-year-old James Casey, referring to the sticky, brown, yeast-based food spread known for its "love it or hate it" flavour in Britain.

"Some people loved him, some people didn't like him whatsoever," he told AFP.

Megan Stevens, a 22-year-old student, said she "felt sad" and "quite shocked" by Philip's death last Friday aged 99.

For her, the Duke of Edinburgh, as he was also known, was a "figure that you learned about when you grew up in school".

Philip would have turned 100 in June. He was married to the Queen for 73 years and was an almost constant presence at her side since she began her record-breaking reign in 1952.

"He was a familiar figure for young people. A real landmark figure is leaving," said Isabelle Riviere, a French royal expert.

She attributed his particular interest in young people to his own "difficult childhood", as an exiled Greek-born prince who spent much of his childhood shuttling around Europe.

"Having followed him a lot on his travels, what struck me was the attention he gave to young people, the crazy amount of time he spent with them," said Riviere.

His Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme is a popular international programme that recognises young people's achievements in areas such as orienteering, volunteering and sports.

Some 6.7 million young people in the UK have taken part since it was launched in 1956.

Several messages left outside Windsor Castle, where Philip's funeral takes place on Saturday, hailed the scheme's impact.

Penny Junor, a royal expert, said the scheme meant there had been an "amazing response from the young to his death".

- 'Weird institution' -

Blanket television coverage of Philip's death proved a turn-off to many British people, however. Ratings fell and the BBC received a raft of complaints that it went over the top.

Statistically, young British people were least likely to be fans of the prince.

"If we look at the population as a whole, then you will see more people than not have a positive opinion of Prince Philip (58 percent)," said Eir Nolsoe, an analyst for Yougov, citing a poll from February, two months before his death.

But those aged 18 to 24 were more likely to have a negative opinion (37 percent) of Prince Philip than a positive one (31 percent), she added.

"Generally, young people are not particularly interested in the monarchy," said Junor, while Riviere agreed Philip could come across as irrelevant to them.

"Philip was a very elderly man who could seem to some young people somewhat remote from their universe," she said.

His straight-talking personality and tendency to crack jokes with racist or sexist overtones also alienated many.

"I think he symbolises unity for some people, for others it symbolises a lot worse things in terms of our past, like colonisation and stuff like that," said 23-year-old Matt Wood.

He said he sees the royals as a "weird institution" and "really old school".

"If we didn't have a monarchy tomorrow, I wouldn't lose any sleep over it."

A March poll by YouGov found that while 63 percent of British people supported the monarchy, only 37 percent of those aged 18-24 wanted it to continue.

A total of 42 percent in this age group would prefer an elected head of state.

- 'Reality show' -

"Although the monarchy has modernised a great deal over the decades of the Queen's reign, it still has a 95-year-old woman at the helm," said Junor.

"Young people inevitably find it old-fashioned."

Riviere also acknowledged that the "pomp and traditions" of monarchy "may appear a little outdated to the young generation".

A row sparked by accusations of royal racism from the Queen's grandson Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, have also seen opinion split along the lines of age.

The couple have won strongest support among younger British people and Harry is the most popular royal among the 18-25 age group.

"The younger people tend to side with Harry and Megan and are more opposed to the royal family," said Nolsoe.

Adam Yours, a 22-year-old Londoner, says he does not have any particular position on the royal family friction, but finds it "quite entertaining".

"To be honest, it's almost like a reality TV show."