Prince Philip’s extraordinary defence of infamous gaffe revealed

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The Duke of Edinburgh has recently celebrated his 99th birthday, three years after formally retiring from royal duties. During his long life, the Duke has become popular for his sense of humour and unconventional behaviour. His reputation for plain speaking has often led to controversy, and his undiplomatic language has landed him in hot waters on more than one occasion.

In 2000, the Duke famously described the new £18million British Embassy in Berlin, which the Queen had just opened, as a “vast waste of space”.

Ten years later, he was caught telling a photographer to “just take the f***ing picture” during a photocall with war veterans for the Battle of Britain.

According to a 2011 report by The Telegraph, his most “infamous” gaffe was during an official visit to China, though.

In October 1986 he notoriously told a group of British exchange students living in the city of Xian: “If you stay here much longer you’ll all be slitty-eyed.”

However, during a BBC documentary to mark his 90th birthday in 2011, he claimed the resulting outcry was disproportionate.

He said: “I’d forgotten about it.

“But for one particular reporter who overheard it, it wouldn’t have come out.

“What’s more, the Chinese weren’t worried about it, so why should anyone else?”

At the time the Queen’s press secretary, Michael Shea, initially disputed the reference, then tried to explain it as “a matter of physiological fact”, before eventually dismissing it as trivial.

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The Duke has recently made his first appearance in over a year, as he handed over the role of Colonel-in-Chief of The Rifles to the Duchess of Cornwall.

He took part in a ceremony at Windsor Castle, while Camilla was at Highgrove House in Gloucestershire.

During the Windsor ceremony, Philip was thanked for his 67 years of support for The Rifles, and their forming and antecedent regiments, by Assistant Colonel Commandant, Major General Tom Copinger-Symes.

The Duke was smiling as he arrived at the ceremony.

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He looked smart in a navy suit and striped tie.

Immediately afterwards at Highgrove, Camilla was welcomed as the new Colonel-in-Chief by The Rifles’ Colonel Commandant, General Sir Patrick Sanders.

The Duke has been Colonel-in-Chief of The Rifles since its formation in 2007, but his connection stretches back further, as he has served as Colonel-in-Chief of successive Regiments which now make up The Rifles since 1953.

The Duchess of Cornwall was appointed Royal Colonel of 4th Battalion The Rifles in 2007.

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