2007 - 2022

Philip and the Tiger

One of the funniest claims in the last few days was that Prince Philip had coped well with the “hand he’d been dealt”. The hand he’d been dealt, to avoid any confusion, was being married to the richest woman in the world. It’s an example of how grievance culture has saturated even the aristocracy and been swallowed whole by a pliant and largely dutiful media churning out banal sycophancy at an astonishing rate.

A close competitor to this fallacy was the argument (which has quickly become widely accepted) that Prince Philip was an ardent and early environmentalist based on his helping to found the World Wildlife Fund in 1961. Four months before he did this he was in India where the photograph above was taken. Here he is with the Queen posing next to an eight-foot tiger he’d shot with the Maharaja and Maharani of Jaipur. He also killed a crocodile and six mountain sheep on the three-day hunt.

Prince Philip had gone ahead with the hunt, despite strident protests from British and Indian politicians. He also defended his decision to shoot a tiger following the incident, which caused even more backlash. In his book “Queen of the World,” royal author Robert Hardman detailed the incident:

“The Maharajah was very clear about the main purpose of the visit: The Duke of Edinburgh was going to shoot a tiger. At the very moment the Duke was in the process of establishing the World Wildlife Fund, which would be founded four months later,” he wrote.

In his tribute on Friday the Prime Minister called him a “champion of the natural world”.

I have questions.

Of course Royalty – and this family in particular – is saturated in blood sports. It’s in the DNA of their “Highland Retreat”, their Empire and their entire worldview. If colonialism is at the heart of the British condition – then domination of nature – extractivism and exploitation are central to this. Sandringham is like a Taxidermy tribute to the British Empire’s contribution to species-loss.

Prince Philip’s late rehabilitation as a champion of the natural world has precedent though. His son inherited the bizarre aristocratic world of organics which he witters on about to no particular affect other than some heavily-endorsed biscuits. I say this as a champion of organics but its origins (and much of its ethos) lies in the concern of people who own the land.



Philip’s own narrative about the intimate connection between domination and colonialism is explicit. As the India Times reported:

“During Prince Philip’s last visit to India to mark the 50th anniversary of independence in 1997, he joined the Queen on a visit to Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar, Punjab, where the royals laid a commemorative wreath at the site associated with General Dyer’s orders to open fire on a large Baisakhi gathering in April 1919. As someone known for his gaffes, among his many infamous ones includes his query of the death toll at the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.

“Two thousand? It wasn’t, was it,” he questioned, as he passed by a plaque at the memorial, which read “This place is saturated with the blood of about two thousand Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims who were martyred in a non-violent struggle”.”That’s wrong. I was in the Navy with Dyer’s son. That’s a bit exaggerated… it must include the wounded,” he said.

To say that the pith-helmeted idea of “conservation” has NOTHING to do with ecology, ‘conservation”, the “environment” or the global movement against climate catastrophe shouldn’t be controversial. Anything that is deeply rooted in colonialism is by definition part of the systemic problem. Only a culture immersed in fealty and a media stupefied by deference could think otherwise and engage in the global gaslighting to re-present Prince Philip as a progressive force.
All of which brings us back to the sordid world of “canned hunting”. Back in 2015 the world was in uproar at the death of “Cecil the Lion”. As I said at the time confusing ‘killing things’ with ‘saving things’ has a long history:

“… to argue that Big Game Hunting is part of a sustainable future is a spiral of stupidity that ignores our role in imperialism and unfolding omnicide. A natural world so despoiled and distorted out of equilibrium needs a far deeper response than either ‘Get the Dentist’ or ‘hunting brings lots of money to conservation’. Time reports: “The problem does not stop with lions. Poachers killed between 15 and 20 rhinos in the country in 2014, 60 rhinos in 2013 and 84 (the peak) in 2008. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that 60% of the rhino population in Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was killed between 2003 and 2005″ (Prepare to get angrier). The freak culture of hunting is a celebration of a world that is out of control, a hyper-commercialised blood-lust that thrives on destroying the natural. We are dangerously out of kilter with the real world and our collection of our online trophy-killer-selfies are just the apex of that crisis.”

And here we are again retro-fitting Philip as an environmentalist and confusing both the history of this massacre and the challenge ahead.

This colonial history of environmentalism is richly entwined with White Saviour Complex and a revisionist notion that Britain had a progressive role in India, and elsewhere. Like so much today we are hurtling backwards.

Even in 1961 this was thought awful.

At the time, royal biographer Robert Hardman wrote in his book Queen of the World, that the Maharajah was very clear about the main purpose of the visit: The Duke of Edinburgh was going to shoot a tiger.

“At the very moment the Duke was in the process of establishing the World Wildlife Fund,” Hardman wrote. “Yet in the India of 1961, the tiger was still seen as a desirable pest and very desirable trophy. There was certainly no secrecy about the exercise. Day and night the Queen, the Duke and their hosts waited in a tree platform while 200 beaters scoured the jungle.”

At the time the biographer Hardman added how there was also a backlash from the British media – in seemingly confused ethics – because a buffalo was used as bait.
There’s something more here about the psychology of simultaneously “loving” nature and destroying it and the dreadfully over-played role of Philip as an “Alpha male” who somehow gets extra credit for being a “consort”.
But this idea of Colonial Conservation is deeply embedded in an idea of “white man knows best” – even when the colonial power is the destructive force, is deep-set. The notion that the Colonialist can be both Destructor and Protector is embedded in paternalist ideas of rule.
The only route of this madness is to not only reject the imperialism on which they are based but to engage in a radical decolonisation and overthrow of the elite rule that has propelled us to omnicide.


Comments (42)

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  1. Squigglypen says:

    Do you think the feudal people who inhabit these island will EVER take the skin off their eyes.?( rhetorical..don’t bother)
    I cringed at Nicola paying tribute to yon creep in our parliament.
    Thank you for this article. Sometimes I feel I am surrounded by the blind, bereft and incontinent when it comes to the royal gits.

    Then again I cheer up..God might be a tiger with a very bad attitude…ahhhhh!

    1. Iain MacLean says:

      It will a lot easier to get rid of his offspring and the others through the ballot box once we have secured independence.

      One battle at a time!

      It’s educational and instructive to look back at India in colonial times. The “we brought them railways argument” is the historical sweetener and distraction. I’m reality it was divide & rule, extract resources & artefacts, design transport & infrastructure to the needs of the colonial power not the people and whilst you hurriedly leave 3 plus million perish and many more millions are displaced. Phillip’s uncle was responsible but never owned responsibility.

      Irony is that in 2021, Scotland is the only jewel left in the crown!

    2. Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors says:

      I want shot of all the parasites and Westminster ASAP. I am however (reluctantly) resigned to the fact that nothing can or will change as long as Brenda is around. When see pops her clogs however all bets are off. There are people (really) who have a deep rooted affection for her, Chuck on the other hand not so much. To keep the Monarchy going she will have to live forever – and as Phil the Greek just demonstrated disappearing for a retune and oil change doesn’t work – out live Chuck, or find some way to abdicate and present us with the Wonder of Wills.

      Independence is the way forward, we can get shot of the lot of them once we have that.

      1. Cathie Lloyd says:

        With respect and in general agreement let’s Drop the familiar names. They’re not people we know, it’s not an extended family and there’s no basis for pet names.

  2. Alice says:

    Truly disgusting actions by them all. What is the psychology of such actions? does it stem from a position of such wealth that exempts, isolates them, from the realities of life and humane considerations of the majority of their subjects?

    Meanwhile in the present, HRH in full military dress uniform rotates on an electronic billboard on Hamilton Road. We have been subjected to the military version of this man whereas others have the civvy version of a smiling be -suited, no tie, man of the people rotating in other places . Time to leave this horror behind.

  3. Cathie Lloyd says:

    Thanks Mike, their obsession with killing animals needs to be set beside claims about environmentalism. The monarchy is a potent force for the distortion of reality. Centre of a labyrinth of distorting mirrors.

  4. Daniel Raphael says:

    Every article you send out, Michael, reinforces my recent support of Bella and esteem for what it represents.

  5. Graham Ennis says:

    a wonderful comment.
    Scotland has a wild life problem. The Scottish hunting industry, (Yes, thats what it is) kills large numbers of deer every year. These deer are not there for conservation. Deer Ranches, (called “estates” )commonly feed the Deer through the winter season. Then they are ready for killing. Foreign Oligarchs then pay large sums of money to the Scottish Oligarchs to kill the deer. Without the winter feeding, which makes many dear a bit tame, about half of them would not survive their first winter. This is factual. The result is plenty of game being killed. Game that have overbred and become an ecological problem. The Lairds then say “Oh, we need to control the deer, they do a lot of damage to the forests. “. What is actually required is deer management, by medicating the females not to be fertile. Result: nice Deer and no overload on the Eco-system. An alternative is to shoot the oligarchs, which is much more satisfying. It also has good environmental outcomes, as the Lairds have ruinerd the Scottish wilderness areas. Comments: Please vote: Shooting of Lairds or Deer, but not both. its called conservation!!!.

    1. Iain MacLean says:

      Most characteristics of the Highlands are artificial and manipulated by landowners for their own ends.

      The people have been cleared from the land, forests and other habitats have been destroyed, the predators have been removed, the numbers of deer have not been managed as you say and those that own the land are absentees and answerable to no one!

      To alter or reverse the state of affairs is not possible under devolution, the landowners sit in the lords and some even in the uk cabinet.

      A country that does not have the power or capacity to manage its own land is in a perilous state, we need to change that first then we can make the necessary changes!

    2. Time, the Deer says:

      ‘We did not think of the great open plains, the beautiful rolling hills, the winding streams with tangled growth, as ‘wild’. Only to the white man was nature a ‘wilderness’ and only to him was it ‘infested’ with ‘wild’ animals and ‘savage’ people. To us it was tame. Earth was bountiful and we were surrounded with the blessings of the Great Mystery.’

      Luther Standing Bear, Chief of the Oglala, Lakota (1905-1939)

      1. Tom Ultuous says:

        A beautiful quote.

    3. Sangobegger says:

      The article as I see it is no surprise so I’ll leave it at that.
      In terms of deer in Scotland let’s look at Feeding deer firstly. I personally hate it because it keeps deer alive that frankly wouldn’t see the cuckoo as my grannie would say. All the science says you shouldn’t do it and I have yet to see good evidence that we should do it. Deer are not however tame as you assert. If they see you away from feeding areas they will run a mile. And in most cases hunters want the “experience” of shooting deer in the highlands in an area that is difficult to get to and reflects the challenge of the hunt. So making assumptions that deer are shot round a feeding stand does not serve your argument. Deer feeding also by the way is catastrophic for habitats that are in the vicinity (up to a mile away). So I’m. Guessing we are both in agreement here.
      Now to sterilising deer. This always gets trotted out by people who don’t understand animal behaviour and hate the idea of humane culls. Live capture is immensely stressful on he animals just to start with and the losses and injuries by all accounts are very high. And also good luck with getting to grips with 250,000 hinds in Scotland. It’s also hugely expensive (they have tried it in the states on white tailed deer and the papers are easy to source for more background). Take costs at even as low as £1500 per hind, work that out to all our hinds and then figure out who pays for it. And how do you corral 2500 deer on one estate in the highlands, in fact have you ever even bothered to walk in remote areas in the highlands. It is not even feasible to consider it. Large areas are unfenced and you would need to undertake a push with who knows how many people to get deer into pens. And – you need to understand that if you even managed to do this, you would have stags and hinds mixed up -think horns and you get the idea.
      Now to deer numbers. They are what they are and I’m not even going to go there, but our landscapes in the highlands would collapse completely if we followed your advice. Our habitats are already in poor states in many areas and if you bothered to even understand habitats you’d know where I’m coming from. As for rich idiots shooting deer, then so what if they want to spend £500 shooting a stag, it’s one less on the ground and other species ultimately benefit from that.
      In terms of deer numbers and birth/survival rates, we can have anywhere from 15% survivability in the highlands to 45% in Aberdeenshire. So just keep standing still you need to kill 150 hinds on a typical large highland estate yearly. The Scottish government now want deer numbers down at 10 per km square and frankly not before time.
      I’d happily take you out and show you what it takes to manage a landscape, but I suspect you have never opened a dialogue with a keeper on an estate (I’m not one but I do work with estates to deliver deer management planning).
      So instead of being a keyboard warrior, go and speak to a keeper and understand what it takes to manage an estate int the highlands. You might be surprised.

      1. Pub Bore says:

        Yep! As any countryman will tell you that, if you don’t control their numbers, animals can become vermin. Animals become ‘vermin’, in country-speak, when their population becomes environmentally unsustainable.

        Animal numbers are ‘naturally’ kept in check by predation. Deer have few if any ‘natural’ predators in Scotland; therefore culling is necessary.

        Game-hunting isn’t a particularly efficient means of culling a population, however. And, of course, hunting to kill animals from endangered species – or even animals that just aren’t verminous – makes no environmental sense whatsoever.

  6. Graeme Purves says:

    I was particularly touched by BBC Shortbread’s item on the impact of the sad news of Prince Philip’s death on the trusty islanders of the former British Protectorate of Corfu – which he left when he was 18 months old.

  7. Willie43 says:

    According to the Daily Mail, on the 25th January, 1961, they reported that Phil the Greek and his wife were on a platform 25 feet up a tree. In a clearing below was a tethered goat and there were 200 Indian beaters creating a noise and driving a tiger towards the clearing. When it appeared, Phil shot it while his wife filmed the occasion with a wee cine camera. I wonder if that was on his CV when he applied for the President’s job at the Wildlife Fund.

  8. Pub Bore says:


    What the landowners ‘ruined’, Graham, were not wilderness areas; they were settled areas, where populations eked out a subsistence from the land. Have you never heard of the Clearances, man?

    Concerning ‘the psychology of such actions’, Alice… Conservation and sport have a common root: the dominion of nature; sovereignty or ‘the will to power’. Sometimes this impulse masquerades as conquest and subjugation; othertimes, as stewardship and management. The urge to dominate also extends over ‘nature’ as it manifests itself in one’s own body and its functions and in the bodies of others, as well as in our environment.

    That’s just how we’re constructed; it’s the ‘human condition’ or ‘natural order’ that’s been produced by our current capitalist relations of production. It isn’t a question of whether but of how we pursue our dominion over nature, whether through exploitation or through conservation. Our urge to dominate – the will to power – will itself only be abolished with the ‘abolition’ or deconstruction of capitalism (‘Aufheben’).

    Within the limits of our present construction, meanwhile, it seems clear that conservation is the only sustainable way in which we can pursue our dominion.

    1. John Learmonth says:

      1.The capitalist system of production produced human nature
      2.Has ‘human nature’ produced the capitalist system?

      1. Cathie Lloyd says:

        On the chicken and egg question my answer is neither, it was an interaction

      2. Pub Bore says:

        It’s the first of those scenarios, John. We develop the capacities peculiar to our species (‘human nature’) as we live and work together to reproduce our lives and, in the process thereof, acquire our conceptions of the world and of the nature of ourselves as human beings within that world. Human nature and our conception of it are thus both functions of our relations of production (the sum total of social relationships we’re obliged to enter into with one another in order to survive, to produce, and to reproduce our means of life), which are currently capitalistic. Neither is ‘fixed’ or ‘given’; both human nature and our conception of it evolve as our aforementioned relations of production evolve.

        That’s historical materialism in yet another nutshell.

  9. Tom Ultuous says:

    As the comedian Dave Allen once said “When you walk round a graveyard and read the headstones it makes you wonder where they bury all the bad people”.

  10. Time, the Deer says:

    ‘The only route of this madness is to not only reject the imperialism on which they are based but to engage in a radical decolonisation and overthrow of the elite rule that has propelled us to omnicide.’

    Now that’s the kind of talk I can get behind. Vive la republique!

    1. Pub Bore says:

      Too much ‘what’, not enough ‘how’. It’s why we never get out of the bit. Clarion calls can only get you… not very far.

      1. There’s time for How next, this was just about the moment

        1. Pub Bore says:

          Ah, the auld separation of means and ends again! Let’s focus on the end and worry about how we’ll achieve it after the event.

          Process shapes outcomes. You can’t separate the two.

          1. No. Just one article at a time. Everything can’t be about everything.

      2. Time, the Deer says:

        What do you mean ‘how’? Off with their heads, obviously

  11. Amy Dickman says:

    I agree that conservation has deeply colonial roots – but crucial to note that that applies as much to National Parks as to trophy hunting areas. The most important aspect is to ensure that local people make their own decisions – and interestingly, as here, most of the campaigning against trophy hunting comes from external (usually Western) groups, not from African communities for example. So those campaigns appear little more than neo-colonial, by imposing external views on local people and undermining their rights. Really worth looking at this video https://resourceafrica.net/video-let-africans-decide/ and this statement on conservation and colonialism https://resourceafrica.net/conservation-and-colonialism-a-statement-from-the-southern-africa-community-leaders-network/

    1. Pub Bore says:

      I’m with you there, Amy. As Tolstoy famously said: “I sit on a man’s back, choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am very sorry for him and wish to ease his lot by all possible means – except by getting off his back.”

      Centuries on, we’re still trying to ‘save’ (i.e. colonise) the African. It’s time we simply got off his/her back.

  12. SleepingDog says:

    Jings, this is crying out for a royal bloodsport infographic.

  13. Jim Sansbury says:

    What is it about rich folk that makes the head out into the country in waxy jackets and kill things.
    It seems to be an obsession.

    1. SleepingDog says:

      @Jim Sansbury, preparation for when the torches-and-pitchforks scenario arises, I would think. Although when they start installing the automated sentry guns in their drone-patrolled country estates, we will have reached the endgame, perhaps, no longer trusting their imperially-blooded ex-special-services mercenary bodyguards. Why *are* even minor royals obsessed with security? Do they know something we don’t, and which they fear we may at any time discover? Uneasy lies the head…

      1. Pub Bore says:

        Security is a commodity, the conspicuous consumption of which (like that of any commodity) confers status. People hunt game qua ‘game’ for the same reason.

  14. LmD says:

    Hunters indeed. one all ways gets the feeling that may be we should all be thankful that are hunting Animals because given half the chance peasant hunting would be the preferred query in Norman times rape and murder was the favourite past times so it should come as no surprise the established order should feel deep sense of ancient need to shed blood and indulge in primeval savagery in battle the first warrior kill was blooded by on his face by his chieftain carried on into recant times by fox hunting toffs. I rest my case.

  15. Wild Goose says:

    Philip’s schizophrenic attitude to wildlife conservation was shared by the early 20th century Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon, regularly photographed standing over dead tigers while campaigning to preserve lions. Willieqj43 is right to point out the huge cast of extras involved and Saki’s (H.H. Munro) 1911 short story ‘Mrs. Packletide’s Tiger’ offers a satirical view of the tiger shoot from one of Curzon’s contemporaries.

    1. Pub Bore says:

      Can you be careful about using mental health terms when making moral judgements? It perpetuates the stigma. Prince Philip’s attitude towards wildlife conservation was hypocritical, not schizophrenic.

    2. John Learmonth says:

      Tiger hunting was started by the Mughal Emperor Jalal-ud-din Muhammed Akbar in the C16th the British colonialists inherited the tradition from the Mughal colonialists.

      1. Pub Bore says:

        And did Jalal-ud-din Muhammed Akbar also profess support for animal conservation too?

      2. SleepingDog says:

        @John Learmonth, so much for the alleged ‘civilising mission’ fantasy, then. Inherited like Queen Victoria ‘inherited’ the Koh-i-Noor diamond, perhaps?
        I suppose they British colonialist invaders had to inherit local traditions of Islam and Hinduism then, too. “Blowing from a gun”? No choice mate, we had to inherit it, it’s traditional, innit?

        1. Pub Bore says:

          I once knew an auld Teuchter who had been a soldier in India from the 1920s right through to Independence. He told me a story about a tiger that had for weeks been killing villagers in the country around a depot at which he was working. One day, the tiger appeared in the army compound. The soldiers were immediately confined to barracks, while the CO went out with a rifle to dispatch the beast. According to the teller, the men crowded the windows of their huts, roaring on the tiger, and a loud cry of dismay went up when the tiger was shot.

        2. John Learmonth says:

          I think you’ll find (if you’d care to look) that all ‘ethnic groups’ given the opportunity are more than happy to ‘exploit other ‘ethnic groups’.
          Its not a preserve of the ‘British’ although ‘we’ were pretty good at it.
          Unless you are claiming that the ‘white ethnic’ group should operate on a higher moral plain than the other ‘ethnic groups’. If so isn’t that a bit ‘rascist’, whatever is meant by the term.

          1. SleepingDog says:

            @John Learmonth, gosh, I challenge anyone to make sense out of your daringly untethered responses. So, on the basis of how many wives Mughal Emperor Jalal-ud-din Muhammed Akbar had in the 16th century, how many wives should the visiting Prince Philip have taken by 1961?
            How many volumes in Sanskrit, Urdu, Persian, Greek, Latin, Arabic and Kashmiri should Prince Philip have stocked his library with, following in Akbar’s immutable tradition which the British must have also ‘inherited’?

        3. John Learmonth says:

          Incidentally Islam was only a ‘local tradition’ in the region from the C16th imposed by the colonialist Mughals who came from Persia/Afghanistan.
          So it only predates ‘western colonialism’ by 100 years but quite rightly you condemn western imperialism but condone muslim imperialism. Please explain?

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