How Ill is Phil?

Suspicions That Philip is Gravely Ill Build

Philip turns 91 on Sunday, had a heart attack less than six months ago. Plus, see Queen Elizabeth give a speech to end the Jubilee.

06.05.12 6:46 PM ET

Suspicions are growing in the UK that Prince Philip, who will turn 91 on Sunday, may be more gravely ill than the Palace is letting on.

Prince Edward raced off from Buckingham Palace before the end of the Jubilee celebrations to be at his father’s side. As he drove across London in his SUV, the Queen, who had to travel with a lady-in-waiting to church and then sit next to Camilla in the carriage procession, leaned towards her grandson William on the balcony and said sadly, “I wish Philip were here,” according to a lip reader quoted on the UK TV channel ITV.

Accompanied by his wife, the Countess of Wessex and one of his children, Edward spent half an hour at the private King Edward VII Hospital in Central London while the senior royals waved at 1.5 million of their loyal subjects who had gathered in The Mall.

“He’s feeling a lot better,” Edward said when he emerged, “A good rest is probably what’s required."

Asked how the Queen was faring without her husband, he replied: “She’s bearing up. She’s missing him obviously. Thank you very much for your concern. It is much appreciated."

The Earl added that his father had been watching all the jubilee events on TV, but questions are now being raised about just how accurate the image of Philip sitting up in bed with the remote control and a cup of tea really is.

Although Buckingham Palace insisted to the Daily Beast when the Prince was hospitalised on Monday that the river pageant on Sunday was ‘not at all’ responsible for the infection - and the information that Philip went carriage driving on Monday morning has now been judiciously leaked - few in London seem convinced by that story.

How could the two events not be connected?

David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, was put on the spot by a Sky News reporter who asked him on camera whether it had been a ‘mistake’ to ask a 90-year-old man, to spend four hours on a boat in such appalling conditions.

Cameron, looking uncomfortable, answered: "It was a most extraordinary spectacle and obviously everyone is very concerned and worried and wants to know that (the Duke) is going to be okay. The thing about our royal family is that they are incredibly dedicated to what they do and they are incredibly dedicated to doing it, no matter what the circumstances."

It was hardly a resounding expression of confidence in the decision to sail the monarch down the Thames.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip watch the proceedings from the royal barge during the Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the River Thames in London Sunday June 3, 2012. More than 1,000 boats will sail down the River Thames on Sunday in a flotilla tribute to Queen Elizabeth II's 60 years on the throne that organizers are calling the biggest pageant on the river for 350 years.

John Stillwell, Pool / AP Photo

Philip and his wife sheltered from the elements behind their 'thrones', rather than sitting in them

Even if Philip does walk out of hospital before his 91st birthday on Sunday in reasonable health, it seems increasingly clear that the decision to press ahead with the riverboat pageant, despite atrocious weather, was a stiff upper lip folly of giant proportions, or, to put it another way, a right royal screw-up.

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It was a major miscalculation to expect an elderly man in recovery from a heart attack just six months ago to spend four hours standing up on a boat. Philip is also thought to be taking blood-thinning medication after he was spotted on a recent royal tour with toilet roll wedged in his nose.

And, of course, Philip being Philip, with his hatred of weakness of any kind, there was no way he would have agreed to sit down, and even if he had wanted to, the freezing cold wind was so strong on the Thames on Sunday that rather than sit in the hideous red velvet ‘thrones’ created for them, the Queen and Philip were obliged to stand behind them to get some shelter from the elements.

It was meant to be a glorious reminder of Britain’s maritime history – but, if Philip does not walk out of the King Edward hospital, the Diamond Jubilee riverboat pageant will go down in history as the most grandiose act of vainglory ever committed by the Royal family and their advisors.