Did A Row Over Prince Philip’s Knighthood Bring Down The Australian Prime Minister?

Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott may have sealed his own fate by agreeing to give Prince Philip an honorary Australian knighthood.

Photo Illustration by Emil Lendof/The Daily Beast

When Tony Abbott, the former Australian Prime Minister, was pushed from power earlier this week, many in the Northern hemisphere were left scratching their heads.

Wasn’t Abbott that smart-looking fellow who appeared to be the only person talking any sense at all on the television when MH370 went missing?

Hasn’t Australia been enjoying several years of prosperity and economic growth? People who followed the news closely would also have known about Abbott’s success in stopping the tide of ‘boat people’, as migrants from Indonesia were known.

So why did Abbott’s party decide to ditch him in favor of Malcolm Turnbull, a liberal lawyer whose outstanding characteristics seem to be socialist tendencies and a loathing of the British monarch still being the head of the Australian state?

Ah, well, there’s the clue.

The discontent with Abbott, it seems, goes back to a politically inept decision to award the Queen’s husband, Prince Philip, an Australian knighthood. Now, there are many who believe Turnbull’s premiership could mark the beginning of a new assault on the status of the Monarch in Australia.

Abbott was and is an ardent monarchist, and so when he learned that the Queen wanted her husband to be given an Australian knighthood, he leapt at the chance to please her, according to Greg Sheridan, the foreign editor of the Australian.

The award-—which became known as ‘the Sir Prince Philip thing’--was announced on Australia Day, January 26, to general disbelief.

Twitter was convinced it was a hoax.

Given that Philip is still best known in Australia for asking an indigenous Australian on a 2002 visit, “Do you still throw spears at each other?” one shouldn’t be entirely surprised either by the reaction of chief minister of the Northern Territory, Adam Giles, who said the award made Australians look like “a bunch of tossers.”

Loyal Australian Rupert Murdoch had an opinion on the debacle. “Abbott knighthood a joke and embarrassment,” he tweeted. “Time to scrap all honors everywhere, including UK.”

Sheridan, the foreign editor of The Australian and a friend of Mr. Abbott’s from university, wrote that Mr. Abbott’s decision to honor the Duke made the prime minister “look absurdly antique and out of touch, reinforcing every ­negative stereotype about him”.

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“Abbott gave Philip a knighthood because he learnt the Queen wanted her husband to have one,” he wrote. “Not only did Abbott endure enormous personal damage because of his loyalty to the Queen, he never leaked the exculpatory explanation, which does not excuse his error in judgment but gives it context, humanizes it and may have made it a less toxic political issue.”

In his brief and victorious campaign, Turnbull criticized Abbott’s authoritarian, presidential style, and nowhere did this style displease his party more than in the disastrous and completely unnecessary awarding of the knighthood--about which Abbott allegedly consulted no-one--to Prince Philip.

Abbott’s fealty looked like craven knee-bending to the public.

To his party, it made him look like an electoral liability.

And this week, they delivered their verdict.

The irony is that in seeking to honor Prince Philip and please the Queen, Tony Abbott’s cack-handed award may have fatally weakened the monarchist cause in Australia forever.