Newly Digitised Footage of Prince Philip

BY MEL BONDFIELD

To mark the passing of His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, the NFSA shares newly digitised footage of Prince Philip in Australia.

His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh has died at age 99. Buckingham Palace officials announced that Prince Philip passed away on 9 April 2021 at Windsor Castle, just two months shy of his 100th birthday. 

Prince Philip visited Australia more than 20 times during his lifetime, both as a member of the British armed services and in his official capacity as The Duke of Edinburgh.

The NFSA has preserved footage of many of these official occasions as part of our nation's audiovisual history. We recently digitised two films featuring Prince Philip performing his official duties, plus some audio from an interview with him on Australia's Meet the Press in 1971. 

Newly minted footage

The following clip is an excerpt from a recently digitised newsreel from 1965. It features Prince Philip opening the Royal Australian Mint in Canberra accompanied by future prime minister Harold Holt, who was Treasurer at the time.

Prince Philip inspects the machinery and then Mr Holt presents him with some newly minted coins. The mint opened a year prior to Australia's change to decimal currency in 1966:

Prince Philip's first official visit 

Prince Philip's very first official visit was in 1954 with Her Majesty The Queen – the first reigning monarch to visit Australia. The tour was heralded as a great success by British royal watchers and Australian monarchists alike. Australians fell in love with the young couple and the 8-week tour, stopping at 70 towns and cities, was documented in the film The Queen in Australia (1954).

The award-winning British television series The Crown (2016 to current) has featured footage from The Queen in Australia in several episodes.  

During the 1954 tour, one stop on Prince Philip's agenda was the opening of University House at Australian National University in Canberra. The occasion, including Philip's speech, was captured by the Commonwealth Film Unit and was also recently digitised by the NFSA:

The PM and The Prince

Also held in the NFSA collection are the home movies of Sir Robert Menzies, some of which include Prince Philip, filmed in Australia and abroad during Menzies' official prime ministerial engagements. They include this footage of the opening of the Victorian Parliament in 1954:  

Sir Robert Menzies was a staunch monarchist with close ties to Britain, and his other home movies include the coronation of Her Majesty The Queen, footage of Sir Winston Churchill and more clips from the 1954 tour of Australia where Philip also features prominently. 

Representing The Monarchy

Prince Philip participated in many memorable moments on Australian soil. He opened the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, 1962 Commonwealth Games in Perth and 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane. His many other public engagements included attending the opening of the Sydney Opera House in 1973 and Australia's bicentennial celebrations in 1988. The Duke of Edinburgh Awards scheme he founded in 1956 was introduced in Australia in 1959.

Prince Philip was a strong advocate for keeping the Commonwealth intact and during his 1971 visit to Australia, he faced a tough panel of reporters on Meet the Press. In the following audio clip from the program, he is questioned about the strength and future of the Commonwealth and what it means to him:  

During that same interview on Meet the Press, Philip also made an argument in favour of the royal family remaining together, rather than being split up across the globe to carry out their duties. In this clip, he advocates that people must differentiate between the monarchy as an institution and the royals as a family unit with personal lives.

The Duke was not without his moments of controversy. He was infamous for his gaffes and in 2002 asked an Aboriginal man in Queensland if the Aboriginal people still threw spears at each other. Buckingham Palace later defended his comment as ‘lighthearted’.

Australian royal watchers and monarchists will miss Prince Philip as a strong figurehead of the British Commonwealth.