Meeting Prince Philip
Two stands of my career have brought me many fascinating moments. Early in my career as a speaker, Betty Marcy, wife of the beloved Buffalo orthopedic surgeon Dr. George Marcy, introduced me to the English Speaking Union, an organization with over 100 branches all over the world. Soon, I was on the Approved List of Speakers for the English Speaking Union.
During the mid-1980s, Prince Philip of Britain, royal consort to Queen Elizabeth II, was the honored guest at two English Speaking Union events. The English Speaking Union was one of about 900 organizations worldwide where Prince Philip lent his support. The sponsor of both the reception and the dinner dance in New York City honoring Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, was William A. Schreyer. Bill had been a stockbroker at Merrill, Lynch, Pierce, Fenner, and Beane in Buffalo, New York. In Buffalo, he met and married a fellow former blonde model, Joan Legg. Bill was very successful in his career with Merrill Lynch, eventually becoming Chairman and CEO. He and Joan were the sponsors and chairs of both events honoring Prince Philip in New York City, where both the English Speaking Union of the United States and Merrill Lynch were headquartered.
I was very happy to be invited to the two English Speaking Union events and have the opportunity to meet and speak with the Prince. He was erect and elegant, but contrary to what British historian Dr. Amanda Foreman said about her mother's impressions of Prince Philip, I did not find Prince Philip charming. I was surprised that he was not so tall as I had expected. He was six feet tall. He had seemed taller in photographs because Queen Elizabeth is relatively short, just five feet, four inches tall. I had watched the regal couple in newsreel footage of the royal wedding at Westminster Abbey in 1947 and Queen Elizabeth's coronation in 1953 also at Westminster Abbey.
To me, when I was introduced to Prince Philip at both English Speaking Union events, he seemed abrupt, dismissive, and cold.
On another occasion, in the 1980s, the English Speaking Union held a reception in New York City for Queen Elizabeth II. I had two tickets for the event but subsequently decided to attend a reunion at St. George's College in Jerusalem at that time. I gave the ESU tickets to my parents, the late C. George Gordon and Violet Gordon, the artist listed in Who's Who in American Art. Mother described the Queen as holding her purse tightly with arms crossed so that people would not try to shake hands with her when introduced. Americans are not subjects of Queen Elizabeth so they do not curtesy to her. When guests are spoken to, they address the Queen as "Ma'am."
My parents and I agreed that meeting British royalty was a high point in our lives and we were grateful to the English Speaking Union for making it possible.
Now our family joins Anglophiles worldwide in grieving the death of Prince Philip. We all appreciate the 73 years he spent dutifully as the consort, rock, and support of Queen Elizabeth II and the many years he spent honoring the English Speaking Union.