With love, from a hospital
FROM A DISTANCE - Carmen N. Pedrosa (The Philippine Star) - May 18, 2019 - 12:00am

For the last few weeks I was away from my Philippine STAR column. I had a series of accidents and sicknesses that I felt it would be better to die than suffer the pain.

Being in bed most of the time I was able to finally finish watching The Crown, a series about what it means to take the responsibilities of being royal. There are many but what I particularly liked was “The Scandal That Rocked Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip’s Marriage” in an article written by Julie Miller in Vanity Fair.

“When Eileen Parker sued for divorce from Prince Philip’s best friend and equerry Michael Parker, a royal scandal erupted. And Queen Elizabeth, according to frenzied news reports, was none too pleased.

The article included pictures when Eileen Parker obtained a divorce in 1958, and Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth when they posed together after their Lisbon reunion in 1957.

It isn’t Philip’s fault, though the article claimed. It was the fault of his best friend and equerry Michael Parker who couldn’t help like all men do when they get together and put it on paper. One letter was enough for laughs in Philip and Michael’s Thursday Club. It may have been fictional but many watchers made their own conclusions.

A few episodes in, Parker’s fed-up wife Eileen  was so displeased by the speculation and made up by the press of their marriage.

Michael and Philip’s friendship dates back to 1942, when the two were young lieutenants on destroyers in World War II. Five years later, in 1947, after marrying Elizabeth and moving into Clarence House, Philip appointed the Australian-born Michael to be his equerry. Michael, being a vital link back to Philip’s Navy days, helped ease Philip’s transition into life as a public figure. Ironically, though, according to a February 1957 report by The Sydney Morning Herald,Michael could not do the same for his own wife – who had a hard time adjusting to being Palace-adjacent.

“[Eileen] is a ‘twin-set-and-tweed-skirt’– girl. She likes ballet, the opera, and horce-racing. She never took advantage of all the opportunities she had for being on the fringe of the Court. Not so her husband. For him everything was back to the happy days he had spent in the Service . . . with a difference. Now he was on familiar terms with the most famous and entertaining people in the land.”

“Not that he always escaped unscathed. He and the Duke spent much time leaping on rugs and skidding down the highly polished Palace corridors. This went on until one day they crashed into the door of the King’s study. For this they were sternly rebuked. ” [. . .]

The Duke took him completely under his wing. He introduced him to all his friends. He made him a member of the Thursday Club, a very exclusive luncheon party of men with bright ideas. Sometimes at night the pair would slip out of the Palace for an evening with other royal acquaintances. The royal staff soon got used to these expeditions. “Murgatroyd and Winterbottom,” they would say, “have popped out for a stroll.”

This became a catchphrase.

 It was February of 1957, a decade after becoming Philip’s equerry, when Michael resigned aboard the Britannia, as is re-created on The Crown’s second season.

“Parker resigned as the Prince’s private secretary last February 4, just 24 hours after word leaked out that he and his wife had separated,” reported the AP in 1957. “His resignation rocked Palace court circles. Parker was aboard the royal yacht Britannia with the Queen’s husband when Parker’s lawyer announced his resignation.”

A leading British newspaper said early this week Buckingham Palace officials were worried about ‘detailed evidence’ that might emerge in a Parker divorce case.”

Upon leaving, she said, ‘I am very glad it’s all over. I now hope to disappear from the public eye and live quietly.’”

In spite of that statement, Eileen Parker went on to publish a 1982 tell-all memoir titled Step Aside for Royalty. Although it is out of print, a rare copy can be found on Amazon – for over $2,700.

And the final lesson was that there are men and women in high places who would want nothing more than a simple life. That to me was the lesson of “The Crown and the Philip-Parker story.”

MICHAEL PARKER
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