Requiem for the Stiff Upper Lip
With the passing of Prince Philip on April 9, the United Kingdom may have lost its last exponent of the stoic attitude that has defined so much of its modern history. Nonetheless, other cultures have picked up the baton, and modern society will always have a need for those who excel at keeping calm and carrying on.
LONDON – The late Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and husband to the queen, was long celebrated (or parodied) for his distinctive personality. Before his death on April 9, at the age of 99, he was the United Kingdom’s grand, grumpy, and eccentric uncle – a man totally out of step with the modern world.
To take just one of many notorious examples, Philip couldn’t understand why servicemen today would need therapy. Back in World War II, he observed, “We didn’t have counselors rushing around every time somebody let off a gun, asking ‘Are you all right? Are you sure you don’t have a ghastly problem?’ You just got on with it.”
If Philip’s passing means that we also will be burying the iconic image of the British “stiff upper lip,” should we mourn that loss as well? There was a time when this characteristically British display of stoic resolve was widely admired. When the UK was the world’s leading power, it seemed to owe its position to a “mustn’t grumble” approach to life. And, of course, this attitude was on full display when Britain resisted a Nazi onslaught that had already swept over its European neighbors.