HOW they speak about the dead reveals the character of the living. The display of mindless nastiness on Friday about Prince Phillip on Twitter told us much about the kind of people there who call themselves the left.  

He was portrayed as a racist cadaver on his way to hell. 

It is not a sign of weakness to respect political adversaries when they die, but an expression of common humanity.

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Philip was a decent man who did a lot of good, not least on the environment as founder of the World Wildlife Fund. He was a product of his times, of course, and a member of a privileged elite. 

But he embodied values of modesty, kindness and social responsibility, and had a formidable work ethic. He was also a moderniser in his own way.

I knew him as Chancellor of Edinburgh University when I was rector there. He didn’t just dole out honorary degrees to celebs and schmooze wealthy people into donating to university funds. In fact, he could be a real pain: to the university establishment. 

He famously took the side of the first-ever student rector, one Gordon Brown, in his battles with the university authorities. He promoted student representation on the University Court. The thing I remember most about him was his clothes. They looked like they’d come from a charity shop.

No – strike that, Oxfam would probably have refused to take them because they were so worn and repaired. His shoes, though, polished to a high shine, looked about as old as he was. 

He drank beer at university events instead of the products of the Old College cellar.
Prince Philip could be indiscreet and quite earthy, as well as down to earth.  

He seemed quite oblivious to public image, and was notoriously outspoken, which I suppose is one of the privileges of being a royal. But Prince Philip was about as remote from celebrity culture as its possible to be. 

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You couldn’t imagine him going on Oprah talking about his pain.

He didn’t do emotion, but he was far from cold and remote.

In fact, he was a notorious charmer. At the dinner following my election as rector he was placed next to my wife Tiff.

After she explained why she was there, he told her: “I’m sure he is the least interesting thing about you.”

The old lines are the best.