Prince puts his foot in it

2009-10-27 08:31

London - Britain's Prince Philip has reportedly made one of his notorious gaffes by joking with a British-Indian business leader about his name, a newspaper said on Tuesday.

During a reception at Buckingham Palace for some 400 influential British Indians, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II greeted Atul Patel by glancing at his name tag and saying: "There's a lot of your family in tonight."

According to the Sun newspaper, the comment appeared to suggest that all Patels are related. Patel is a common Indian surname, and there are an estimated 670 000 Patels living in Britain, the tabloid said.

A spokesperson for Patel, who is chief executive of leading housing association the LHA-Asra group, said no offence was taken by the remark.

"Absolutely no offence was taken at all by Atul. It was taken in a very lighthearted way," the spokesperson told the newspaper.

The reception was held to coincide with the state visit of Indian President Pratibha Patil who arrived in Britain on Monday.

Patil will this week join Queen Elizabeth II to launch the baton relay for the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.

The prince's comment was condemned by Republic, a group campaigning to abolish the monarchy, as "deeply embarrassing".

"Making a joke about people called Patel is deeply embarrassing given the timing of the Indian state visit. At best it's a comment that shows he's out of touch and out of date," said the group's spokesperson Graham Smith.

The 88-year-old prince is well known for undiplomatic off-hand remarks, which have included:

- "Still throwing spears?" (a question to an Australian Aborigine during a 2002 visit)

- "You managed not to get eaten, then?" (to a student who had been trekking in Papua New Guinea, 1998).

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