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Thursday, May 27, 1999 Published at 20:01 GMT 21:01 UK


Deaf insulted by duke's remark

The duke, pictured with the Queen, has a reputation for gaffes

The Duke of Edinburgh is at the centre of another row after a "light-hearted" remark upset a group of deaf youngsters.

Prince Philip, 77, whose own mother Princess Alice of Battenberg suffered congenital deafness, joked that the youngsters were deafened by standing too close to loud music playing at a celebration in Cardiff.

"Deaf? If you are near there (the music), no wonder why you are deaf," he told them.

Members of the British Deaf Association said they were "shocked" and "insulted" by the Duke's remarks.

[ image:  ]
The 15 teenagers were at a special Festival of the Future event at Cardiff Castle to mark the opening of the Welsh Assembly on Wednesday.

The event was also attended by the Queen and the Prince of Wales who, like the Duke, toured the Castle grounds as loud music played around them.

Student Elizabeth Jenkins, 19, said: "I took it as an insult. It was such a shock - I never expected him to say that."

A BDA spokesman said: "That kind of remark is only a reflection of the much wider lack of understanding about deafness.

[ image: The Duke was criticised for remarks made after the Dunblane massacre]
The Duke was criticised for remarks made after the Dunblane massacre
"Many thousands of people in this country were born deaf and did not become deaf because they listened to lots of loud music."

A Buckingham Palace spokesman said: "It was a light-hearted remark that unfortunately was taken the wrong way."

The row is not the first time Prince Philip's comments have landed him in hot water.

His reputation for gaffes started several years ago:

  • On a visit to China he was reported as telling a British student he would end up with "slitty eyes" if he lived too long in the country.

  • In 1996 he drew sharp criticism when he said a gun was no more dangerous than a cricket bat in the hands of a madman. The comment came in the wake of the massacre of 16 children and their teacher by a gun-toting psychopath in Dunblane, Scotland.

  • On a tour of India in 1997, the prince upped the tension during the already-controversial visit to the Amritsar massacre site by questioning the toll of 2,000, given on a plaque, of people who died at the hands of the British.

    "That's not right," said the Duke, a stickler for historical accuracy. "The number is less."

The Duke, who has seemed impervious to criticism in the past, showed signs of frustration earlier this month at attacks in the UK press.

He took exception to the "unfeeling" image given of him, saying he was simply a pragmatist, compared to his more "romantic" son, Prince Charles.

He told the Sunday Telegraph: "And because I don't see things as a romantic would, I'm unfeeling."

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