I GOT an email today from a friend saying ‘Spain’s the right place to be right now. Can’t escape the Duke and I’m not referring to you.’
He was, of course, referring the death of the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip – and he was dead wrong about the news not saturating Spain.
In fact, wherever you are on the planet, you simply cannot escape the obsequious coverage, and even the rabble-rousing Trump got his oar in:
Up until I received that email, I’d been ignoring all the coverage of the Duke’s state of health and eventual death – with one exception. I said on Facebook:
A penniless Greek exile comes to England, marries a princess, and for days the media hasn’t stopped reporting on the fact that the rude, over-privileged cunt is in hospital. I AM FUCKING SICK of this travesty of journalism! And once he snuffs it, the tributes will drag on for weeks.
This so infuriated a bunch of monarchists that I decided to avoid mentioning the subject ever again, so great was the blazing row I ignited.
But then I got sent a link today to a story that was right up my alley: the Duke’s status as a “living god” on the on the volcanic island of Tanna in Vanuatu in the South Pacific.
The island tribe there has been worshipping Prince Philip as “a god” for decades, despite the fact that he had a reputation for making politically incorrect remarks about other cultures, from Australian Aborigines to the Chinese.
A cluster of villages that worshipped him as a living deity held grief-stricken meetings on Saturday to decide how to commemorate his death.
They plan to set up a “political movement” in his honour. This not as unlikely as it sounds – a rival cult on Tanna called the John Frum Movement formed a political party some years ago and even managed to send an MP to the national parliament in Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu.
The islanders who worshipped Prince Philip live in a remote part of the forest on Tanna and were informed of his death by an anthropologist who lives on the island.
Jean-Pascal Wahé said the villagers were “very upset” to be told of the death of the Duke, who they refer to in pidgin English as “number one big fella him bilong Misis Kwin (Queen).”
Kirk Huffman, a British anthropologist who worked in Vanuatu for many years and is in contact with the people of Tanna, said it was hard to say when a funerary ceremony for Prince Philip would be held.
But the details will be thrashed out over endless cups of kava, a mildly narcotic drink resembling muddy water that is made from the crushed roots of a pepper plant.
It could be days from now, it could be weeks. They are meeting today to decide how to proceed with the funerary rituals and to figure out how to pay their respects to Prince Philip.
There are two slightly antagonistic groups that have come together. They will iron out their differences and come to an agreement. They’re experts at conflict resolution – that is the Vanuatu way.
I have had messages from the son of one of the big chiefs and it seems that what may come out of this is that they will try to form a political party, just like the John Frum Movement across the island.
The John Frum Movement is a cargo cult that emerged in the 1930s when islanders rebelled against the proselytising of Presbyterian missionaries and put their faith in a shadowy figure called John Frum.
The islanders came to associate the Queen’s consort with an ancient prophecy that said a spirit from Tanna would venture far away in search of a powerful woman to marry.
Elements of Christianity such as the Second Coming of Christ, taught to the islanders by missionaries, were blended into their beliefs.
The prince was well aware of the belief in his divinity. He sent the islanders a signed, official photograph of himself, which became a prized possession among his followers.
In return the villagers sent him a traditional pig-slaughtering club called a nal-nal. He in turn sent back a photo of himself holding the club.
Vanuatu, a member of the Commonwealth, has a population of just 300,000 people but boasts more than 130 different languages, making it one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world.
Hat tip: Robert Stovold