Harrogate man's memories of surprise encounter with Prince Philip

A Harrogate man has talked of what a great deal it was to meet Prince Philip in his days as a teenage chef.

Monday, 12th April 2021, 11:14 am
Updated Monday, 12th April 2021, 11:16 am
Prince Philip pictured in Harrogate in 2008.

Among the many people with their own memories of encounters with the Duke of Edinburgh, who passed away at Windsor Castle on Friday, retired university lecturer and photographer Stuart Rhodes says his was unusual because the whole thing was a complete surprise.

He says he has never forgotten the unexpected encounter which too place in Harrogate in 1974 when he was working hard as a teenager in one of his first jobs.

Mr Rhodes, who lives in Starbeck, said: "I was one of six young apprentice chefs at Harrogate’s Majestic Hotel. It was not unusual that besides preparing food for the various restaurants and functions in the hotel we would also prepare private dinners to be served in suites.

"What unusual was for the head chef to be overseeing every element of a meal for a suite in such detail.

"This particular party was having beef wellington for the main course and the carving dome had been stripped and polished until it shone like new.

"Called into the office of the head chef I was instructed to go up to my room.

"I was living in the hotel on the staff floor at the time, and change into fresh clean chefs whites and song forget to clean your shoes.

"I was going to be carving the beef Wellington in the room, a task I had never been called on to do before.

Mr Rhodes continued: "On returning to the head chef it was a quick inspection, check the hands are clean and not forgetting the shoes, together we trundled the carving dome to the service lift and up we went.

"I still had no inkling of who I was about to see as we pulled up outside the suite to be greeted by a plain clothes officer on duty.

"This was the point I guessed there was a VIP inside.

"On checking the trolley we were ushered into the suites lounge area.

My instructions were clear, under no circumstances to I lift my eyes off the trolley and beef, watch the chefs hand for guidance on portion size when carving the beef and when done close the dome and reverse out of the room with the trolley.

"Obeying my instructions, the head chef was not a person to be crossed, I duly carved the beef but as I closed the dome I looked up and the head of the table of some dozen guests was Prince Philip, he looked at me smiled and gave me a slight nod.

Mr Rhodes concluded: "I quickly reversed out of the room, taking the trolley with me.

"Outside I asked the chef why he hadn’t told me Prince Philip was in the room and he quite rightly pointed out if I had known would I have been able to calmly carve the beef.

"The answer was clearly no, I would have been far too nervous.

"That was 47 years ago, I’ve never forgotten the Dukes smile and nod. As a 17-year-old wet behind the ears apprentice it meant a great deal."

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