"It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen announces the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle."
So started the statement posted on the gates of Buckingham Palace on Friday last week. I have to say that the 'pass away' euphemism is one of my pet hates. Why do folk have to use it? Death is a fact of life so why can't people accept it, use the actual d-word, and face the fact with the stoicism that the late duke used to exhibit? It also upsets my pedantic streak for, strictly speaking, the 15th century phrase didn't even relate to death itself but to the moving of the soul on its journey to either Heaven or Hell after all funeral rites had been completed. I don't think that the late prince has been interred yet. Before I'm accused of being uncaring, whilst describing myself as an archroyalist might possibly have the needle of the overstatement gauge pressed tightly against one of its end stops, I do have empathy with anyone whose loved one dies. However, I also appreciate that there are certain folks who know me who would question that!
I met the man once. It was in the autumn of 1985 at St. James's Palace. I remember three things about the occasion. Firstly, that I didn't bow or even nod my head when we shook hands. Secondly, the deep pile of the deep red carpet. It was deep! And finally, the toilets. Wow! No act of micturition since has been comparable. Actually, now I come to think about it there are four things I remember: I've had a better-tasting glass of wine from Sainsbury's.
When Mr. Philip Mountbatten married Princess Elizabeth in 1947 he was granted the title of Duke of Edinburgh by King George VI. He wasn't the first such duke. The dukedom had been created a couple of other times in the past.
The first occasion was in 1726 when George I gave it to his grandson, Prince Frederick. When Frederick died the title passed down to his son George who eventually became George III whereupon the dukedom disappeared, being merged with the crown. Its second incarnation arose in 1866 when Queen Victoria bestowed it upon Prince Alfred, her second son. When he died in 1900 with no living sons the title once more disappeared.
What's with this history lesson? The bygone boozer of this post is the Duke of Edinburgh in Bacton, Norfolk, but who was it named in honour of? It certainly couldn't have been the former Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark for it was in existence before he married Princess Elizabeth in 1947. In fact, it was in existence well before he was born.
The first reference that I've come across of the pub having a name is in the 1871 census when Jane Beare is keeping a beer shop called 'The Duke of Edinburgh'. A decade earlier she was selling beer from the same spot but there's no mention of the Duke. It doesn't seem to be named in any trade directories before this point either although they do show that the place was up and running from at least the mid-1830s with a Robert Sexton at the helm. With no mention of a name until after 1866 I reckon that the pub was named after Prince Alfred and his newly-acquired title.
The Duke of Edinburgh's grandeur suggests that the place must've been redeveloped at some point after its probable birth with the 1830 Beerhouse Act. I certainly felt that it was too grand for me on my visit to Bacton in 1977 so I chose to stop off in the Kings Arms instead. I'm no historical architect but the decorative ridge tiles and the pointy dormeresque window thingees – look, I said I'm no architect – suggest very late-Victorian or Edwardian to me which ties in with a couple of other moments in history, namely the opening of Mundesley-on-Sea railway station, a stone's throw along the coast, on the 1st July 1898 and the pub being granted of a full license the following year. I've no evidence to support this view but the Duke of Edinburgh may well have been bought by the brewers Steward & Patteson and rebuilt as a much larger hotel to meet the increasing demand for accommodation for holidaymakers.
By 2009 it'd dropped any reference to Scotland's capital and was known simply as the Duke, often a venue for live music, and also offering accommodation on a neighbouring campsite.
So, to bring this post to a close, the pedant notes that Prince Philip died last Friday and he'll actually pass away sometime after 3pm this coming Saturday afternoon. The Dukedom of Edinburgh continues with Prince Charles but what is the future of the Duke of Edinburgh? It closed in 2018 and has been on the market since then with little apparent interest. It's continuation of use, unlike that of the title, looks to be pretty doubtful.
Once again, thanks to Kurt, chairman of the Bacton and District History Group, for the use of images from their Facebook page. The group also has a website if anyone wishes to look at other aspects of the village's past.
The images from Mark Hobbs and Ian S are copyright and reused under this license:
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