Controversial, candid, and not politically correct: Jean Chretien reflects on his time with Prince Philip
OTTAWA -- From conversations about public service to chatting about Donald Trump’s entry into politics, former prime minister Jean Chretien is among the international figures sharing fond memories of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh who died at the age of 99 on Friday.
Chretien told CTV News Chief Anchor and Senior Editor Lisa LaFlamme that the prince, whom he knew since 1967, would often practise speaking French with him when they were together.
“When I met him and he spoke in French with me, I said ‘Your Royal Highness you speak very good French for an English man.’ He said ‘I’m not an English man and I was speaking French before you were born,’” Chretien recounted.
The conversation would often delve into politics, too.
“When I was sitting with him at these meetings, he would discuss American politics and so on,” Chretien said. “The last time I had lunch with him, I was there with my granddaughter, and, you know, we discussed the arrival of the politics of Mr. Trump in United States.”
He said the prince was at times "controversial," "candid," and not always "politically correct," but that he was always surprised at how well-briefed the consort was during their meetings.
Chretien also reflected on a trip the Queen, Prince Philip and their children Prince Charles and Princess Anne made to the Northwest Territories when he was then-minister of Indian Affairs.
At one point, Chretien said he was asked to start singing ‘O Canada’ while unveiling a plaque. “I started to sing it in French, and nobody came along. Everybody was laughing. And I said to the Queen, there is very few Canadians who are soloists for the Royal Family,” he said, chuckling at the memory.
Ottawa began the eight-day mourning period over the death of Prince Philip on Friday, with the lowering of the flag on the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill at half-mast on Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered his condolences in a statement.
“Prince Philip was a man of great purpose and conviction, who was motivated by a sense of duty to others. He will be fondly remembered as a constant in the life of our Queen – a lifelong companion who was always at her side offering unfailing support as she carried out her duties,” the statement reads.
Chretien, who lost his wife Aline in September, 2020, said any loss of this magnitude will come as a “hell of a shock” to the Queen, and reliance on family will be essential during this time.
“It’s going to be very difficult for the Queen because you know you spend with your life, you know, in my case, it was 63 years of marriage,” he said.
“Family is everything in these circumstances, you know, my kids have been a fantastic support in these difficult times. In fact, I make the joke that I become the fifth child of my daughter.”
With files from CTVNews.ca’s Rachel Aiello