The death last week of Prince Philip at age 99 brought back memories for Jim Marpe. A quarter century ago, he spent 2 hours with the queen’s consort.
Marpe was not yet first selectman, so this is not a Town Hall-meets-Buckingham Palace story. Still, it’s a good one.
In 1996 Marpe was a partner with Accenture, the management and technology consulting firm. His British partners asked if he would introduce the prince to the leadership team of the major New York global bank that was his client, to help encourage their further expansion in the UK.
The meeting took place when Prince Philip was in New York.
Marpe recalls that while he and the other guests were briefed on a certain amount of protocol, he was pleasantly surprised with “the relaxed demeanor of the prince, his genuine engagement in the presentations and discussion, and a self-deprecating sense of humor.
“He knew what he didn’t know, but seemed anxious to learn,” Marpe says.
While this was more than 20 years before “The Crown,” and a year before the death of Princess Diana, Marpe was aware of the royal family’s “challenges,” and the prince’s propensity for making “tone-deaf” remarks.
Nevertheless, Marpe says, “our time together felt like a normal, friendly business meeting, and our conversation was comfortable.”
Reading the obituary this weekend, he noted that Phillip’s (as well as Queen Elizabeth’s) great-great-great-great-grandfather was King George III. The monarch was responsible for the British landing on Compo Beach, and the subsequent Battle of Compo Hill that is commemorated by our Minute Man Monument.
“That’s another Westport connection” with the British royal family, Marpe notes.