Prince Philip’s Indelible ‘Marks’ in Sri Lanka

Photo courtesy of my old student pal Piyasiri Wickramasekara ….more details below

The Old 1935 Standard Nine said to be purchased by Prince Philip when serving in the Royal Navy in Ceylon in 1935 and now placed in the Museum of the Galle Face Hotel –— Pix courtesy of Bruce Rawlings [see below] …. However, Prince Philip was born in 1921 and could not have been driving cars at that moment — so, someone else has concoted a tale that has been swallowed hook, line and majestic sinker.

Pix courtesy of Kumar Kirinde


It does not demand any deep acumen for one to deduce that the induction of the British Royals was ‘engineered’ by the founding father of Peradeniya University, Sir Ivor Jennings and the Duke’s hand here was a companion act to the tamasha surrounding Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Kandy and to Trinity College. In other words, both sets of ceremonial  genuflection to the ‘British order’ from a former crown colony mark the ‘amusing’ contraditions within the island’s history.

To end our reflection here, however, would be a disservice. For one: we must recognise the Duke of Edinburgh’s sharp wit when he inducted the inauguration and Jennings’s endorsement of this with witha plaue. Quite brilliant these two acts together.  Both the spacing of buildings at Peradeniya University then in the 1950s and the care taken to ’embrace’ them with fauna and flora of magnificent ‘texture’ bespoke an artistic flair. The setting and its reshaped ‘texture’ was/is partly the work of a great mind. That was Sir Ivor Jennings, — who had pressed for Peradeniya as the site from the 1940s and pursued the venture diligently. He had arrived in the island in 1942 as the head of University College (in Colombo) with “a mandate to creat a university.” As noted in Wikipedia, the  “institution, on the model of University of London, was dubbed the University of Ceylon and was first established in Colombo, the capital city, then partially transferred in 1952 to a purpose-built campus in Peradeniya.”

That Jennings was able to secure this impact was due in large part to his friendship with DS Senanayake and Sir Oliver Goonetilleka. While heading University of Ceylon he had a second  official post as “Deputy Civil Defense Commissioner” from 1942-45.  Thus n the years 1942-48 he was one of the hands that manoeuvred Ceylon’s independence from the United Kingdom in circumstances where India was the prime focus of London’s problems.

Given the political and military complexities of that decade, any historical appraisal would have to conclude that the political manouevres of the threesome beween 1942 and 1948 were awesome.

Note, too, that Jennings was not from British aritocratic stock. A “middle class’ and educated gentleman yes, but not one with a plum in his mouth. In doffing my hat to him therefore I drive the point home by providing several references and several illustrations of the ‘landscape’ that confirm Prince Philip’s smart characterisation of the place.

The “Senate Building” where the Plaque conveying Prince Philip’s opening gesture stands ….

Jennings walks the length of Peradeniya Campus with the Student Union President as his departing memento …. and his role is recognised with a statue unveiled on the 6th December 2017 …. on a world stage where statues of Cecil Rhodes and other imperialists are being assailed and an island stage where Sinhala chauvinists are assailing the British colonial sins of the 19th century in defensive reactions to contemporary HR accusations & lies directed at the alleged outcomes of Eelam War IV.

It is hardly surprising that even today some elements among the island’s elite chose to recoginize Jennings’ place in the educational firmament by erecting a statue in his honour at the place where his imprint was so great.


Pix sent by Kalana Senaratne


Sheshan Abeysekara: “Queen Elizabeth at Trinity in 1954,” 27 January 2018,

PressReader 2017 “Unveiling of the Statur of Sir Ivor Jennings,”

G. H. Peiris 2020  “Recollections from both Peradeniya and Cambridge,” in

Varman 2020 “Jennings and Old Galaha Road,”

Waidyasekera, D. D. M. Harry 2014 “Sir Ivor Jennings’ Dreams come true,”

Wikipedia n. d.


  • “Dear Friends, At this sad time, we thought the car buffs among you might be interested to see a picture of Prince Philip’s first personal car. This small piece of history is preserved at the Galle Face Hotel Museum in Colombo. During his time in the Royal Navy, as you may know, the prince was stationed in Sri Lanka, where he bought this car. It is a 1935 Standard Nine. Of course, he returned to Sri Lanka in 1952 as the Duke of Edinburgh after marrying Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The car is in pristine condition and quite a treasure for the hotel.Yours sincerely,” ……………………… Bruce Rawlings, Membership Secretary and Data Controller, The Friends of Sri Lanka Association
  • Kumar Kirinde has recently presented an article on this topic and indicated that The Duke of Edinburgh was 19 years old then and made the presentation as “Prince Philip of Greece.” Do not be misled by the title: he was serving in the British Navy and was probably Englsish through and through [yes, English not Scottish, Welsh or Irish].

LATE CAUTION from THE EDITOR, THUPPAHI,17 April 2021: Prince Philip was born in 1921 and could not have been driving carsaged 14 or 15 …. so there is a major issue here for those pressing this tale. 

BIO-NOTE: “Prince Philip was born on the island of Corfu in Greece, on June 10, 1921. As members of Greek and Danish royalty, Philip and his family were banished from his native country when he was young, with the boy subsequently living in France, Germany and Britain.9 Apr 2021.”


Filed under accountability, architects & architecture, British colonialism, centre-periphery relations, charitable outreach, chauvinism, cultural transmission, education, governance, heritage, historical interpretation, landscape wondrous, life stories, meditations, modernity & modernization, patriotism, political demonstrations, politIcal discourse, self-reflexivity, sri lankan society, unusual people, welfare & philanthophy, world events & processes

3 responses to “Prince Philip’s Indelible ‘Marks’ in Sri Lanka


    A = From ERROL FERNANDO in Melbourne emailing to a PAL, 13 April 2021: “This is my old university, Wilhelm. Glad to hear that it was ‘More open than usual’! I enjoyed my 3 years at Peradeniya, especially making friends with fantastic people. Really fantastic people with whom I am in touch. There cannot be too many people more fortunate than I am with friends from Peradeniya, Trinity, teaching and other places. I would love to introduce them to you and you to them, Wilhelm. How much joy do you think that would give me?? ….. Cheers, friend,”

    B = JANE RUSSELL[presently stuck in UK] …WHO received her Ph.D from Peradeniya under the supervision of Prof KM de Silva in the 1970s and who still sustains roots in the island, 13 April 2021: “And more open it was!”

  2. GERALD PEIRIS has stressed that (A) the VISIT of the Queen and the Duke was one segment of a post-coronation world tour and that (B) “main event in their visit to Kandy was the ‘re-opening’ of the Senate Buildingat Pera-Uni and that (C) “the ceremony at Peradeniya Uiversity was the only ceremony in their entire itinerary at which the Duke played the lead role”.

    While SUGATH KULATUNGA has identified the staffmember alonside Jennins during his walk is BRANT LITTLE (Director of Physical Education) and added that the student is probaly R. SUNDARALINGAM

  3. Pingback: Dr. Cyril Paranavitana: An Appreciation from Many Hearts & Hands | Thuppahi's Blog

Leave a Reply