The night Prince Philip told me he was a ‘European mongrel’, and happy that way | Will Hutton

Invited to dinner to muse on the EU, I found little to suggest a latent Brexiter

It was a Monday evening in early 2004 when a group of Europhiles and Europhobes gathered for a Buckingham Palace dinner at the Duke of Edinburgh’s invitation. We were there to discuss the proposed treaty for a European constitution, just written and whose ratification across Europe was about to begin. I had been one of 12 European “thinkers” who had made joint recommendations on what European values should be in its preamble, hence my presence. What followed was one of the most surreal evenings of my life, brought to mind by the three German princes the Duke of Edinburgh insisted should attend yesterday’s funeral.

Evidently he cared about the issue, hosting the dinner after an Atlantic night flight and two public engagements earlier that day. Conversation over pre-dinner drinks was wary – Labour MP Austin Mitchell relieved our awkwardness by switching the lights on his union jack bow tie on and off – and eventually we were ushered through long corridors to a banqueting room, lit by low chandeliers and guttering candles.

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