As tributes from around the world commemorate the death of Prince Philip, we thought we’d take a look at his relationship with Central America. In as much as he ever had one.
Chances are, if you’re in Central America, the passing of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, might not mean much. That’s fine. The UK and the British monarchy are a long way away for six out of seven Central American countries.
On a personal note, I always quite liked Philip, not that I knew him, of course. His gaffes made him normal in my eyes, and he was a product of his time. As a British citizen, I’m not particularly royalist in any way, but neither am I a republican. I don’t care much either way about the royal family. But I admit I liked Philip and respected him.
It’s hard not to respect a WWII hero and all those decades of services, no matter how fashionable it is to decry that stuff nowadays.
More than that though, I love history, and Prince Philip’s life spanned so much history, so many critical keypoints of the past 100 years. All those people he met, all those events he lived through. Fascinating.
So what was Prince Philip’s relationship with Central America?
Did he even have a relationship with this part of the world? It might surprise you to find out he did, albeit rather tenuous.
During his life, Philip visted 143 countries, including Costa Rica, Panama, and Belize.
In March 1975, Philip made the front page of the Tico Times when he paid a two-day official visit to Costa Rica. According to the report, he arrived in the Caribbean port of Limon on the Royal Yacht Brittania and flew to San Jose, where he met President Daniel Oduber Quiros.
There, as “the first member of the British royal family to ever set foot on Costa Rican soil“, Philip drew big crowds of excited and curious onlookers. Royal-watchers deemed the trip a success.
As someone who lives in Costa Rica, I’m quite surprised by how much the Ticos celebrated this visit. At the time, the Tico Times called it the most extensively covered event in recent years. Interesting.
Philip visited Panama at least twice.
Chances are he passed through the Panama Canal during his naval service and other post-war private trips, but the first official trip came in 1953.
That visit was part of his first official foreign trip with the queen, on a worldwide tour of the Commonwealth. Their ship, the S.S. Gothic passed through the Panama Canal, heading from the Caribbean to the Pacific. As part of the canal transit, they visited both the US-administered Panama Canal Zone, and Panama itself.
Panama was, in fact, the very foreign country the queen and Prince Philip visited after the Coronation.
Images from the time show both Panamanians and Zonians out on the streets to check out the royal couple.
Philip also visited Panama in 1964, while returning from the Galapagos Islands, says the New York Times, to visit President Marco Robles.
Hoy arriamos la bandera del Reino Unido para marcar el fallecimiento del Duque de Edimburgo. El Príncipe Philip dedicó su vida al deber público y a apoyar a S.M. la Reina. Visitó Panamá en 1953 cómo su primera visita al extranjero con Elizabeth II monarca recién coronada. pic.twitter.com/lwS5L5glAn
— Damion Potter (@damionapotter) April 9, 2021
And then, of course, there’s Belize.
It might well be an outdated throwback to colonial rule, but the British queen is still the Head of State of Belize.
As the queen’s husband, Philip visited Belize, both before and after independence in 1981. According to a report by ambergriscaye.com, pre-independence Belize (British Honduras) used to have Prince Philip’s head on some of its coins.
His last visit to Belize in 1994 provoked some controversy when he shouted at the queen to hurry up while she was speaking to onlookers. One of those famous gaffes.
That aside, his Duke of Edinburgh Award Program was (and is) active in Belize, particulary in helping kids from indigenous and Garifuna communities.
House of Representatives extends condolences to Queen and Royal Family https://t.co/BANvBOBmdc
— Breaking Belize News (@belizemedia) April 9, 2021
I’ve been trying to see if Philip ever visited the other Central American countries during his long life.
If he did, my scrambling around the archives this morning have found no evidence of him in Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, or Guatemala.
I would have thought he’d have at least visited the Bay Islands in Honduras with their British connection. Maybe he did.
Guatemala doesn’t surprise me, with its fractious relationship with Belize, but again, maybe he went there at some point and I can’t find it.
The Tico Times talks of a “Central American tour” during Philip’s 1975 Costa Rica visit, but the only other country we can see where he went at that time was Mexico (with the queen) and then onto the Caribbean islands.
Anyway, I guess it doesn’t matter. We thought it would be interesting, when marking the death of a historic figure on the world stage, to see how much connection that figure had with our corner of the world.
If you remember any of Prince Philip’s visits to Central America, please let us know. We’d love your stories.
James Dyde is the editor of www.centralamerica.com. He lives in Escazu, Costa Rica.