Minister hits out at ‘silly’ King’s College London apology over Prince Philip photo

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Prince Philip - Leon Neal/AFP
Prince Philip - Leon Neal/AFP

A minister has criticised King's College London for its "silly" apology to staff for sending an email containing a photo of Prince Philip.

Some staff members complained that including a photo of the Duke of Edinburgh opening its Maughan Library in 2002 in a round-robin email was "harmful" because of his "history of racist and sexist comments".

Joleen Clarke, an associate director, then sent another message to staff, apologising and informing them the photograph had been meant "as a historical reference point following his death".

"The inclusion of the picture was not intended to commemorate him," she wrote. "Through feedback and subsequent conversations, we have come to realise the harm that this caused members of our community, because of his history of racist and sexist comments."

James Cleverly, a junior foreign office minister, tweeted on Monday: "This is just getting silly now."

The duke had been a governor of the university since 1955, and visited many times, most recently in 2012 for the opening of its Somerset House East Wing.

The apology, first reported by the Mail on Sunday, also drew the ire of MPs who argued that the episode was the latest example of cancel culture on campus.

Sir John Hayes, the chair of the Common Sense Group of Tory backbenchers, said: "King's College London is at the extreme end of the spectrum when it comes to inhibiting free speech. We need to flush out people in our universities who are determined with an almost Maoist zeal to close minds in places which ought to be bastions of free and open debate."

Nick de Bois, a former Tory MP, added: "For goodness sake King's College London – grow up."

In an apparent backtrack, the university put out a statement stressing the duke's "long and valued association with King's". A spokesman said: "We valued immensely, and remain very proud of, his friendship and support for King's."