Prince Philip may have come off as a normal human being to many while he was alive. But to these South Pacific people in the archipelago of Vanuatu, the deceased royal was and remains worshipped like a god – with his “supernatural” status even propagating a following reportedly known as the “Prince Philip Movement.”
The 99-year-old is revered and held in such high regard by the locals in the village of Yaohnanen to such an extent that they were devastated when the news of his death on April 9 was communicated to them over the weekend by a local official from the country’s cultural center, New York Post reported.
“The people were very sad to hear of the passing of this great man,” Jean-Pascal Wahé, the official who drove four hours to the remote village to inform them about his passing, told the news outlet. “He was a very important man to us all and it’s a great loss.”
Located on the island of Tanna, some 700 locals in the village worship the duke as a god because they believe he descended from one of their spirit ancestors. The people bestowed on him the “godly” status during a visit to the South Pacific Ocean nation with his wife, Queen Elizabeth II, in 1974.
“One of the oarsmen taking them ashore was a chap from Tanna called Chief Jack,” former Buckingham Palace spokesman Dickie Arbiter recalled. “He thought Philip was a warrior from a long time ago who had come down from the mountains and gone off to England in search of a bride.”
“The bride is Mrs. Queen, so Philip is the god,” he added. And though the duke never actually visited the island of Tanna, he once hosted a delegation from Yaohnanen at the Windsor Castle in 2007, New York Post reported.
Followers of the movement have announced they’ll be having a memorial for the duke on Monday, adding that they’ll perform some rituals including traditional dancing and wailing. The women in the movement will also prepare a “spiritual” meal while a local and special traditional drink known as “Kava” will be consumed by the men.
“They are sending messages around the neighboring villages so people will hear about the plans,” Wahé told New York Post. “It’s impossible to know yet exactly how many people will come but we are expecting between 100 and 500 of them.”
With the duke gone, it is reportedly expected that the members of the sect will bestow the divine status on his first child and the heir to the British throne, Prince Charles. In 2018, the Prince of Wales was honored by the South Pacific nation during a week-long tour of Australia where he opened the Commonwealth Games.