Nobody is sure exactly how or why the Prince Philip cult movement began, though there are various theories. One idea is that villagers may have seen his picture along with the Queen’s on the walls of British colonial outposts when Vanuatu was still known as New Hebrides, a colony administered jointly by Britain and France.
Another interpretation is that it emerged as a “reaction to colonial presence, a way of re-appropriating and taking back colonial power by associating themselves with someone who sits at the right hand of the ruler of the Commonwealth”, pointing to the sometimes violent colonial history of Vanuatu.
What did Prince Philip make of it all? Publicly, he appeared to accept their reverence, sending several letters and photographs of himself to the tribesmen, who in turn have plied him with traditional gifts over the years.
One of their first presents was a ceremonial club called a nal-nal, given at a 1978 meeting convened by villagers. Subject: Prince Philip.
“So the British resident commissioner went down, made a presentation of photos of Prince Philip. Hundreds of these people were just waiting around, sitting or standing under the bushes. One of the chiefs then gave a club to pass to Prince Philip, asking for proof that he received it. It was sent all the way to the UK, where pictures of the duke holding the club were taken and sent back to the villagers. Those photos, among other memorabilia, are still treasured by the villagers to this day.
In 2007, several tribesmen met the duke in person. Flown to the UK for the Channel 4 reality television series Meet the Natives, five tribal leaders had an off-screen meeting with the duke at Windsor Castle where they presented gifts and asked when he would return to Tanna.
His reply, as reported by the tribesmen later, was cryptic – “when it turns warm, I will send a message” – but appeared to please them. Though Prince Philip was known for his frankness and has been criticised in the past for being culturally insensitive, on Tanna he appears to have been diplomatic.
Chief Yapa was one of several tribesmen who met Prince Philip in Britain in 2007 and took pictures with him. Prince Charles also visited Vanuatu in 2018 and drank the same kava his father did decades ago. He also received a walking stick on behalf of the duke from a Yaohnanen tribesman. (By Tessa Wong, BBC News).
My comment: So we assume that it one remote corner of the world Prince Charles is now a god, inheriting the title from his Dad. I can think of godlier candidates.