Villagers held photographs of the late Prince, and spoke of “opening the road for his spirit to grow”. “We allow the kava clear the way to allow for his spirit to come back and live with us. The same spirit will grow inside one of his family and one day we will reconnect the people of Tanna and England,” Chief Jack Malia told the villagers.
The veneration of Philip stemmed from a local legend of the pale-skinned son of a local mountain god who ventured across the seas to look for a rich and powerful woman to marry.
Anthropologists believe Philip, who fitted the bill by marrying the Queen, became linked to the legend in the 1960s when Vanuatu was an Anglo-French colony known as the New Hebrides.
Villagers at the time were likely to have seen portraits of Philip and Elizabeth at government offices and police stations run by colonial officials before he visited the island with the Queen in 1974. The villagers’ special interest in the late Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, manifested itself in daily prayers for his blessing of their banana and yam crops and the posting of photos in village homes, including one from 1980 of him in a suit holding a club made and sent to London by the islanders.
The late Philip maintained a respectful 50-year relationship with an indigenous group in the island nation of Vanuatu that venerated him based on their shared respect for tradition, in contrast to his history of racially insensitive remarks.