Prince Philip was a member of a secret men’s drinking club that included celebrities, journalists and even the Kray twins in its no-holds-barred parties where the “alcohol consumed would have floated a frigate”.
According to Tatler, Philip was first introduced to the notorious Thursday Club by its founder, photographer Baron Nahum, and his membership was seconded by actor James Robertson Justice.
There are very few photographs in existence showing the all-male club in its heyday.
One rare example is a snap taken by Nahum in November 1947, as the group gathered to celebrate Philip’s engagement to the future Queen.
The club, which usually met in Wheeler’s oyster and seafood restaurant on Old Compton Street in London’s Soho, also hosted Philip’s stag night, which by all accounts was a very rowdy affair.
One royal insider revealed: "It was rumoured that after Philip’s stag dinner had reached the pudding stage, the all-male gathering was joined by a party of 10 alluringly-dressed women who draped themselves around he prince and his guests, one of whom was Philip’s uncle, Earl Mountbatten.”
As well as the former Viceroy of India, other luminaries who regularly attended club members included actors David Niven and Peter Ustinov, famed harmonica player Larry Adler, poet laureate Sir John Betjamin, Punch columnist Miles Kington and "occasionally the Kray twins might even show up”.
One member who later fell from favour was Kim Philby – then working for elite intelligence agency MI6 but later exposed as a Soviet spy.
Stephen Ward, the posh people’s osteopath who later became notorious as the man at the centre of the Profumo scandal was also a Thursday Club member.
Kington wrote in 1996: "I think I am probably one of the last surviving members of the old Thursday Club, the gang of cronies that the Duke of Edinburgh used to gather round him in the 1950s to have a bit of fun away from his serious life at Buckingham Palace.”
The club would meet in an upstairs private room in the restaurant, well away from the prying eyes of the general public, with six circular tables set up where anywhere between fifteen and 30 members might gather.
There Thursday Club members would enjoy, according to one insider: “An endless supply of wine, followed by port and brandy, plus the best cigars, ensured that lunch went on well into the night, with the bibulous guests becoming more louche – and increasingly frisky – as the hours went by.”
One member later confessed that things could sometimes get a bit "out of hand", saying: "The atmosphere was raffish and mischievous, not that we set out to be deliberately badly behaved, although often things would get a bit out of hand by the time everyone had downed a bottle or two.
"But basically we were a men's eating and drinking group who proudly dedicated ourselves to 'Absolute Inconsequence’."
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