In S5 E6 of The Crown, ca. 23m44s, Prince Philip (played by Jonathan Pryce) is shown eating with the handle of his knife resting on top of his hand, as opposed to 'inside', covered by his hand.

I consider this incorrect and unusual, and Debrett's agrees, calling it 'like a pen'.

Is this a 'goof', or an attention to detail of a true, surprising, quirk?

Prince Philip holding his knife 'like a pen'; the Queen holding hers correctly in The Crown

Prince Philip holding his knife 'like a pen'; the Queen holding hers correctly in The Crown.

  • I spotted that & declared to the room, "He's holding his knife like a bloody pencil. No Royal would do that!" …but I don't have a shred of evidence to back it up.
    – Tetsujin
    Dec 15, 2022 at 7:27
  • I wonder how many people outside of the UK understand “HRH” and “ER”. I don’t. Dec 15, 2022 at 17:03
  • @ToddWilcox - I wonder how many outside the UK would recognise the 'middle-class pencil-grip error' either. It's a definite faux-pas here, it marks you as 'fake posh', a pretender, and it predominates in the middle-class, neither the upper nor working classes ever do it that way. [i don't have time or energy to go through the whole UK historic class structure thing… but it's quite a delineator of behaviour patterns.] btw, Elizabeth Regina & His Royal Highness, standard abbreviations. [EIIR if you're being pedantic, looks better with a serif font]
    – Tetsujin
    Dec 15, 2022 at 18:24
  • 1
    FWIW: I've seen people (often old people) with arthritis in their fingers holding knives like this. This doesn't explain the youngest ones I've seen holding it that way though...
    – OldPadawan
    Dec 16, 2022 at 6:39
  • 1
    @Boots - that reasoning doesn't add up for me. I hold a pen like a pen all day, every day - it doesn't mean that's how I'd hold my knife. It is more likely that the surgeons were brought up in a middle class family & were taught wrongly from a young age.
    – Tetsujin
    Dec 16, 2022 at 12:03

1 Answer 1


I have to think this is an actor faux-pas.
I cannot imagine someone so steeped in 'manners and etiquette', brought up to know Debrett's inside and out, to ever get this wrong.
Without going into too much detail on British cultural heritage and the class system, the pencil grip is a middle class affectation, a poor copy of the correct method, seemingly originating in some mistaken belief that it was 'more delicate' therefore 'more proper'.

It is found culturally amusing by both the upper and working classes, neither of whom would ever use this grip.

I managed to find one photo of Prince Philip holding a dinner/butter knife. I'm aware one photo doesn't prove absolutely that was how he always held it, but unless someone can find another picture with the wrong grip, I'm going to stick with my opinion.

enter image description here

As to why no-one noticed it during production. This form of 'correctness' along with many other post-Victorian ideas, is losing ground as younger people tend to neither know nor care for such outmoded 'manners'.
By the time anyone spotted it, it may have been too late or deemed too unimportant to set aside a day for reshoots… or that no-one wanted to point this out to the actor as being a 'dead-giveaway, middle-class affectation'.

I realise, as I'm sitting here eating breakfast at my desk, that as it's egg on toast I'm using the 'correct' grip for both utensils.
If it had been a meal that required no cutting, I'd just swap hands and use my fork like a ladle - I'm not terribly precious about it all ;)

Late Edit:
I took up the challenge from steelersquirrel in comments below - find another instance he is seen to use the same grip. After quite some searching I got this, from Hysteria (2011). There are quite long scenes with the family eating, mainly with hands tantalisingly hidden behind other tableware or right on edge of frame, but I got this one clear shot where he is definitely using the same grip as 'Prince Philip'. It's a long enough shot to see him use this very distinctly. Oddly, towards the end of the shot you actually see him swap grip to the 'correct' method, right before a cut to another angle, using that correct grip again… then as we cut back to the first angle he is using the 'middle-class' grip once more. Continuity error ;)

Time stamp around 33:40 minutes if anyone want to check the whole scene

enter image description here

  • 2
    Hmmmm...it would be cool to see pics of Jonathan Pryce in a different movie or a separate pic using a knife in the same manner. Dec 17, 2022 at 14:42
  • 3
    @steelersquirrel - Good idea!! This took some finding… another movie playing a well-mannered gentleman, in Hysteria (2011). They seem to spend a remarkable amount of time eating… with hands tantalisingly behind other tableware or edge of frame. Eventually, I got one. Added to answer.
    – Tetsujin
    Dec 17, 2022 at 15:48
  • 2
    Nice one! I'd already accepted it, perfectly satisfied with the photo of the real Prince Philip, but this is now a fantastic answer, thank you! NB - heh, maybe the cameraman objected to his table manners more than the director :)
    – OJFord
    Dec 18, 2022 at 17:32

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .