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Prince Philip's Australian Knighthood Prompts Hilarious Response

27/01/2015 08:58 GMT | Updated 27/01/2015 09:59 GMT

Australians are angry and rather bemused that their country has marked its national day by knighting the Greek-born British royal Prince Philip.

The Duke of Edinburgh - sorry, Sir The Duke of Edinburgh, was knighted as part of the honours awarded on Australia Day, which marks the first arrival of British settlers on the continent.

The honour will lengthen the full title of the Duke, who was already HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich, KG (Knight of the Garter), KT (Knight of the Thistle), OM (Order of Merit), GBE (Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire), AC (Companion of the Order of Australia), QSO (Companion of The Queen’s Service Order), PC (Privy Counsellor).

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Tony Abbott shakes hands with Prince Philip at last year's D-Day anniversary celebrations

Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who reintroduced the honours last year, said Prince Philip deserved it for a "long life of service and dedication".

But a lot of people rightly disagreed.

One tweeter sought to remind Abbott that it was Australia Day "not April Fools' Day".

Other tweeters seized the occasion to try out some one-liners.

An editorial from national newspaper The Australian said Prince Philip was a "symbol not just of another time but another country" and asked: "What was the Prime Minister thinking?"

The paper says he is "celebrated by Brits for his howlers and gaffes".

"With the odd decision to ennoble a member of the British monarchy, Mr Abbott gives those who would lampoon him a right royal charter," it said.

One of Abbott's own ministers anonymously criticised the decision, telling national broadcaster ABC it was "stupid".

Another minister said: "There is an old saying that when you are in a hole you should stop digging. Well, we've just punched through the Earth's crust."

Opposition leader Bill Shorten said: "I think that on Australia Day - where we're talking about Australia, Australian identity - the government's managed to find a British royal to give a medal to, a knighthood to.

"I just think giving our top award to a British royal is anachronistic. To be honest it's a bit of a time warp. I wasn't quite sure it was serious until I realised it was."

Opposition MP Tim Watts said: "I'm at an Australia Day barbecue in Sunshine and talking to my constituents and letting them know that we just made Prince Philip a knight - and they laugh.

"At first people think we're winding them up and it's a joke. It just shows Tony Abbott is on a different plane to most Australians."

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Prince Philip is infamous for his offensive gaffes on his travels through the Commonwealth. In 2002, he visited Australia and asked an Aboriginal man: ""Do you still throw spears at each other?"

"I didn't even know you could turn a prince into a knight," Sydney Morning Herald columnist John Birmingham wrote.

"I thought that was a demotion or something. Like swapping a king or a queen for a castle in chess, or a turning an Autobot into a Decepticon halfway through a Transformers movie."

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The front pages made grim reading for Abbott

He added: "By tapping Sir Phil, the Prime Minister has seized the morrow, striking out for an Australian future where at last the hard drinking, casually racist, insensitive old white bloke gets a fair go. Finally!"

Abbott, who is British-born and a staunch monarchist, said the honour was "a captain's call".

Prince Philip joins his son, Prince Charles, who was also made a Knight of the Order of Australia in 1981.