A picture of Britain's Prince Philip rests on a memorial at Sheffield cathedral, in Sheffield, Britain, April 13, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Boyers

Did The Simpsons predict Prince Philip’s death years ago?

AAP FactCheck April 14, 2021

The Statement

A Facebook post from an Australian page claims to show an image and quote from a 1990s episode of The Simpsons that predicted the exact time and date of Prince Philip’s death.

The meme, which includes two screenshots overlaid with purported text from the show, features Homer Simpson and another character talking in a bar. The other man is depicted as telling Homer, “Prince Philip died at 9am, 9th of April, the 99th Day of the Year, at age 99…”

The following scene shows an armed duo taking hold of the man, telling him: “You’re under arrest for attempted conspiracy.”

The post’s text reads: “Holy f***, that’s actually true, look it up.”

At the time of writing, the post had been viewed more than six million times and shared more than 19,000 times.

A Facebook post including the Simpsons meme
 A Simpsons meme includes a purported prediction of Prince Philip’s death. 

The Analysis

Despite The Simpsons’ record in making eerily accurate predictions during its long run, the TV show did not make a royal divination in the case of Prince Philip’s passing.

As correctly described in the meme, the Duke of Edinburgh, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, died on April 9 at the age of 99. The date was also the 99th day of 2021.

However, the palace’s announcement did not specify any time for Prince Philip’s death, only noting: “His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle.” The news was posted to the royal family’s Twitter account just after midday GMT.

While the details about the prince’s death included in the meme may be largely correct, it is not an actual quote from an episode of The Simpsons.

The screenshots both come from the 1998 episode The Trouble With Trillions. A transcript of the episode captures the depicted exchange, which takes place in Moe’s Tavern between Homer Simpson and a character named Charlie.

Simpson is acting as an informant for the FBI, and Charlie tells him: “My militia has a secret plan… to beat up all sorts of government officials. That’ll teach them to drag their feet on high-definition TV.”

It is then that the agents burst in and grab him, saying: “You’re under arrest for conspiracy!”

AAP FactCheck confirmed the transcript is accurate. The exchange takes place 8min 53sec into the episode, according to the timestamp on streaming platform Disney+.

The Facebook page clarified in the comments that the post was a joke, telling followers: “This is a Simpson’s meme, this wasn’t said in an episode you dumb f***s.”

But several commenters criticised the post for containing false information. One wrote: “I saw this episode recently, this is bulls***. He was talking about the government dragging their feet on HD TVs.”

Another wrote: “Amazing how the Simpsons get all this right before it happens.”

The meme was not the only false Simpsons claim to emerge following the prince’s death.

A gif, featuring footage from the 1995 episode Home Sweet Homediddly-Dum-Doodily, shows the youngest Simpson child, Maggie, spinning her head around to face siblings Bart and Lisa. The gif is overlaid with the text, “Prince Philip will die on April 9, 2021.”

A blog post claims the line was “replaced in subsequent airings, but not before causing much consternation on the newsgroups, where Simpsons dorks expressed bafflement at the reference and its complete irrelevancy to the episode’s plot”. The blog post and gif were also referred to in a Who Magazine article about the purported Simpsons quote.

However, the real scene (timestamp 19min 8sec in the Disney+ streamed episode) features a silent Maggie facing her siblings. References to Prince Philip do not appear either in the episode transcript or other Simpsons online guides, while a Google search for references to “Maggie Simpson” and “Prince Philip death” from before the royal announcement produce no relevant results.

A spokeswoman for the show told Check Your Fact the claim that the Prince Philip line was replaced in later versions of the episode was “fabricated”.

The Simpsons has been on air for more than 30 years, making it the world’s longest-running animated sitcom, and many of its satirical predictions and plotlines have come to pass.

One of the most notable examples was the show foreshadowing the presidency of Donald Trump. In the episode Bart To The Future, from March 2000, Lisa Simpson becomes president of the United States and notes after taking office: “As you know, we’ve inherited quite a budget crunch from president Trump.”

But The Simpsons has also been the subject of numerous false claims about its predictions, including that it foresaw the fire at Notre Dame and last year’s Beirut explosion.

In a 2018 interview with the New York Times, writer and executive producer Al Jean said: “I predict people will make too much of our great predictions.”

A memorial to Prince Philip.
 Prince Philip died at Windsor Castle on April 9 aged 99. 

The Verdict

Prince Philip’s April 9 death is not among the accurate predictions made on The Simpsons. The episodes depicted in memes that include the claim contain no references to the Duke of Edinburgh or his passing. The posts are satirical, the latest in a series of supposed predictions rightly and wrongly linked to the long-running TV show.

Satire – Content that uses irony, exaggeration or absurdity for criticism or awareness, particularly in the context of political, religious, or social issues, but that a reasonable user would not immediately understand to be satirical.

Updated Tuesday, April 28, 2021 13:31 AEDT: Adds comment from spokeswoman for the show.

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