How Prince Philip led an extraordinary life to become the world’s most famous husband | Daily News

How Prince Philip led an extraordinary life to become the world’s most famous husband

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip with seven of their great grandchildren.
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip with seven of their great grandchildren.

Lord High Admiral Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich, arguably the world’s most famous husband, died on April 9, 2021 at Windsor Castle, aged 99, just two months before his 100th birthday. He was the longest-served Royal Consort of a reigning British Monarch and the longest-lived male of the British Royal family. In private, the Queen described her husband’s death as “having left a huge void in her life.”

The Prince was an 18-month deportee when he had his first encounter with the British Royal Navy. In 1922, he was taken on board a British warship, HMS Calypso that evacuated Prince Andrew’s family, with Philip carried to safety in a makeshift cot fashioned from an orange crate, after the Greek military government had banished his family.

So, it might have seemed as if he was destined for a life at sea. After all, the Duke’s maternal grandfather, Prince Louis of Battenberg, had been anAdmiral of the Fleet and First Sea Lord. It was the intervention of his uncle, Louis ‘Dickie’ Mountbatten, then Captain of HMS Kelly that persuaded him to follow his family’s long naval tradition.

Prince Philip took the path of an ambitious naval officer, joining as a Cadet. He excelled at Dartmouth, winning the King’s Dirk, for the Best All-round Cadet. Did he know then that this was a collision of two great passions? He could not have both the life at ‘sea’ and the future ‘Queen’ as wife. Indeed he had both; as young newlyweds in Malta for two tranquil years. Yet, the death of King George VI brought it all to an end.

Birth of Prince Philip

Prince Philip was born in Mon Repos on the Greek island of Corfu on June 10, 1921, the only son and fifth and final child of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and Princess Alice of Battenberg. He was a Prince of both Greece and Denmark by virtue of his patrilineal descent from George I of Greece and Christian IX of Denmark, and was from birth in the line of succession to both thrones. His four elder sisters were Margarita, Theodora, Cecilie and Sophie.

Shortly after Philip’s birth, his maternal grandfather died. After attending his memorial in London, Philip and his mother returned to Greece where Prince Andrew remained to command an Army Division embroiled in the Greco-Turkish War. Philip’s uncle, King Constantine I, was blamed for the defeat and was forced to abdicate on September 27, 1922. The military government arrested Prince Andrew as well. In December, a revolutionary court banished Prince Andrew from Greece, for life and his family sailed to France.

Joining the Royal Navy

Philip was first educated at The Elms, an American school in Paris. In 1928, he was sent to Britain to attend Cheam School, living with his maternal grandmother, Victoria Mountbatten at Kensington Palace and his uncle, George Mountbatten at Lynden Manor in Berkshire. In the succeeding three years, his four sisters married German princes and moved to Germany. His mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia and his father took up residence in Monte Carlo.

In 1933, Philip was sent to Schule Schloss Salem in Germany. With the rise of Nazism, Salem’s founder, Kurt Hahn, fled and founded Gordonstoun School in Scotland, to which Philip quickly moved. In 1937, his sister Cecilie and her entire family were killed in an air crash; Philip, then 16, attended the funeral. In 1938, his uncle and guardian Lord Milford Haven died. Amidst all, Prince Philip joined the Royal Navy in 1939, aged 18 and completed a term as a Cadet at the Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth. Dating a Princess as a Cadet

In July 1939, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth toured the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth. During the visit, Louis Mountbatten asked his nephew, Philip to escort the King’s two daughters, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, who were Philip’s third cousins through Queen Victoria, and second cousins once removed through King Christian IX of Denmark.

Philip made quite an impression on the 13-year Elizabeth whom he had first met in 1934, began corresponding with her. In mid-1939, Philip repatriated to Greece and lived with his mother in Athens for a month. At the behest of the Greek King George II (his first-cousin), he returned to Britain and resumed training with the Royal Navy where he proved a brilliant Cadet and graduated as the Best Cadet in his course.

Naval Service as a Midshipman

Philip was made a Midshipman in January 1940. He joined the Battleship, HMS Ramillies, stationed in Colombo, Sri Lanka, for protecting convoys of the Australian Expeditionary Force in the Indian Ocean on February 20, 1940 and served for four months. Once, Prince Philip was sent to Trincomalee to assist a naval team surveying the harbour.

He bought a Standard 9 car in Colombo and drove to Trincomalee and back. The silver and black car on display at the Galle Face Hotel museum is reported to be Prince Philip’s first personal car, used as a Midshipman. The registration information discloses the owner as Prince Philip. The ‘Little Nine’ was a family car produced by the British Standard Motor Company between 1930 and 1933. It was said to be relatively expensive but became popular among the upper echelons of society.

Prince Philip also served County Class Destroyers HMS Kent and HMS Shropshire, on a shore station in Sri Lanka in 1940. Later, he visited Trincomalee on board the HMS Whelp in 1945.

Sub Lieutenant and Lieutenant Promotions

Philip was transferred from the Indian Ocean to the battleship HMS Valiant in the Mediterranean Fleet. On February 1, 1941, he was commissioned as a Sub Lieutenant after a series of courses at Portsmouth, in which he gained the top grade in four out of five qualifying examinations. Philip was involved in the battle of Crete and the battle of Cape Matapan. He was awarded the Greek War Cross.

The teenaged Princess Elizabeth and the naval officer kept in touch through letters. In June 1942, he was appointed to the Destroyer HMS Wallace, which was involved in convoy escort tasks on the east coast of Britain, as well as the Allied invasion of Sicily. On July 16, 1942, he was promoted a Lieutenant. By October, aged 21, he was one of the youngest first lieutenants. During the invasion of Sicily in July 1943, he saved his ship from a night bomber attack. He devised a plan to launch a raft with smoke floats that successfully distracted the bombers, allowing the ship to slip away unnoticed.

Over Christmas 1943, after Philip had been to stay with the Royal Family, a photograph of him in naval uniform appeared on her dressing room table. It was a decisive gesture from a reserved but determined young woman. In 1944, he moved on to the new destroyer HMS Whelp where he saw service with the British Pacific Fleet in the 27th Destroyer Flotilla.

He was present in Tokyo Bay when the instrument of Japanese surrender was signed. Philip returned to Britain on HMS Whelp in January 1946, and was posted as an instructor at HMS Royal Arthur, the Petty Officers’ School in Corsham, Wiltshire.

Engagement and Marriage as a Lieutenant

Eventually, in 1946, Philip asked the King for his daughter’s hand in marriage. The King granted his request, provided that any formal engagement be delayed until Elizabeth’s 21st birthday in April 1947. By March, Philip had abandoned his Greek and Danish royal titles and adopted the surname Mountbatten from his mother’s family.

He wrote to his soon-to-be mother-in-law: “I am sure I do not deserve all the good things that have happened to me. To have been spared in the war and seen victory, to have been given the chance to rest and to re-adjust myself, to have fallen in love completely and unreservedly, makes all one’s personal and even the world’s troubles seem small and petty.”

The engagement was announced on July 10, 1947. The day before the wedding, King George VI bestowed the style of Royal Highness on Philip and on his wedding day, he was made the Duke of Edinburgh. He was 26, and his wife 21. They married on November 20, 1947 in a ceremony at Westminster Abbey, broadcast by BBC radio to 200 million people around the world.

In post-war Britain, it was not acceptable for any of the German relations to be invited, including Philip’s three surviving sisters, all of whom had married German princes. After his honeymoon at the Mountbatten family home, Broadlands, Philip returned to the Navy at first in a desk job at the Admiralty, and later on a staff course at the Naval Staff College, Greenwich.

Lieutenant Commander and Commander

After their marriage, the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh took up residence at Clarence House. Philip was introduced to the House of Lords on July 21, 1948, immediately before his uncle Louis Mountbatten, who had been made Earl Mountbatten of Burma. Prince Philip’s first child, Prince Charles Philip Arthur George, the first in line to the throne was born on November 14, 1948.

From 1949, Philip was stationed in Malta and resided at Villa Guardamangia. He was the First Lieutenant of HMS Chequers, lead ship of the First Destroyer Flotilla in the Mediterranean Fleet. On July 16, 1950, he was promoted Lieutenant Commander and given command of the Frigate, HMS Magpie. Their second child, Princess Anne Elizabeth Alice Louise was born on August 15, 1950.

With the King in ill health, Princess Elizabeth and the Duke were both appointed to the Privy Council on November 4, 1951, after their tour of Canada. At the end of January 1952, Philip and his wife set out on a tour of the Commonwealth. On February 6, 1952, whilst in Kenya, they received the news of the death of King George VI, at 56. His daughter flew back to Britain as Queen Elizabeth II. Meanwhile, Philip was promoted Commander on June 30, 1952.

Coronation of the Queen

Prince Philip was never in line for the throne, which his eldest son stands to inherit and never held the title of king. In Britain, a woman who marries the monarch can use the title of queen but men who marry the monarch can’t use the title of king, which can only be used by male sovereigns.

After her accession to the throne, on June 2, 1953, the Queen also announced that the Duke was to have “place, pre-eminence and precedence” next to her “on all occasions and in all meetings, except where otherwise provided by Act of Parliament.”For six months, over 1953–1954, Philip and Elizabeth toured the Commonwealth. They maintained a strong relationship throughout their marriage, despite the challenges of Elizabeth’s reign.

The Queen and Prince Philip visited Sri Lanka from April 10 to 22, 1954. Significantly, she wore her coronation robes for the State Opening of the Parliament. Sri Lankans sang “Happy Birthday” to the Queen as she celebrated her 28th birthday whilst in Sri Lanka. The entourage visited Kandy, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and spent Easter Sunday in Nuwara Eliya. Their second state visit to Sri Lanka was from October 21 to 25, 1981.

Consort of the Queen

As consort to the Queen, Philip supported his wife in her duties as sovereign, accompanying her to ceremonies in various countries, state dinners, and tours abroad. Philip was not crowned in the service, but knelt before Elizabeth, with her hands enclosing his, and swore to be her “liege man of life and limb.”

In 1956, the Duke, with Kurt Hahn, founded ‘The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award’ in order to give young people “a sense of responsibility to themselves and their communities.” In 1956, he also established the Commonwealth Study Conferences. From 1956 to 1957, Philip travelled around the world aboard HMY Britannia, during which he opened the 1956 Summer Olympic Games in Melbourne and visited the Antarctic, becoming the first royal to cross the Antarctic Circle.

Their third child, Prince Andrew Albert Christian Edward was born on February 19, 1960 whilst the fourth, Prince Edward Anthony Richard Louis followed on March 10, 1964.The Duke always believed that monarchies must adapt to survive. He set up informal lunches where the Queen could meet people from a broader range of backgrounds. And when he learned the palace was running a second kitchen exclusively to feed the royals, he had one shut down.

In his study on the first floor of Buckingham Palace, overlooking the gardens and Green Park, surrounded by thousands of books, with a model of his first command HMS Magpie, he would research and write and type out his speeches. He delivered between 60 and 80 speeches every year, decade after decade, on topics that reflected his vast range of interests.

Love for Sports

A great sportsman, Philip played polo until 1971, when he started to compete in carriage driving, a sport which he helped to expand; the early rule book was drafted under his supervision. He was also a keen yachtsman and struck up a friendship in 1949 with Uffa Fox, in Cowes and regularly attended Cowes Week in HMY Britannia with the Queen. Philip’s first airborne flying lesson took place in 1952 and he was presented with Royal Air Force wings in 1953. By his 70th birthday he had accrued 5,150 pilot hours.

The next generation

The Queen and Prince Philip had four children: Prince Charles, 72, Prince of Wales; Princess Anne, 70, Princess Royal; Prince Andrew, 61, Duke of York; Prince Edward, 57, Earl of Wessex. Prince Andrew once reminisced: “Compassion comes from the Queen. And the duty and discipline comes from him.” Andrew also remembered how his father made time to invent bedtime tales, or listen to his children read Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories.

His enormous contributions towards the British Royal Navy, the Duke of Edinburg’s Awards, World Wildlife Fund and promotion of polo are hailed as the most lasting legacies. Prince Philip lived long enough to see his eight grandchildren grow up, and to welcome 10 great-grandchildren.

Longevity, Retirement and Funeral

In April 2009, Philip became the longest-serving British royal consort. In June 2011, in an interview marking his 90th birthday, he said that he would now slow down. The Queen, gave him the title Lord High Admiral for his 90th birthday. In June 2012, during the celebrations in honour of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the Queen referred to Prince Philip as her “constant strength and guide.” In February 2013, he became the oldest-ever male British royal, and in April 2019, the third-longest-lived member of the British royal family.

Prince Philip retired from his royal duties on August 2, 2017, meeting the Royal Marines in his final solo public engagement, aged 96. Prince Philip was said to be patron, president or a member of more than 780 organizations. Accompanying the globetrotting Queen on Commonwealth tours and state visits, he visited 143 countries. Besides, he had completed 22,219 solo engagements and 5,493 speeches.

On November 20, 2017, he celebrated his 70th wedding anniversary with the Queen, which made her the first British monarch to celebrate a platinum wedding anniversary. In June 2020, a photo of Philip with the Queen as they isolated at Windsor Castle during the COVID-19 pandemic was released ahead of his 99th birthday.

The Duke will be laid to rest at a ceremonial funeral at St George’s Chapel, on April 17. His coffin will be moved on the modified Land Rover that he himself helped to design. The coffin will be draped with his standard and will carry a wreath, his naval cap and sword on top. The funeral service will begin with his insignia – medals and decorations, Field Marshal’s baton, Air Force Wings and possessions from Denmark and Greece on display.

Gun salutes took place across Britain. Military guns fired 41 rounds at one round every minute in the cities and naval bases. Royal Navy ships at sea, including the HMS Diamond and HMS Montrose, also fired the salute, a tribute to the Duke, who served as a naval officer during World War Two and held, among other titles, the office of Lord High Admiral.