Obituary – Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

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HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh sadly passed away on 9th April 2021 at the age of 99. He will go down in history as the longest reigning consort in British history. It would be a difficult role for anyone, let alone a man who had been used to naval command and who held strong views on a wide range of subjects. Yet it was that very strength of character that enabled him to discharge his responsibilities so effectively, and provide such wholehearted support to his wife in her role as Queen.

Childhood

Prince Philip was born in Greece on 10 June 1921 on the island of Corfu. His father was Prince Andrew of Greece, a younger son of King George I of the Hellenes. His mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg, was the eldest child of Prince Louis of Battenberg and sister of Earl Mountbatten of Burma.

After a coup d’etat in 1922, his father was banished from Greece by a revolutionary court.

A British warship sent by his second cousin, King George V, took the family to Italy.

In 1933, he was sent to Schule Schloss Salem in southern Germany, which was run by educational pioneer Kurt Hahn. But within months, Hahn, who was Jewish, was forced to flee Nazi persecution. Hahn moved to Scotland where he founded Gordonstoun school, to which the prince transferred after only two terms in Germany. With war looming, Prince Philip decided on a military career. He wanted to join the Royal Air Force but his mother’s family had a seafaring tradition and he became a cadet at the Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth.

Meeting, then, Princess Elizabeth

While there he was delegated to escort the two young princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret, while King George VI and Queen Elizabeth toured the college. According to witnesses, Prince Philip showed off a great deal. But the meeting made a deep impression on the 13-year-old Princess Elizabeth.

Philip quickly proved himself an outstanding prospect, passing out at the top of his class in January 1940 and seeing military action for the first time in the Indian Ocean. By October 1942, he was one of the youngest first lieutenants in the Royal Navy, serving on board the destroyer HMS Wallace.

Throughout his time in the Royal Navy, he and the young Princess Elizabeth had been exchanging letters, and he was invited to stay with the Royal Family on a number of occasions. It was after one of these visits, over Christmas 1943, that Elizabeth placed a photograph of Philip, in naval uniform, on her dressing table.

Their relationship developed in peacetime, although there was opposition to it from some courtiers – one of whom described Prince Philip as “rough and ill-mannered”. But the young princess was very much in love and, in the summer of 1946, her suitor asked the King for his daughter’s hand in marriage. However, before an engagement could be announced, the prince needed a new nationality and a family name. He renounced his Greek title, became a British citizen and took his mother’s anglicised name, Mountbatten.

The wedding took place in Westminster Abbey on 20 November 1947. It was, as Winston Churchill put it, a “flash of colour” in a grey post-war Britain.

Becoming a British Prince

When Elizabeth became Queen in 1952, Philip retired from active military service and five years later was made a British Prince. Until August of 2017, when he officially retired from public life, he was a very active working royal, serving as patron or president of more than 780 organizations. He is survived by not only the Queen but also their four children, eight grandchildren, and ten great-grandchildren.

Children

Their son, Prince Charles, was born at Buckingham Palace in 1948, and a daughter, Princess Anne, arrived in 1950. They were later joined by Prince Andrew (1960) and Prince Edward (1964).

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award

One of Prince Philip’s main concerns was for the welfare of young people, and in 1956 that interest sparked the launch of his phenomenally successful Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. Over the years it enabled some six million 15-to-25-year-olds – many with disabilities – the world over to challenge themselves physically, mentally and emotionally in a range of outdoor activities designed to promote teamwork, resourcefulness and a respect for nature.

“If you can get young people to succeed in any area of activity,” he told the BBC, “that sensation of success will spread over into a lot of others.”

Throughout his life the duke continued to devote much time to the scheme, attending various functions and involving himself in its day-to-day running.

“..her husband wears the trousers”

Philip was known for both his sense of duty and a blunt sense of humor. Despite their unique dynamic, Philip’s marriage to Elizabeth was seen as a true partnership, and their union is the longest in the history of the British royal family. He also holds the title of the oldest-ever male member of the British royal family and was the longest-serving British consort.

“The Queen wears the crown, but her husband wears the trousers,” Gyles Brandreth, author of 2004’s Portrait of a Marriage said. “He is the power behind the throne: steadfast, never-failingly supportive.”

 

Date of birth: 10 June 1921

Date of Death: 9 April 2021 (aged 99 years)

 

 

 

 

Sources:

BBC News: Obituary: HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

The Guardian: Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, obituary | Prince Philip.

Towns & Country: Prince Philip Obituary – Queen Elizabeth Husband Has Died