By Ellie-Louise Style
Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh has died at the age of 99. Prince Philip was the very head of the royal family alongside the Queen. They were married for 73 years and he was the longest-serving royal consort in the entire British history. He stood by and supported the Queen throughout her entire reign so far. She has also referred to him as being her “strength and stay”.
The duke was the great-great-grandson of Queen Victoria. Queen Elizabeth II is also the great-great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, making them not only related by marriage but related by blood as well. He had a very unique and outspoken personality and was famously known for his “gaffes” that he would make in an attempt to lighten the atmosphere.
He has had many achievements throughout his life from serving in the navy during World War Two and being part of the Battle of Cape Matacan to helping millions of young people by creating the Duke of Edinburgh Awards. He had overcome a lot of family tragedy in the earlier years of his life after being exiled from Greece, but he found the strength to overcome this and become known as a war hero.
Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark was born in Mon Repos, Corfu, Greece in 1921. He was born into Greek and Danish royal families. Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark was his father and Princess Alice of Battenberg was his mother. He was born in the line of succession in both the Greek and Danish thrones due to being of patrilineal descent from George I of Greece, as well as Christian IX of Denmark.
When he was just 18 months old his family were exiled from Greece during a coup d’etat. A British warship was then sent by King George V to collect him and his family from Greece and take them to Italy. He was carried safely onto the ship in an orange crate box, which was being used as a makeshift cot.
Prince Philip was the only son of Prince Andrew and Princess Alice. He had three other sisters: Princess Cecile, Princess Margarita and Princess Sophie.
He started his education in France at the MacJannet American school in St Cloud. When he became seven he then went on to live with his Mountbatten relatives in England and joined a prep school in Surrey.
In 1930 Prince Philip’s mother became very mentally ill and was committed to a Swiss sanatorium for Schizophrenia. Due to this, the prince had very little contact with his mother while she was getting treatment.
He did have quite a difficult childhood, to say the least. In 1933 he was then taken to Schule Salem in Germany, which was run by Kurt Hahn an educational pioneer. However, during this time, there was a lot of anti-Semitism and Nazi Germany was starting to evolve. Therefore, Hahn had to flee to Scotland to escape the Nazi’s. While in Scotland he founded Gordonstoun school and Prince Philip transferred there just two months later.
Prince Philip stayed at Gordonstoun for six years and become a very popular and well-liked pupil there. The school was known for having an emphasis on self-reliance.
After leaving Scotland he joined the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth. Initially, he wanted to join the Royal Air Force, but there was a naval tradition in his Mother’s family, which is what swayed his decision to join the navy at 19 years old.
While he was at the Royal Naval College he met Princess Elizabeth for the first time, when she was just 13 years old. King George VI, Queen Elizabeth, Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret were all touring the college and Prince Philip was appointed to escort her and Princess Margaret around.
Many witnesses from the tour said he showed off a lot around Princess Elizabeth and he had made a deep impression on her.
In January 1940 he passed at the very top of his class and shortly after he saw action for the very first time in the Indian Ocean.
Second World War
Shortly after in 1941 Prince Philip was then transferred to the battleship HMS Valiant and joined the Battle of Cape Matapan in the Mediterranean Sea. His role was the officer who was in charge of the ship’s searchlights. He spotted an unexpected second enemy vessel. It was because of his alertness that his crew members were able to sink two 8in gun Italian cruisers within five minutes.
“I found another ship and it lit up the middle part of it, whereupon it practically disappeared instantly under a salvo of 15in shells at point-blank range,” he told BBC Radio 4 in 2014.
In October 1942 he was transferred to HMS Wallace, where he was one of the youngest first lieutenants on board. Throughout his time serving the country in the second world war him and Princess Elizabeth were always sending letters to one another, and he was invited to stay with the royal family many times.
It was over the Christmas period in 1943 that Princess Elizabeth put a photo up of Philip in his naval uniform on her dressing table.
There was some opposition from members of the royal family about their relationship. This is because some people within the royal family found him “unsuitable”. However, it was not the immediate family that opposed it.
Aside from this, Prince Philip went to King George VI in 1946 and asked for his daughter’s hand in marriage. To marry Princess Elizabeth the young prince had to give up many things. He had to change his nationality, and become a British citizen renouncing his Greek citizenship. He also had to change his name and used his Mother’s anglicised name, Mountbatten.
It was the day before the royal wedding that King George VI gave him the HRH title. Then on the morning of his wedding day, he was made the Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Abron Greenwich.
The duke and Princess Elizabeth got married at Westminster Abbey on the 20th of November 1947. The event had large media coverage from all across the world and it cheered a lot of people up after the second world war.
Shortly after the duke and Princess Elizabeth moved to Malta where he went back into the royal navy and their lives were just like any other service couple.
Prince Charles was born in 1948 just a year after their wedding and Princess Anne was born in 1950. He was also appointed to HMS Magpie in 1950, but this was cut short slightly when King George VI fell ill suddenly. This meant Princess Elizabeth had to take over more royal duties than the couple had initially expected, and she needed the duke by her side. He left the navy in 1951.
In 1952 they went on a tour of the commonwealth countries together. It was while they were on tour in Kenya that they were informed that King George VI had died due to coronary thrombosis (fatal heart blood clot). The duke broke the news to Princess Elizabeth and they cancelled the rest of the tour.
The couple did expect to live a semi-private life for at least 20 years, but Princess Elizabeth was next in line to become the new queen. This meant that the duke wasn’t allowed to go back to his naval career, so he had to create a new motive for himself.
In a Royal Warrant, it was stated that the duke would not have a constitutional position and he would never be as important as the Queen. Aside from this, he had many ideas of how to modernise the monarchy, but numerous people opposed it.
The Duke of Edinburgh was quite a social butterfly and was always meeting with people. This included a group of male friends who he would meet weekly in rooms above a certain restaurant in Soho. He had many lunches out and visited many nightclubs, where he was photographed with glamorous friends.
In 1960 he saw the birth of his second son Prince Andrew and in 1964 the birth of his third son Prince Edward.
The duke was known to “wear the trousers” when it came to family life and this was something that he was allowed most of the control over. He picked what schools the children should attend, but the only thing that wasn’t permitted was the children carrying his last name.
The Queen had decided that the surname of all of their children had to be Windsor and not Mountbatten.
The Duke of Edinburgh once said: “I am the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his children,” he complained to friends. “I’m nothing but a bloody amoeba.”
Philip was very adamant over the fact that Prince Charles was to go to the same school he went to, Gordonstoun. He believed that the regime and programme that they had there would help his son.
Prince Charles did not like attending school and got treated badly by bullies, while constantly being homesick. The relationship between the duke and Prince Charles was never easy.
The duke found it difficult to understand that not everyone had the same type of character that he did, and could not acknowledge that Prince Charles wasn’t particularly getting on well there, as he enjoyed his time there so much when he was a young boy.
Duke of Edinburgh’s Award
In 1956 he launched the Duke of Edinburgh’s award, to help young people. The awards programme is now in 144 nations all across the globe with many young people learning to build new skills, confidence and resilience.
Within the first year, over 7,000 boys joined. In 1957 the programme expanded to include girls as well, and in 1980 the two programmes joined together. Over the years it has helped millions of young people and some have even said that it “saved their lives”.
Until his dying day, he was still the patron of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards and was always attending various events for it.
Over the years he has been campaigning against overfishing in the oceans, as well as preserving the world’s forest.
Although, he did come under scrutiny for shooting a tiger while on a trip to India in 1961.
After this, he dedicated a lot of his energy to the WWF and then became its first president.
“I think also that if we humans have the power of life or death – or extinction or survival – we ought to exercise it with some sort of moral sense. Why make something extinct if you don’t have to?”
He also became a patron of the Industrial Society, which has had a name change since then and is now called the Work Foundation.
The duke was known to be a little controversial at times and this did occasionally get him into trouble. A lot of this happened when he was abroad with the Queen. On a state visit to China in 1986, he made a comment about “slitty eyes”, which did not go down too well.
Also, on a visit to Australia, he was asked if he would like to stroke a koala bear, his response was: “Oh no I might catch some ghastly disease.”
A lot of people referred to it as his “gaffes” and said he was trying to lighten the atmosphere.
Throughout his life, the duke had a passion for sports. Playing cricket and polo. After he turned 50 he decided it was time to give up playing polo and move onto something else.
This is where his passion for carriage driving came about. He ended up becoming the president of the International Equestrian Federation. Plus, in 1971 he made the introduction of international carriage driving to the Royal Windsor Horse Show.
He never gave up the sport of carriage driving and was even seen still doing it on the grounds of Windsor at the age of 97.
Prince Philip was very sad over the divorces his three children had gone through, Charles, Anne and Andrew, but never spoke about personal matters to the press.
Even though he was starting to get a little bit older this did not stop him from performing his royal duty to the country. He went on many state visits with the Queen abroad, as well as travelling for the WWF.
In 1994 he went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem where he visited his mother’s tomb. This was the place where she wished to be buried.
In 1995 when it was the 50th anniversary of VJ day he joined the veterans of the Far East campaign when marching past the Queen on The Mall. The Prince himself was on board a British destroyer in Tokyo Bay at the time the Japanese surrendered in World War Two.
Princess Diana’s Death
A young Prince William was nervous about walking behind his mother’s coffin on the day of Princess Diana’s funeral in 1997. It was Prince Philip who supported him by saying: “If you walk, I will walk with you.” He walked with him every step of the way alongside his other grandson Harry, the Earl of Spencer and Prince Charles.
After Princess Diana’s death, there was a bit of hostility towards the royal family from members of the public. To fix any rumours, he published letters in 2007 that he and Princess Diana had previously written to one another. The letters revealed that Prince Philip was a great support to Princess Diana.
When there was an inquest into Princess Diana’s death, Mohamed AL Fayed made an accusation of Princess Diana and Dodi being murdered on orders from Prince Philip. However, the coroner completely rejected these accusations.
Retirement and health
In 2017 Prince Philip retired from all royal duties. In total, he had completed 22,219 solo engagements since 1952. He decided to spend most of his retirement in Sandringham, while the Queen carried on her duties at Windsor castle. However, the pandemic brought them closer together and they both spent the entire lockdown at Windsor Castle.
He was always by the Queen’s side supporting her. They celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary in 2017.
The duke always had very good health. Throughout his younger years, he never had any serious health problems, only a few broken bones from playing sports.
A former physician for the Queen commented about how “astonishingly fit for a man of his age “the duke was as he entered his 70’s.
When he turned 90 he decided to start to “ease down on commitments” and decided to step down as patron or president of roughly a dozen organisations.
In 2011 he had to be rushed to the hospital from Sandringham after complaining of chest pains. He had to have a procedure for a blocked coronary artery at Papworth Hospital in Cambridge. He was in the hospital for four nights, meaning he spent Christmas and Boxing Day there. He quickly recovered from his procedure.
In 2012 during the Queens Diamond Jubilee celebrations, he fell ill with a bladder infection and had to miss the events that were taking place.
Buckingham Palace announced in June 2013 that Prince Philip had been admitted to hospital for an operation on his abdomen, which resulted in him spending his 92nd birthday in hospital. He was seen waving and smiling as he left the hospital later that month.
In June 2017 he was admitted to King Edward’s hospital in London but just as a precautionary measure and for treatment of an infection, he’d been suffering from.
He had recently undergone a hip replacement operation in April 2018 and recovered very quickly. He was still able to attend Prince Harry’s wedding in May 2018 while walking unaided.
In January 2019 Prince Philip was involved in a major car crash just outside of the Sandringham estate. It left two women who were in the other vehicle injured, but not severely. The nine-month-old baby who was also in the other car was uninjured and so was Prince Philip. According to reports he was badly shaken up and in shock. As a result of the accident the duke voluntarily gave up his driving license.
Just before Christmas in 2019 he had further treatment for a pre-existing condition at King Edward VII’s hospital in London.
Since the coronavirus pandemic began Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth had been shielding together at Windsor Castle and they both received their coronavirus vaccinations.
Prince Philip was admitted to hospital in March 2021 for a pre-existing heart condition. The operation was successful, but he had to stay in hospital for nearly a month.
Supporting the Queen
Prince Philip was the longest-serving royal consort in the entire British history and has been supporting the Queen every step of her way. He has lived through an ever-changing time and helped shaped the monarchy into what it is today.
He’s had many achievements throughout his life, from being a war hero to a devoted husband. Her Majesty once said: “He is someone who doesn’t take easily to compliments,” she said, “but he has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years, and I, and his whole family, and this and many other countries, owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim, or we shall ever know.”
He is survived by Queen Elizabeth II, their children, Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward, eight grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.