This Saturday we were treated with the unfortunate news Prince Phillip, The Duke of Edingburgh’s passing. He lived to be 99, saw two world wars and upheld a 73 year marriage with Queen Elizabeth II. But who was this charismatic, pragmatic man that has left such a lasting impression on the royal family?
Prince Phillip was born into royalty. His ancestry can be traced back to the Greek and Danish royal families. As a child he was moved around from country to country. His family fled Greece and moved to France when he was young. He could speak French, English and German fluently! He later went on to serve in the Royal Navy after graduating to of his class in the academy in 1939, aged just 18. During the Second World War he fought for the British, against the Germans. Promotion to lieutenant followed on 16 July 1942. In October of the same year, he became first lieutenant of HMS Wallace, at 21 years old one of the youngest first lieutenants in the Royal Navy.
TEATalk - Three of his sisters were married to German men, during the rise of the Nazis. Infact he fought against his brothers-in-law during World War II!
During this period, his courtship with then Princess Elizabeth begun. They would keep in touch via letters. Eventually in 1946, he would give up his Greek and Danish titles and take on his mother’s name, Mountbatten. The day before the wedding, King George VI bestowed the style of Royal Highness on Philip and, on the morning of the wedding, 20 November 1947, he was made the Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth, and Baron Greenwich of Greenwich in the County of London. Philip and Elizabeth were married in a ceremony at Westminster Abbey, recorded and broadcast by BBC radio to 200 million people around the world. And thus began one of the longest marriages in the Royal Family!
TEATalk - Since his siters were married to German Nazis, they were never invited to the wedding!
Together they have four children. Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward. One might wonder though, why Prince Phillip was not “King” Phillip. This is because a woman who marries a King by de-facto becomes the Queen, but the husband of a queen never assumes the title of King! When a King dies, the Queen never takes over. The crown is passed down to next in line, be it an heir or an heiress! This is how at the tender age of 25, the Queen’s accession to the throne went forward, when her father, the Late George VI, passed away.
The Duke learned to fly all types of aircraft. He gained his RAF wings in 1953, his helicopter wings in 1956 and his private pilot's licence in 1959. Prince Philip achieved 5,986 hours in 59 types of aircraft. The Duke's final flight was on 11th August 1997 from Carlisle to Islay, following which he has stopped flying.
The Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme and International Award were founded by the Duke to introduce young people to new experiences, including physical, skills-based and community challenges. Since 1956 more than four million young people from over 90 countries have taken part.
The Duke of Edinburgh was the first member of the Royal Family to be interviewed on television, in May 1961.
The Duke of Edinburgh was a prolific writer on environmental, technological, equestrian and animal subjects. His books include: Selected Speeches 1948-1955 (1957); Birds from Britannia (1962); Down to Earth (1988); and Survival or Extinction: A Christian Attitude to the Environment (1989).
He has accompanied The Queen on all 251 of her official overseas visits and had untaken various Royal duties. To date His Royal Highness has fulfilled over 18,567 official engagements excluding those accompanying The Queen, an average of 371 each year. He was a veteran public speaker. His Royal Highness had made 4,632 speeches at meetings, conferences and receptions - an average of around eight speeches a month for 50 years. The Duke of Edinburgh has undertaken 223 solo visits to 67 Commonwealth countries, and 385 visits to 74 other countries; an average of 12 countries per year, over the last 50 years. (numbers based on a cumulation tally upto just 2002!)
Science and technology were a major interest. He was Patron of the Industrial Society since 1952 and has visited research stations, laboratories, and every kind of workplace throughout Britain.
The Duke of Edinburgh played a key role in the restoration of Windsor Castle after the great fire of 1992. He served as Chairman of the general Restoration Committee, one of the two committees supervising the rebuilding of the damaged rooms.
TEATalk - The Queen and Prince Phillip were actually both descendants of Queen Victoria and are third cousins!
The Royal Family
He has made several major sacrifices, often unseen by the public eye, to conform with the rules of the Royal family.
As royal consort for seven decades, Prince Philip has widely been acknowledged as a huge support for Queen Elizabeth. At their golden wedding anniversary in 1997, Queen Elizabeth famously described him as “my strength and stay all these years”.
He gave up his titles and undertook only his British title. He wanted his children to carry his surname, naturally as any father would, but was deprived of this as all the children retain the “Windsor” name.
He is known to have been extremely concerned of the well being of his grandchildren, Princes Harry and William following the death of their mother, Lady Diana Spencer, The Princess of Whales. He walked alongside them in the solemn ceremony that followed.
Their marriage, perhaps the most scrutinised in Royal history, was as strong as a rock. Through 73 years, ups and downs, rumours of infidelity and more, their marriage truly had stood the test of time. It is widely regarded as the “most perfect” Royal marriage in history.
His legacy will live on for years to come. His sangfroid, ebullient, to-the point and supportive nature were loved and cherished by all around him. He had oft expressed his desire to “not be a centurion” and he followed through! The zeitgeist attitude of always embracing the future and changing protocols with time have done him and his family a great deal of good. Now one can only pray that he rests in peace, for he did toil away silently in royal duty for most of his life.