Prince Philip 10.6.1921 – 9.4.2021

Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, has died.

Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, won widespread respect for his steadfast and constant support of the Queen.

It was a desperately 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.

As male consort to a female sovereign, Prince Philip had no constitutional position. But no-one was closer to the monarchy, or of greater importance to the monarch, than he was.

Prince Philip of Greece was born on 10 June 1921 on the island of Corfu. His birth certificate shows the date as 28 May 1921, as Greece had not then adopted the Gregorian calendar.

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. Baby Philip spent much of the voyage in a crib made from an orange box.

He was the youngest child, the only boy in a family of sisters – and his early childhood was spent in a loving atmosphere.

The prince began his education in France but, at the age of seven, came to live with his Mountbatten relatives in England, where he attended a prep school in Surrey.

By this time his mother had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and been placed in an asylum. The young prince would have little contact with her.

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.

Seafaring tradition

Hahn moved to Scotland where he founded Gordonstoun school, to which the prince transferred after only two terms in Germany.

Gordonstoun’s Spartan regime, with its emphasis on self-reliance, was the ideal environment for a teenage boy who, separated from his parents, felt very much on his own.

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.

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.

He transferred to the battleship HMS Valiant in the Mediterranean Fleet, where he was mentioned in dispatches for his part in the Battle of Cape Matapan in 1941.

As the officer in charge of the ship’s searchlights, he played a crucial role in this decisive night action.

“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.

By October 1942, he was one of the youngest first lieutenants in the Royal Navy, serving on board the destroyer HMS Wallace.

Throughout this period, 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 day before the marriage ceremony, King George VI bestowed the title of His Royal Highness on Philip and on the morning of the wedding day he was created Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich.

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.

Career curtailed

The duke returned to his naval career and was posted to Malta where, for a while at least, the couple could live the life of any other service family.

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).

On 2 September 1950, he achieved the ambition of every naval officer when he was appointed to his own command, the sloop HMS Magpie.

But his naval career was about to be curtailed. The worsening health of George VI meant his daughter had to take on more royal duties and needed her husband by her side. . .

Even in the 21st century it isn’t easy for the man whose wife has a public and powerful role. It would have been much harder half way through the 20th century when they married.

He had a difficult childhood. Once he married he had a life of great privilege and also one which required a devotion to duty and public service.

One of his legacies is the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme which requires participants to complete voluntary service, skills, physical recreation and an adventurous journey. I completed the bronze and silver awards when I was at high school.

Change does not change tradition. It strengthens it. Change is a challenge and an opportunity, not a threat. – Prince Philip

3 Responses to Prince Philip 10.6.1921 – 9.4.2021

  1. Gravedodger says:

    Very well stated Ele, says so much about real actual dedicated service over decades, Harry could well read and absorb it all.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. adamsmith1922 says:

    Reblogged this on The Inquiring Mind and commented:
    Excellent post

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Heather Adam says:

    For most of us, as far back as we can remember, Elizabeth and Philip have been there setting an exemplary model. They are much loved by most of us. Charles will perform his duties well, having spent his life training for the job, but my money is on William to be be next outstanding monarch … and I won’t get to see it.

    Liked by 1 person

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