Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, unfortunately, passed away on Friday 9th April 2021, aged 99. He was a dedicated public servant, and lifelong love to Our Majesty, The Queen. Prince Philip was a fundamental part of the British monarchy, serving his Crown, his country and the Commonwealth for almost 80 years. This is Prince Philip’s story and our tribute.
Philip was born on June 10th, 1921 in Corfu, Greece, into a family of 5. He was the final child and only son of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and Princess Alice of Battenberg. Prince Philip was from birth, in the line of succession to both the throne of Greece and Denmark.
Just 18 months after Philip’s birth, his family were exiled from Greece due to the Greco-Turkish War. The family packed up, with Philip in a cot crafted from a fruit box, and headed to France.
Philip’s first school was The Elms, an American school in Paris, ran by Donald MacJannet who once described Philip as a “know it all smarty person, but always remarkably polite”. In 1928, Philip came over to the UK, where he attended Cheam School, living with his grandmother, Victoria Mountbatten. In this time, his four sisters all married German princes and moved to Germany and his mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia, then placed in an asylum. His father resided in Monte Carlo, and Philip had little contact with his mother for the remainder of his childhood years. In 1933, aged 12, the Prince was sent to Schule Schloss Salem in Germany but with the rise of Nazism, the school founder fled to Scotland ad founded Gordonstoun School, which Philip moved to shortly after. At Gordonstoun, Philip was the head boy as well as the captain of the school’s hockey and cricket teams.
In 1937, Philip experienced tragedy when his sister, Cecilie and her family were killed in an air crash, and the following year, Philips guardian and uncle, Lord Milford Haven passed away from bone marrow cancer.
His Navy days…
At 18, Philip joined the British Royal Navy and be began corresponding with the then 13-year-old Princess Elizabeth. This would be the start of their journey.
In 1940, Philip graduated from Dartmouth Royal Navy training and was said to be the best cadet on his course. During the Second World War, he served in the British forces and was appointed as a midshipman in January 1940. He spent four months on the HMS Ramillies battleship in the Indian Ocean, then later was transferred to the HMS Valiant battleship in the Meditteranean Fleet. On February 1st 1941, Philip was commissioned as a sub-lieutenant after flying through his courses at Portsmouth. Among others, he was involved in the battle of Crete and the battle of Cape Matapan, resulting in him being awarded the Greek War Cross. In 1942, he was appointed to the V and W-class destroyer and flotilla leader of HMS Wallace.
He was promoted to lieutenant in the summer of 1942 and later became a first lieutenant of HMS Wallace, aged just 21, he was one of the youngest first lieutenants in the Royal Navy. During the invasion of Sicily, in July 1943, as second in command of Wallace, he saved his ship from a night bomber attack by devising a plan to distract the bombers. Philip returned to the UK in 1946 and was posted as an instructor at HMS Royal Arthur.
In 1939, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth toured the Royal Navy College in Dartmouth. During the visit, Philip was asked to escort the King’s daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret. This was when the love story started, as from this point onwards, the pair, Elizabeth and Philip, began exchanging letters.
Years later in the summer of 1946, Philip asked the King for his daughter’s hand in marriage, and he granted the request, provided that any formal engagement be delayed until Elizabeth’s 21st birthday the following April. In 1947, Philip abandoned his Greek and Danish royal titles, adopting the surname Mountbatten.
The wedding took place on November 20th, 1947 at Westminster Abbey. The Queen revealed to her father, King George VI, that Prince Philip was “the only man she could ever love.” On the day of the wedding, Philip was made the Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich. The wedding was broadcasted by BBC radio to 200 million listeners around the world.
In post-war Britain, it was unacceptable for any of the Duke’s German relatives to be invited to the wedding, including Philip’s three surviving sisters. After the wedding, the Duke of Edinburgh and our now-Queen took up residence at Clarence House. They had their first child, Prince Charles in 1948 and their only daughter, Princess Anne in 1950. Their marriage was to become the longest of any British monarch.
After their honeymoon at the Mountbatten family home, Philip returned to the navy and was later stationed in Malta. It was during the Duke’s time in Malta where he took up playing polo. He went on to become one of the best polo players in Britain!
The Duke of Edinburgh became the president of the National Playing Fields Association in 1947, where he fulfilled the role for 64 years until Prince William took over in 2013. Philip’s first solo engagement as the Duke of Edinburgh was in March 1948, where he presented prizes at the boxing finals of the London Federation of Boys’ Clubs at the Royal Albert Hall.
In 1950, he was promoted to lieutenant commander and in 1952, he was promoted to commander, though his active career in the Navy ended in July 1951.
In January 1952, Philip and his wife, Elizabeth started their tour of the Commonwealth. On February 6th 1952, when the couple were in Kenya, Elizabeth’s father, King George VI passed away from a coronary thrombosis, aged just 56. Elizabeth was only 26 at the time. Philip sadly had to break the news to his wife of her fathers passing. The couple immediately flew back to Britain, where his wife, Elizabeth returned as Queen Elizabeth II.
The Queens Coronation was on June 2nd, 1953. After her accession to the throne, the Queen announced that Philip 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”. This meant Philip took precedence over his son, the Prince of Wales except for in British parliament, officially. Prince Philip received a Parliamentary annuity of £359,000 since 1990 that served to meet official expenses in carrying out public duties.
Prince Philip was said to be one of the busiest royals, accompanying his wife in her new duties around the world. As chairman of the Coronation Commission, he was the first royal to fly in a helicopter when he went to visit troops. The Duke later qualified as a pilot, flying in 59 types of aircraft for a combined 5,986 hours!
In 1956, Prince Philip founded the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, with the help of German educator, Kurt Hahn. The award was something that gave young people “a sense of responsibility to themselves and their communities” as well as opportunities that the younger generation may have missed out on. In the same year, Prince Philip also established the Commonwealth Study Conferences which aimed to study the human aspects of industrial issues across Commonwealth countries.
In these years, rumours from press reports claimed the Queen and the Duke were drifting apart, which the pair were enraged by. On February 22nd 1957, the Queen granted her husband the style and title of Prince of the United Kingdom and was to be known as “His Royal Highness, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh”.
On February 19th 1960, Prince Andrew was born, being the second son and third child of Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II.
From 1961, Prince Philip was the UK President of the World Wildlife Fund until 1982 as well as briefly being the President of BAFTA, International Equestrian Federation and many more. He was also a patron of the British Heart Foundation for 55 years and was an Honorary Fellow of St Edmunds College, Cambridge. It was also in 1961 when the Duke became the first member of the Royal Family to be interviewed on television! The interview took place in May by Richard Dimbleby.
On March 10th 1964, Prince Edward was born, being the final of four children to Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II.
Just two years later, the Duke of Edinburgh and Queen Elizabeth II invited Philip’s mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg to move to Buckingham Palace for the rest of her life. Princess Alice of Battenberg spent two years of her life there and passed away on December 5th, 1969, aged 84.
Within the following years, the pair kept busy with their royal duties whilst raising their four children. Philip was still a keens sportsman at this time but due to arthritis and age, he was forced to quit playing polo. Instead, he took up carriage driving. He then joined the British team who went on to win the four-in-hand carriage driving world championships at Windsor in 1980.
The Charles and Diana days…
Prince Philips son, Charles, the Prince of Wales, is the heir to the throne and had many girlfriends throughout his youthful years. At the start of 1981, Philip wrote to Charles encouraging him to make up his mind when it came to his then-girlfriend, Lady Diana Spencer. As his father, Prince Philip encouraged Charles to either propose to the Lady or break off their courtship. Charles proposed to Diana in February 1981 and they married just five months later. However, the marriage started to break down in 1992 after the birth of their two sons, the heir, Prince William (1982) and Prince Harry (1984).
Both Prince Philip and The Queen attempted to help the pair reconcile, with Philip writing to Diana expressing his disappointment at both Charles’ and her behaviour with extra-marital affairs. Prince Philip encouraged the pair to examine their behaviours from the others’ perspective, and although Diana found the letters hard to take, she appreciated Prince Philip’s good intentions. Charles and Diana subsequently divorced in 1996.
Just a year after the divorce, the Duke was alerted of Diana’s death whilst on holiday at Balmoral. Lady Diana had been killed in a car crash in Paris alongside two others. For five days after the death of Lady Diana, the Queen and Duke cared for their grandsons, William and Harry, who had just lost their Mother, aged 15 and 12. The Duke also consciously shielded the boys from the press, so they could grieve privately. Prince Philip made a touching pact to his grandsons, as he worried they’d regret not walking behind their mother’s coffin. He said to the boys, “if I walk, will you walk with me?” Prince Philip, Charles, William and Harry all walked through London behind Diana’s coffin, alongside Earl Spencer, Diana’s brother.
In the following years, Mohamed Fayed, whose son also was killed in the crash had claimed Prince Philip had ordered the death of Diana. The inquest concluded in 2008 states there was no evidence of a conspiracy.
In April 2009, Philip became the longest-serving British royal consort and became the oldest-ever male British royal in 2013. Prince Philip had said in an interview in 2000 that he was not aiming to become a centenarian, and couldn’t “imagine anything worse”. He joked saying “bits of me are falling off already”.
Prince Philip started facing some health issues in the early 2000s, with the first being a chest infection in 2008. He recovered quickly after being admitted to King Edward VII’s Hospital and was discharged days later.
In 2010, Prince Philip became a great-grandfather to Savannah Phillips. Savanah was followed by her sister, Isla, and eight more great-grandchildren, including the future King, Prince George, born in 2013.
During an interview in 2011, marking Prince Philip’s 90th birthday, he said he had planned to slow down and reduce his duties in the coming years. Prince Philip was also given the title of Lord High Admiral by the Queen for his 90th birthday making him the ceremonial head of the Royal Navy.
On the 23rd December 2011, the Duke had been experiencing some chest pains and was taken to the cardio-thoracic unit at Papworth Hospital. He was discharged just after Christmas on the 27th after undergoing successful coronary angioplasty and stenting.
Just half a year later, during the Diamond Jubilee celebrations of 2012, Philip was taken to hospital as he was suffering from a bladder infection. He was released five days later. The Queen made a speech to mark her Diamond Jubilee and said Prince Philip was her “constant strength and guide”.
In 2013, Philip was admitted to hospital for an exploratory operation on his abdomen and the following year, he had been spotted with a bandage on his hand, whereby it was confirmed he had gone through another procedure. In June 2017, he was admitted to King Edward VII’s Hospital after being diagnosed with another infection and was saddened that he couldn’t attend the State Opening of Parliament and Royal Ascot.
The Prince’s retirement…
It was on August 2nd of 2017 when Prince Philip retired from his royal duties aged 96, after having done 22,219 solo engagements and 5,493 speeches. He was thanked by the Prime Minister at the time, Theresa May for “a remarkable lifetime of service”. Later in the year, on November 20th 2017, Prince Philip and the Queen celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary, making her the first British monarch to celebrate a platinum wedding anniversary.
In 2018, Philip had missed the annual Maundy and Easter Sunday services due to a hip replacement he had undergone. Six weeks after he was discharged from hospital, he attended Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding. He walked without any assistance, something he was determined to do, as many claimed he wasn’t keen on the idea of growing old in the public eye.
In January 2019, the then 97-year olf Duke was involved in a car crash. The driver and passenger of the other car were injured but have since made a full recovery. Prince Philip was uninjured but went to hospital the next day as a precaution. Prince Philip apologised for the accident and voluntarily surrendered his driving license just weeks later.
From December 20th-24th, 2019, Philip stayed at King Edward VII’s Hospital for what was described as a “pre-existing condition” and a “precautionary measure”.
A photo of Philip alongside the Queen was released ahead of his 99th birthday in June 2020, at Windsor Castle, where the pair had isolated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pair were vaccinated against COVID-19 in January 2021.
In February 2019, Philip was admitted to King Edward VII’s Hospital again after feeling unwell. It was said the Duke responded to treatment well and was transferred to St Bartholomew’s Hospital for further testing and observation. After a successful procedure for his heart condition, he was discharged on March 16th.
HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, passed away on April 9th 2021 aged 99 years old. He passed away peacefully, with his wife, Her Majesty, by his side.
Rest in peace, and thank you for your service.