Exiled Prince

Philip was born in Corfu on 10 June 1921 and was the only son ofAndrew of Denmark and Greece and Alice of Battenberg.

Philip’s parents already had four daughters by the time he was born on the dining table at Mon Repos, the residence Andrew had inherited from his father. He was baptised in the Greek Orthodox rite at St. George’s Church in the Old Fortress in Corfu. and his godparents were: Queen Olga of Greece (his grandmother); Prince George of Greece (his cousin); Lord Louis Mountbatten (his uncle); and the mayor of Corfu, Alexandros Kokotos.

When his uncle, Constantine I, was forced to abdicate on 27 September 1922, the family were banished from Greece and had to be rescued by a British naval vessel HMS Calypso with Philip being carried to safety in a fruit box. Philip’s parents were given the use of a house in Paris which belonged to Marie Bonaparte, who was married to Andrew’s brother, George. As his mother’s mental health deteriorated, Philip was sent to live in England with his maternal grandmother, Victoria Mountbatten, Dowager Marchioness of Milford Haven where he was enrolled in Cheam School before moving on to the Schule Schloss Salem in Germany until the rise of Nazism closed it down. Afterwards, Philip went to Gordonstoun in Scotland.

After Gordonstoun, Philip enrolled in the Royal Navy and fought with the British forces during the Second World War which meant he was on the opposite side from his relatives. Philip’s sisters had all married German princes and two of his brothers-in law were fighting with the German side. Philip rose up the ranks quickly and was a lieutenant by the time the war ended. Philip was then posted as an instructor at HMS Royal Arthur, the Petty Officers’ School in Corsham, Wiltshire.

In July 1939, Philip was asked to act as a tour guide when George VI visited the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth with his daughters and Princess Elizabeth fell in love with him even though she was only thirteen. The couple began corresponding with each other and Philip eventually requested permission to propose, however George VI agreed on the condition the announcement be made after Elizabeth’s twenty-first birthday. When the engagement was announced in July 1947, many government ministers did not think Philip was good enough for Elizabeth as he was a prince without status and he had sisters with links to the Nazi party. Before the marriage, Philip dropped his Greek and Danish titles, converted to Anglicism, and took the name Mountbatten from his mother’s side of the family. Philip was also created Duke of Edinburgh and styled as His Royal Highness.

The wedding took place on 20 November 1947 at Westminster Abbey and since anti-German sentiment was still running high, Philip’s sisters were notably absent. On 14 November 1948, Elizabeth gave birth to their first child, Charles, and George VI issued letters patent allowing his future grandchildren to use the style and title of a royal prince or princess, to which they otherwise would not have been entitled as their father was no longer a royal prince. A daughter, Anne, was born on 15 August 1950, followed by two more sons, Andrew, on 19 February 1960, and Edward, on 10 March 1964. Elizabeth and Philip set up residence in Clarence House, London, but since Philip was still active in the British Navy, they often lived abroad at the Villa Guardamangia, Malta, which was the rented home of Philip’s uncle, Lord Mountbatten.

The Queen’s Husband

In 1951, Elizabeth began to undertake more royal duties as her father’s health declined, touring Canada and visiting Washington DC, while carrying a draft accession declaration in the event of George VI’s death. In 1952, Elizabeth and Philip were visiting Kenya, while en route to Australia, when news of George VI’s death reached them and Elizabeth was proclaimed queen. The royal couple abandoned their tour, returning to London, where they moved into Buckingham Palace. Since Elizabeth ascended the throne as a married woman, the royal household should have bore Philip’s surname Mountbatten, but Queen Mary and Winston Churchill were in favour of retaining the House of Windsor. After Queen Mary’s death in 1953 and Churchill’s resignation in 1955, the name Mountbatten-Windsor was adopted for Elizabeth and Philip’s male descendants without royal titles.

The coronation took place on 2 June 1953, despite the death of Queen Mary three months prior, at Westminster Abbey and the ceremony was televised for the first time in history. After the coronation, Philip and Elizabeth embarked on a six month world tour of Australia and New Zealand where large crowds greeted them. Throughout her reign, Elizabeth continued to make state visits to foreign countries and toured the Commonwealth on a regular basis with Philip by her side. He became patron of more than 800 organisations, particularly focused on the environment, industry, sport, and education. One of his most famous organisations was the Duke of Edinburgh Award which was launched in February 1956 to instil self-confidence and a sense of purpose in young people. The programme was so successful in the United Kingdom, it has since expanded internationally and patronage has been taken over by Philip’s youngest son, Edward, who was awarded the Duke of Edinburgh title in 2023.

In 1977, the Queen celebrated her Silver Jubilee while visiting most of the Commonwealth countries, many of whom had arranged special events to mark the occasion, helping to re-affirm the popularity of the monarchy despite the rise in republicanism in countries like Australia and Canada. However, there was personal tragedy when Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, was murdered by the Irish Republican Army. Lord Mountbatten had taken Philip under his wing after the death of his father and had continued the mentoring role with his son, Prince Charles.

During the Eighties, the Queen had to adapt to a changing world when the royal family came under intense media scrutiny, especially after the marriage of Charles, Prince of Wales, to Lady Diana Spencer. While most of the controversial stories were untrue, it didn’t deter the public from believing them or curb their appetite for more. The most popular topic seemed to be the deteriorating state of Charles and Diana’s marriage, both of whom were not above manipulating the press to their own advantage. When things started to get out of hand, the Queen was forced to intercede to encourage the couple to seek a divorce in December 1995. The Queen was further saddened when lurid photos of Sarah, Duchess of York, were published and the Yorks subsequently announced their intention to end their marriage as well.

On 31 August 1997, the Princess of Wales was killed in a car crash in Paris while her sons were staying with their grandparents at Balmoral. Believing the boys were better off away from the media spotlight, the Queen decided to stay with them in Scotland, but her silence angered the public and she returned to London to give a live broadcast, expressing her admiration for Diana and her sorrow for her grandchildren.

A New Era

In 2002, the Golden Jubilee celebrations were dampened by the deaths of Princess Margaret in February and the Queen Mother in March, however the Queen decided to go ahead with her scheduled tours and the Jubilee was widely celebrated throughout the realms. A special three-day event in London was greeted with enthusiasm and better attended than the press had predicted, proving the Queen was as popular as ever despite the negativity shown in the media. Throughout the decade, the Queen continued to travel, becoming the first British monarch to make a state visit to the Republic of Ireland in May 2011. Once again, the Queen travelled to Canada in 2010 and Australia in 2011, however the press dubbed them as her farewell tours due to her advancing age.

On the personal front, the engagement of Prince William to his long-term girlfriend, Catherine Middleton, was announced in November 2010, which was followed by the birth of the Queen’s first great-grandchild, Savannah Phillips, on 29 December 2010. William and Catherine were married on 29 April 2011 in Westminster Abbey with royal favour at an all time high, and the birth of their first child, George, on 22 July 2013, meant there were three male heirs in the direct line of succession for the first time since Queen Victoria’s reign.

As the longest serving monarch since Queen Victoria, the Queen marked her Diamond Jubilee in 2012 by touring the United Kingdom extensively, while her children and grandchildren toured the Commonwealth on her behalf. The Queen released a special message on Accession Day, renewing her declaration to serve her subjects and commemorating the years of her reign. A series of jubilee beacons were lit throughout the world to mark the day. Later that summer, the Queen became the first head of state to open two Olympic ceremonies in two different countries (the previous one being Montreal in 1976), when she officially opened the Olympic Games in London. The Queen almost stole the show when she took part in a short film where James Bond escorted her to the Opening Ceremony by helicopter and she appeared to parachute into the stadium before taking her official seat.

On 9 September 2015, Queen Elizabeth surpassed her great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria, as the longest reigning monarch in British history. On 6 February 2017, she became the first British monarch to celebrate a Sapphire Jubilee and is the world’s longest-reigning queen regnant and female head of state, as well as the oldest and longest-reigning current monarch and the longest-serving current head of state. With the Queen’s blessing, Philip formally retired from his royal duties on 2 August 2017 after experiencing a number of health issues.

On 9 April 2021, the Duke of Edinburgh, aged 99 years, passed away at Windsor Castle and was interred in the Royal Vault in St George’s Chapel a week later. He was the longest-serving royal consort in British history.

Queen Elizabeth II was a great-great grandchild of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert as a descendant of Edward VII, the eldest son of Victoria and Albert. Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, was also a great-great grandchild of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert as his mother, Alice of Battenberg, was the granddaughter of Princess Alice, Victoria and Albert’s second daughter.