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Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (Philip Mountbatten, formerly Prince Philippos of Greece and Denmark), styled HRH The Duke of Edinburgh (born June 10, 1921), is the consort of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Originally a Greek subject, holding the titles of prince of Greece and Denmark, he renounced these titles and his allegiance to marry Elizabeth. It is uncertain what his original surname was, but he is a member of the Danish royal house of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg. He now holds the titles of Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich. Philip was also created a British prince and holds the style His Royal Highness.
The Duke of Edinburgh is also the patron of many organisations including the Duke of Edinburgh Award and the WWF. He has acquired a reputation in Britain for sometimes making remarks on public visits that seem undiplomatic or inappropriate.
Prince Philip was born on June 10, 1921 atop a kitchen table at Villa Mon Repos on Corfu, a Greek island in the Mediterranean Sea. His father was Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, the son of King George I of Greece and Olga, Queen of Greece. His mother was Her Serene Highness Princess Alice of Battenberg, the daughter of Prince Louis of Battenberg and Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine . Victoria was a daughter of Princess Alice of the United Kingdom and a great granddaughter to Queen Victoria. Philip's official style at birth was His Royal Highness Prince Philippos of Greece and Denmark.
The Prince and Princess Andrew remained in residence on the island of Corfu for 18 months. Greece was politically unstable, and it was expected that the monarchy would soon be overthrown. On September 22, 1922, King Constantine I of Greece was forced to abdicate the throne. A revolutionary court sentenced Prince Andrew to death. Fortunately for the family, King George V of the United Kingdom ordered that a Royal Navy ship evacuate the family, and Prince Philip was carried to safety in a cot made from an orange box.
The Prince and Princess Andrew and their children fled to Paris, France, where they took up residence at Saint-Cloud, a villa belonging to Philip's aunt Princess Marie Bonaparte . After being exiled, the marriage of Prince Philip's parents began to crumble. His father descended into alcoholism and gambling. His mother declined into mental instability, religious mania, and subsequent institutionalisation. Afterwards, Prince Philip was to see little of them.
Prince Philip's education began at an American school in St Cloud. However, his grandmother, the Princess Louise of Battenberg, advised her daughter to have him educated in England. He subsequently departed for the Surrey preparatory school Cheam.
Aged twelve, Prince Philip departed England for Germany, studying at Salem, a school in Southern Germany which belonged to one of his brothers-in-law. The school was supervised by the celebrated educational pioneer Kurt Hahn. When Hitler came to power in 1933, Hahn relocated to Scotland where he founded Gordonstoun. Prince Philip also left Germany and went to Gordonstoun where he flourished academically and socially. He was the head of the hockey and cricket teams, and eventually became head boy. Prince Philip was so fond of the school that he later sent HRH The Prince of Wales, HRH The Prince Andrew and HRH The Prince Edward to Gordonstoun also, though his sons experienced the school with mixed results.
On May 1, 1939, Prince Philip began his naval career at Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth as a Special Entry Cadet. In his training year, Philip won the prestigious King’s Dirk and the prize for best cadet of his entry. However, with World War II due to begin, Prince Philip would soon see real action.
In 1940 he served HMS Ramilles in Colombo, Ceylon, as a Midshipman, patrolling the Indian Ocean and escorting troops from Australia to the Middle East. In 1941 he was transferred to HMS Valiant, a battleship stationed in Alexandria, Egypt. Philip acted as the searchlight control on the ship, helping to sink two Italian cruisers. Later service in the war saw Philip promoted to the rank of Lieutenant and serving during the invasion of Sicily. Philip was also present onboard HMS Whelp at the surrender of Japanese forces in Tokyo Bay.
On November 20, 1947, Prince Philip married Her Royal Highness The Princess Elizabeth (later Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II), the eldest daughter of His Majesty King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. The Princess Elizabeth was the heiress-presumptive to the British throne. The couple married at Westminster Abbey in London with the ceremony recorded and broadcast by the BBC.
Before they could marry, Prince Philip was required to renounce his allegiance to the Hellenic Crown and become a naturalised British subject 1. He renounced his Greek and Danish royal titles on March 18, 1947 and decided to take the name Mountbatten, an Anglicised version of Battenberg, his mother's family's name. The day before his wedding, King George VI created Philip Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich. The King also issued letters-patent allowing the Duke of Edinburgh to use the style His Royal Highness. After their marriage, Elizabeth became known as Her Royal Highness The Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh.
The wedding itself was not without incident. Firstly in post-war Britain, it was not acceptable to invite any of the Duke of Edinburgh's German relations including all of his sisters, who had married German aristocrats. Also Princess Mary, Princess Royal refused to attend because her brother the abdicated Duke of Windsor was not invited.
Duke of Edinburgh
After their marriage, the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh took up residence at Clarence House, London. The Duke was keen to pursue his naval career. However the knowledge that it would be eclipsed by his wife's future role as Queen was always in his mind. Nevertheless, he returned to the navy after his honeymoon, and was stationed in Malta. He rose through the naval ranks and commanded his own frigate, HMS Magpie.
In January 1952, the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh set off for a tour of the Commonwealth, with visits to Africa, Australia and New Zealand. On February 6, when the Duke and Duchess were in Kenya, the Duchess' father, King George VI, died and she ascended the throne as Queen Elizabeth II. The Duke broke the news to the new Queen at their tree top hotel. The Duke was resigned to the fact that his naval career was now over, and he had a new role as the consort of the British monarch.
Unlike the wife of a British monarch, there is no corresponding role for the husband of a reigning Queen. In compensation, the Queen allowed Philip a free hand in the upbringing of their children, allowing Philip to decide on their education and future careers.
The accession of Elizabeth to the throne brought up the question of the name of the Royal House. Philip's uncle, Lord Mountbatten had advocated the new House of Mountbatten, as Elizabeth would have taken Philip's name on marriage. When Queen Mary, Elizabeth's grandmother, heard about this, she told Sir Winston Churchill who later advised the Queen to issue a proclamation declaring that the Royal House was to remain the House of Windsor. Philip bitterly remarked that he had been "turned into an amoeba."
The Duke of Edinburgh has supported the Queen in her role for the past fifty years. The Queen and Duke attend state visits abroad, and receive foreign dignitaries together. The Duke often carries out his own separate engagements on behalf of the Queen at home and abroad.
The Duke is also patron of many organisations. He established the Duke of Edinburgh Award in 1956 to give young people "a sense of responsibility to themselves and their communities". The scheme now operates in 100 countries around the world. He has also been the President of the World Wide Fund for Nature despite having been an enthusiastic hunter of rare species.
On the golden jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in 2002, the Duke was commended by the Speaker of the House of Commons, for his role in supporting the Queen during her reign.
One of the most controversial aspects of the Duke were his relationship with his daughters-in-law, Diana, Princess of Wales and Sarah, Duchess of York. He was alleged to have been hostile to Diana after her divorce from the Prince of Wales. The owner of Harrods, Mohamed Al-Fayed, even suggested in court that the Duke was responsible for ordering Diana's death, remarks that led the Duke and the other members of the Royal Family to remove their coats of arms from Harrods.
The Queen created the Duke of Edinburgh a Prince of the United Kingdom in 1957. An Order-in-Council was also issued in 1960 that stated the surname of male-line descendants of the Duke and the Queen who are not Royal Highnesses or Prince/Princess is to be Mountbatten-Windsor. This was to address the Duke's complaint that he was the only father in the country unable to pass his name to his children. In practice, however, the Queen and Prince Philip's children all used Mountbatten-Windsor as the surname they prefer for themselves and their children.
After her accession to the throne, the Queen also announced that the Duke was to have place, pre-eminence and precedence next to the Queen on all occasions and in all meetings, except where otherwise provided by Act of Parliament. This means the Duke is the first gentleman of the land, and even takes precedence over his son, the Prince of Wales.
As the great-great grandson of Queen Victoria, the Duke is himself approximately 560th in the line of succession to the British throne.
Children and grandchildren
- HRH The Prince Charles, Prince of Wales (Charles Philip Arthur George) (born November 14, 1948), married (July 29, 1981) and divorced (August 28, 1996) Lady Diana Frances Spencer (1961-1997); married (April 9, 2005) Camilla Parker-Bowles
- HRH The Princess Anne, Princess Royal (Anne Elizabeth Alice Louise) (born August 15, 1950), married (November 14, 1973) and divorced (April 28, 1992) Captain Mark Anthony Peter Phillips (born 1948); married (December 12, 1992) Commander Timothy Laurence
- HRH The Prince Andrew, Duke of York (Andrew Albert Christian Edward) (born February 19, 1960), married (July 23, 1986) and divorced (May 30, 1996) Sarah Margaret Ferguson (born 1959)
- HRH The Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex (Edward Anthony Richard Louis) (born March 10, 1964), married (June 19, 1999) Sophie Rhys-Jones (born 1965)
Titles and honours
- His Royal Highness Prince Phillipos of Greece and Denmark (until 1947)
- Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten RN (1947)
- His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (1947 onwards)
- Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter
- Knight of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle,
- Order of Merit
- Grand Master and First and Principal Knight Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire
- Companion in the Order of Australia
- Companion in Queen's Service Order
- Lord of Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council
- Privy Councillor for Canada
- Admiral of the Fleet
- Field Marshal
- Marshal of the Royal Air Force
The Duke is particularly known in Britain for occasional controversial remarks made while on public visits. .
- When visiting China in 1986, he told a group of British students, "If you stay here much longer, you'll all be slitty-eyed".
- After accepting a gift from a Kenyan native he replied, "You are a woman, aren't you?"
- "If it has four legs and is not a chair, has wings and is not an aeroplane, or swims and is not a submarine, the Cantonese will eat it." (1986)
- "British women can't cook." (1966)
- To a British student in Papua New Guinea: "You managed not to get eaten then?"
- Asked a Scottish driving instructor, "How do you keep the natives off the booze long enough for them to pass the driving test?"
- On a visit to the new Welsh Assembly in Cardiff, he told a group of deaf children standing next to a Jamaican steel drum band, "Deaf? No wonder you are deaf standing so close to that racket."
- He asked an Australian aborigine, "Still throwing spears?" (2002)
- Said to a Briton in Budapest, Hungary, "You can't have been here that long – you haven't got a pot belly." (1993)
- To the President of Nigeria, who was dressed in traditional Muslim robes, "You look like you're ready for bed!"
- Seeing a shoddily installed fuse box in a high-tech Edinburgh factory, HRH remarked that it looked "like it was put in by an Indian".
- When a twelve-year-old boy told the Prince that he aspired to be an astronaut, the Prince responded, "You're too fat."
- On Royal Navy Ship HMS Boxer, when given a tour of the ship, which was quite extended, was quoted to have said, "Not another fucking chamber"
- In 1983, after meeting then-San Francisco mayor Dianne Feinstein and several female supervisors, he remarked, "Aren't there any male officials?... This is a nanny city."
1 As a descendant of the Electress Sophia of Hanover through his mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg, Philip could already claim to be a naturalized British subject under the terms of the Sophia Naturalization Act passed in 1705.
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