Prince Philip: The Last Generation of Europe's Glorious Royal Age

The rise and fall of monarchy 

The 20th century would be remembered as the period where the curtain of the royal Europe rolled down. The result of two World Wars largely remapped Europe's royal and imperial territories. 

What was once known as a continent defined by the reigns of Emperors, Empresses, Queens, Kings, Grand Dukes and Grand Duchesses, now has only ten reigning royal houses.

Unlike monarchs in the Arab world, European royal houses are constitutional monarchies. Meaning, European crown heads never hold any power in the government. Their role is relegated to just being the figure head. A source of national pride. A unifying symbol.

They reigned but never governed. The constitution limits their power to just ceremonial and the government is being handled by the Prime Minister.

The major royal change 

By the end of the 20th century, the once glorious age of the exalted circle of royalty, where royal marriages strictly confined within the upperclass, has thoroughly eroded. 

Royals began marrying commoners, also called the "outsiders", lifting the veil of secrecy of the once mystical existence of the monarchy. 

This allows too many controversies and scandals to be known in public. Royal status reduced to that of the film star and no longer accorded with the respect they once enjoyed in the previous centuries.

The magic has largely diminished as the public considered commoner spouses no difference from the rest of us. Therefore, mystery of a fairy tale princess has no longer fancied.

Royal bloodlines have been tainted with common blood and links to other royal houses in Europe were thoroughly broken.

In Britain, Prince George of Cambridge will be the first British heir whose royal blood flows only on his father's side. His mother, Kate Middleton, is a non-aristocratic commoner whose family descended from the working class and coal miners.

Today, no direct heirs of the reigning royal houses married true-blooded royals and, since the abdication of King Juan Carlos of Spain in 2014, among the current European crown head, only Queen Elizabeth II of Britain has a consort born into the European royalty.

The Queen and Prince Philip. June 2020
Prince Philip. July 2020 

The last link to Europe's glorious age of royalty

The royal lineage of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh reflects what it was like during the glorious age of royalty in Europe.

Prince Philip as the young midshipman in the British royal navy

To date, he is the remaining generation of that long gone era of European royal court where royal blood really means ROYAL BLOOD. And where royal marriage means ROYAL MARRIAGE.

His Royal Highness descended from Europe's most poweful royal and grand ducal houses through his parents. The royal house of Windsor, Glucksburg, Oldeburg, Romanov and Hesse.  All his siblings also married German princes. 

Prince Philip, his parents and sisters

From birth, he bears the title of His Royal Highness, Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark as a grandson of King George I of Greece on the male line.

In 1947, he gave up his Greek royal title, his claim to the Greek throne and became Philip Mountbatten to marry the then Princess Elizabeth, heir-presumptive of King George VI.

Why Prince Philip gave up his royal title?

Many might have wondered why Prince Philip gave up his royal title before marrying the future Queen of the United Kingdom. The reason was merely political.

Prince Philip and the future Queen. 1947

It was just after World War II. The animosity of Britain against Germany was still very much alive. Prince Philip had German relatives, his royal parents were considered German, all his sisters married German princes who took part in Hitler's government. 

Though he lived most of his life in Britain, associated himself as thoroughly English, and had served the British royal navy gallantly during the war, it was not enough to please the volatile British subjects who hated everything about Germany.

Prince Philip as a young navy lieutenant

Before the royal engagement was announced in July 1947, Prince Philip's maternal uncle, Lord Mountbatten, one of the most influential figures in the British royal court and the British military, advised him to relinquish his Greek royal title and religion to become a British subject. 

Prince Philip was forced to renounce his royal title, switched religion to Anglican and adopted his maternal grandfather's surname, Mountbatten, which was built under the shadow of British hatred against Germany.

His grandfather also suffered the bitter anti-German sentiments in England during World War I. Prince Louis of Battenberg belonged to the Grand Ducal house of Hesse in Germany. He married his cousin, Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine, the granddaughter of Queen Victoria through her second daughter, Princess Alice.

Princess Victoria's two younger sisters, Empress Alexandra of Russia and Princess Elisabeth were both murdered by the Russian revolutionists together with other members of the Imperial Romanov.

Months after the abdication of Emperor Nicholas II of Russia, King George V of Britain decided to change his royal house name, from Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to Windsor, to distance himself from his German relatives.

This change extended to his German relatives living in England. He made them British nobles and advised his cousins to anglicize their names. 

Thus, Prince Louis of Battenberg became the 1st Marquess of Milford-Haven and anglicized Battenberg to Mountbatten. 

During the outbreak of World War I, Prince Louis was the First Sealord of England. A distinguish royal naval officer, he made navy as his lifetime career, working his way to the top.

Despite his loyalty and following his king cousin's order, Prince Louis still suffered the British people's wrath and he was accused as a German spy.

Humiliated, and to spare the royal family from further criticism, Prince Louis resigned from his post and lived quietly in Kensington Palace for the rest of his life.

His youngest son, and also his namesake, Lord Louis Mountbatten, would strike revenge later by making sure he would rise above anyone else in British military service.

Prince Philip's uncle, Lord Mountbatten, 1st Earl of Burma

Lord Mountbatten became a decorated war hero, a supreme commander of the allied forces during World War II, and became viceroy of India.

He also became the father-figure of the young Prince Philip, steering his nephew to serve in the royal navy to continue their family's naval career legacy.

After the change of Prince Philip's name, he was known as Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, R.N (royal navy). He was created Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich on the eve of his wedding to the heir-presumptive with the courtesy style of His Royal Highness.

In 1957, he was made Prince of the United Kingdom by the Queen.

Lord Mountbatten and Prince Charles
Lord Mountbatten and Prince Philip

Lord Mountbatten continued this father-figure obligation to Prince Charles. The Prince of Wales's called him his dearest grandpapa. In 1979, Lord Mountbatten was killed by an IRA bomb while fishing with his family in the Irish sea.

Prince Philip's titles and honors
  • From birth (June 10, 1921) to February 1947: His Royal Highness, Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark
  • February 28, 1947 -  November 19, 1947: Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten
  • November 20, 1947 - February 22, 1957: His Royal Highness, Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, the Duke of Edinburgh
  • February 22, 1957 - present: His Royal Highness, The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
  • November 19, 1947 to present: Royal Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter
  • November 4, 1951 to present: Member of the Queen's Privy Council
  • May 22, 1953 to present: Grand Master and Principal Knight of the Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.
  • Since 2017: Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order
The Queen and Prince Philip during the Garter parade

As a British royal naval officer, Prince Philip reached the highest rank in the navy as Admiral of the Fleet. In 2011, he was appointed by the Queen as Lord High Admiral.

He commanded a royal navy ship, HMS Magpie, before the was forced to abandon his naval career to become a full time prince consort of the Queen in 1953.

Prince Philip in his military uniform

Prince Philip was on active military duty during World War II. Together with his second son, Prince Andrew, the Duke of York who served as a war pilot during the Falkland wars, and his grandson, Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex. who served as a tank commander in Afghanistan, the only British princes in modern times that served directly on the battlefield and fought under enemy's fire.

Prince Philip's distinguished royal pedigree
To date, no other British royals married someone from the European royalty. Prince Philip is the last true-blooded royal to marry into the British royal family.

His parents were Princess Alice of Battenberg and Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark. The couple separated when Philip was 10 years old. Princess Alice was institutionalized in Switzerland while Prince Andrew lived with his mistress in Monaco until his death.

The young family of Prince Philip and the Queen

His maternal grandparents were Prince Louis of Battenberg (created Louis Mountbatten, 1st Marquess of Milford-Haven) and Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine. His paternal grandparents were King George I of Greece and Queen Olga (born Grand Duchess Olga Konstantinovna of Russia).

His mother was a great granddaughter of Queen Victoria while his paternal grandmother, Queen Olga, was a granddaughter of Emperor Nicholas I of Russia.

Prince Philip's maternal aunt, Queen Louise, was the second wife King Gustaf Adolf VI of Sweden, the grandfather of the current Swedish monarch, King Carl XVI Gustav.

Prince Philip's closest cousins were King Michael I of Romania, Queen Maria and Queen Alexandra of Yugoslavia and King Paul of Greece. During his youth, he was all over Europe visiting his royal relatives. He affectionately called Queen Marie of Romania as "Aunt Messie".

All his sisters married German princes and all descendants of King George III: Princess Margarita to Prince Gottfried of Hohenloe-Langeburg, whose mother Princess Alexandra, was also a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Princess Theodora to their second cousin, Prince Berthold of Baden.

Princess Cecille to their second cousin, Prince Georg Donatus. the Hereditary Grand Duke of Hesse. They died in a plane crash accident with their two sons when Prince Philip was only 16 years old. 

Prince Philip's fourth older sister, Princess Sophie, married twice, first to Prince Christoph of Hesse, another great grandson of Queen Victoria who died in a plane crash during the war. Secondly to another third cousin, Prince George William of Hanover.

Prince Philip and his older sister, Princess Sophie of Greece and Denmark

Today, he and his first cousin, Prince Michael of Greece and Denmark, are the only living grandchildren of King George I of Greece. Prince Philip is also the oldest living great-great grandchild of Queen Victoria of Britain and Emperor Nicholas I of Russia. And the oldest living great grandchild of King Christian IX of Denmark.

Through this blood line, Prince Philip is more royal than the Queen.

Leaving Greece behind

Prince Philip was born on June 10, 1921 at the royal palace in Mon Repos, a beautiful Greek island near Crete. It was formerly the summer residence of the Greek royal family.

The Mon Repos palace was inherited by Prince Andrew from his father, King George I. However, in 1922 when Prince Philip was a year old, a tragedy befell in the royal family.

Prince Andrew, a commander in the Greek royal army, was accused of treason for leaving his post under enemy's fire during the Greco-Turkish war where Greece suffered heavy losses. 

He was sentenced to die by firing squad. His wife, Princess Alice, went to Britain to ask for help from their influential relatives to save her husband. 

King George V of Britain, a first cousin of Prince Andrew, and a first cousin once removed of Princess Alice through Queen Victoria, determined never to repeat his failure of not saving their other cousin, Emperor Nicholas II of Russia, decided to dispatch a British war ship to Greece to save Prince Andrew. 

The 18-month-old Prince Philip was reportedly secured in an orange box as the family boarded the British warship. They lived for a time in England then settled in France outside Paris.

Prince Philip was taken to England when the marriage of his parents fell apart. But he had visited Greece numerous times to see his closest cousin, Princess Alexandra, and other royal relatives still living in Greece.

After emerging from a psychiatric facility, Princess Alice entered a religious order and devoted her time helping the poor in Greece. In 1967, when King Constantine II was forced to leave Greece by a military junta, Prince Philip took his mother to England where she lived with them in Buckingham Palace until her death.

The Royal Marriages Act of 1772

In Britain, The Royal Marriages Act of 1772 was established to protect the British throne from unwanted marriages between royals and commoners that may stain the prestige of the royal house.

The Act required all descendants of King George II to seek permission from the reigning British monarch when marrying.

Since this Act was established, until the early 20th century, no British monarch ever granted an approval  of the marriage between a blood royal and non-aristocratic commoner.

As monarchs never approved a marriage of a royal whose partner is a commoner, royal marriages were confined within the mystical world of royalty.

The consequences

Those who defied this law suffered terrible consequences. Their marriages  were not legally recognized in Britain and their wives and children were not considered members of the British royal family. Their descendants were barred from succeeding the throne.

Two direct descendants of King George III paid a high price for defying this Act. His sixth son, Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex, and his grandson, Prince George, Duke of Cambridge, son of his seventh son, Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge.

The Duke of Sussex married Lady Augusta Murray, though born into the British nobility as a daughter of an Earl, it was not enough to merit an approval from the king. She still considered not a suitable wife for a prince of the blood royal.

Lady Augusta was not given a title of Duchess of Sussex and her children with the prince were not granted a title of prince and princess. They were not eligible to inherit the British throne too. The marriage was annulled a year later.

The Duke of Cambridge, Prince George, whose younger sister, Princess Mary Adelaide, was the mother of Queen Mary, grandmother of Queen Elizabeth II, was originally the choice of King William IV as the husband of his niece and successor, Princess Victoria.

Victoria and George were also first cousins through George III. And as a preparation for a royal marriage, the king let his nephew lived in Windsor Castle. 

But William IV died in 1837 before the marriage could take place so the control of Queen Victoria's future marriage transferred to her maternal uncle, Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, widower of her first cousin who would have been Queen, Princess Charlotte of Wales. 

Prince Leopold naturally chose his own nephew, Prince Albert, who was also Victoria's first cousin to be the consort. 

The marriage went ahead in 1839. And Prince George of Cambridge chose to marry a commoner, Sarah Fairbrother, an actress.

Since the bride was a non-aristocratic commoner, and the marriage was in contravention of The Royal Marriages Act of 1772, Queen Victoria did not grant her approval.

Sarah Fairbrother was not recognized as George's wife and did not receive the title, Duchess of Cambridge, her children with the prince were not also granted HRH. They remained commoners.

Just like the children and descendants of Prince Augustus Frederick, Prince George's descendants were also removed from the line of succession.

When they died, the Duke of Cambridge and Duke of Sussex titles became extinct, thus, granted to the present-day princes, William and Harry, who, by a strange twist of fate, married non-aristocratic commoners. 

But rules have change. Even royals knew they needed to loosen the tight wrap on their tradition and abide with the current flow of time. 

Kate and Meghan were not deprived to receive the title following the wedding. And now enjoying the privileges of duchesses, which in the previous decades considered unthinkable.

King Edward VIII Abdication

The last known case in Britain where an inappropriate choice of a spouse had cost the king his throne was that of King Edward VIII.

Within months of inheriting the throne from his deceased father, the king expressed his unbending interest to marry Wallis Simpson.

What made this choice inconceivable in the eyes of the royal family and commonwealth ministers was that Wallis Simpson was everything a royal wife shouldn't be.

She was divorce once and on the brink of divorcing her second husband. And worst, a non-aristocratic commoner. Something that was never heard for a wife of a blood royal who would be king. 

Though Edward VIII was the reigning British monarch and could marry whoever he wanted as a wife, he would be facing the wrath of his subjects, his family, and the parliament, a situation that might result to a constitutional crisis.

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor

Not wanting anything that would push Britain into uncertainty and chaos, he voluntarily abdicated to be with the woman he loved.

As a consequence, he was ostracized from the British royal court forever, forced to give up his inheritance and lived in exile in France with his lover.

He married Wallis Simpson in 1937 without the presence of his direct family. And without seeking permission from the British monarch, George VI, his younger brother.

As an agreement to the marriage without a British monarch approval, Edward VIII voluntarily gave up his inheritance and the succession rights to the throne of his future descendants and agreed to live outside Britain.

He was created Duke of Windsor, but his wife was not accorded with the courtesy style of HRH. A circumstance considered controversial up to these days. 

Women marrying into the royal family automatically assumed their husband's female titles counterpart with the style of HRH. But not for Wallis.

She was Duchess of Windsor but not HRH. For Britain it was the punishnen she deserved for creating an acrimonious crisis in 1936.

Opening palace doors to commoners 

The Royal Marriages Act of 1772 was relaxed by the time the current Queen ascended the British throne in 1952.

Acknowledging the need to modernize the monarchy, the Queen finally approved a marriage between commoners and royals, granting even the future monarch (Prince William) to take a commoner spouse with no aristocracy pedigree. Something that was never heard in British history. 

The present-day European royal court

By the time the 20th century arrived, the monarchy realized they needed to go with the call of times to survive in the next centuries.

Royals were given a freedom to choose who they want to take as a spouse. This liberation allowed them to marry commoners, breaking the links of royal descent in the recent royal family trees.

In Britain, the last European princess to marry into the House of Windsor was Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark in 1934, to Prince George, Duke of Kent.

Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh 

The last European prince to marry into the House of Windsor is Marina's first cousin, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, in 1947, to now Queen Elizabeth II.

Prince Philip and Princess Elizabeth, the last marriage between royal bloods in the British monarchy 

Both fathers of Princess Marina and Prince Philip were sons of King George I of Greece, whose siblings included Queen Alexandra, wife of King Edward VII of Britain, Empress Marie, wife of Tsar Alexander III of Russia, King Christian X of Denmark and Princess Thyra, wife of Ernst Augustus, Hereditary King of Hanover, great grandson of King George III.

The Last European Royal Consorts 

Before the abdication of King Juan Carlos of Spain in 2014 (and following the death of Queen Ingrid of Denmark, Grand Duchess Josephine of Luxembourg, and the abolition of  the Greek monarchy) Europe has only two reigning monarchs in recent times whose spouses were born royals.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh

Prince Philip and his cousin's daughter, Queen Sofia.

Queen Sofia of Spain

The wife of King Juan Carlos, Queen Sofia, was born Princess Sophia of Greece and Denmark, daughter of King Paul I of Greece and Queen Federica (Princess Federica of Hanover).

Queen Sofia, formerly Princess Sophia of Greece and Denmark

King Paul I of Greece was Prince Philip's first cousin through King George I of Greece, making Queen Sofia second cousin of Prince Charles.

She has two siblings, Constantine II, the ex-king of Greece, and Princess Irene, who did not marry and chose to live with her in Spain.

Queen Sofia became a Queen Consort in 1975 when Juan Carlos ascended the Spanish throne on the death of Spanish dictator, Francisco Franco. 

In 2014, the Spanish king abdicated in favor of their only son, now King Felipe VI. Queen Sofia however, is still visible in many public engagement representing the Spanish monarchy.

Her brother, however, has a different story to tell. Since the abolition of the Greek monarchy, he lived a commoner life but continue to attend royal functions. 

Constantine II has a wife who was born royal. Princess Anne-Marie of Denmark, youngest child of King Frederick IX of Denmark and Queen Ingrid, born a princess of Sweden and a great granddaughter of Queen Victoria.

She became the wife of her third cousin, twice over, King Constantine II of Greece, six months after he ascended the Greek throne on the death of his father, King Paul I.

Constantine II, ex-King of Greece

In December 1967 the king and queen and their children fled Greece to Italy amidst military takeover. They lived their until 1973 when Greece declared republic.

Following the abolition of the Greek monarchy, King Constantine II and Queen Anne-Marie moved to England where they started a consulting firm.

Since 2017, they left England and went to live back in Greece and established a restaurant business with their second son, Prince Nicolaus.

The aristocratic consorts

King Albert II of Belgium being the closest to that royal consorts circle. His wife is Queen Paola, born Donna Paola di Calabria, daughter of Prince Ruffo di Calabria, 6th Duke of Guardia Lombarda, a member of Italian aristocracy. 

Queen Paola

Prince Hans Adam II of the principality of Liechtenstein has an aristocratic wife, Countess Marie Kinsky von Wchinitz und Tettau, an old noble family in Czech republic.

Princess Marie of Liechtenstein

His son and heir, Prince Alois, married into a non-reigning royal family, Duchess Sophie of Bavaria, from the royal house of Wittelsbach, the ruling family of the now defunct Kingdom of Bavaria.

Princess Sophie of Liechtenstein 

King Philippe of the Belgians, son of King Albert II, also married someone from the Belgian nobility. Queen Mathilde. She was born Mathilde d'Udekem d'Acoz, whose grandfather and uncle were Belgian barons.

Queen Mathilde of the Belgians

Upon Mathilde's marriage to then Duke of Brabant, King Albert II elevated her father into the dignity of a Belgian count, which has an equivalent nobility rank to a British "Earl" in the peerage of the United Kingdom.

Queen Mathilde's mother, Countess Anna Maria Komorowska, was born a true-blooded countess whose mother was a Polish Princess, Her Serene Highness, Princess Zofia Sapieha.

Prince  Guillaume, the Hereditary Grand Duke of Luxembourg, is the last European heir to marry an aristocrat.

His wife, Princess Stephanie was born Countess Stephanie de Lannoy from the noble family in Belgium.

Princess Stephanie

Other than them, no other European crown heads nor their heirs in the present time married into the royalty and nobility ranks.

Diana, Princess of Wales 

Prince Charles married into the aristocracy when he wed Lady Diana Spencer, a daughter of a British Earl, in 1981 but they divorced in 1996.

Prince Charles's son and heir, Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, is the first future British monarch to ever marry a non-aristocratic commoner. Previously, this was unthinkable and would invalidate his position as British heir.

For years, his relationship to Kate Middleton was fiercely debated in public and many royalists, including members of the British royal family, doubted Middleton's suitability as a future Queen. It took years before the relationship was accepted in the royal circle.

Kate Middleton was not formally received in the presence of the Queen until her engagement to Prince William in 2010. 

The Last Link to the Blue-blooded Age of Europe

Prince Philip is the last generation of that blue-blooded age of the mystical Europe. His blood flows directly from the distinguished royal houses in the continent.

Prince Philip has an illustrious royal pedigree 
Prince Charles with his parents, the Queen and Prince Philip
Prince Philip and youngest son, Prince Edward

Prince Philip's Ancestry

King George I of Greece
Paternal grandfather 
Queen Olga of Greece 
Paternal grandmother  
Prince Louis of Battenberg
Maternal grandfather  
Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine, 
Maternal grandmother where Prince Philip grew up with

Russian Imperial Relatives

Many of his imperial relatives in Russia were unfairly murdered during the Russian revolution and Prince Philip has been known to have harbored hatred against the Russians for many years.

Maternal great aunts, Empress Alexandra and Grand Duchess Elisabeth (younger sisters of his maternal grandmother, Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine). Tsar Nicholas II was his father's first cousin. Both murdered in 1918 together with other great uncles: Prince John, Prince Igor and Prince Konstantin.

Other Prince Philip's paternal uncle and great uncles: Grand Duke Pavel (husband of his paternal aunt, Princess Alexandra), Grand Duke Dmitry (brother of his grandmother, Queen Olga), Grand Duke Georgy (also husband of his paternal aunt, Princess Maria) and  Grand Duke Nikolai (both sons of Grand Duke Michael Nikolaevich) were also executed by firing squad for a crime they never committed only that they were relatives of Tsar Nicholas II.

A terrible fate that befell on the Romanovs during the Russian civil war.

Princess Alice, 2nd daughter of Queen Victoria, Prince Philip's maternal great grandmother 
Prince Philip's parents: 
Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and Princess Alice of Battenberg 

The last royal marriage in the real sense of the word

Since the 20th century, marriages between fellow royals were no longer put into practice, royals began looking for a spouse beyond palace walls and unto the doors of commoners, making the royal court just an ordinary court, often marred by scandals.

The fact that most royals have controversial choices of spouses, makes the court even less than prestigious in today's time. The glorious days of Europe's blue-blooded age are nothing but memories that can only read in history books.

With the abdication of King Juan Carlos of Spain in 2014, and the abolition of the Greek monarchy in 1973, the only royal marriage, in the real sense of the word, of a reigning European monarch is Queen Elizabeth II's marriage.
Queen Elizabeth II and her consort, Prince Philip
The Queen and Prince Philip in June 2020

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Prince Philip's royal family tree

1. Royal House of Glucksburg from Christian IX of Denmark

2. Royal House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha/Windsor from Queen Victoria of UK

3. Imperial House of Romanovs from Emperor Nicholas I of Russia

Here's how The Queen and Prince Philip related

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