Why Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark Abandoned His Only Son, Prince Philip

Prince Philip (left) and his father, Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark

We all know Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, as the stalwart husband of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II of Britain. He has been the longest-living consort in British history and the oldest living descendant of Queen Victoria of Britain.

But we  know very little about his parents, Princess Alice of Battenberg and Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark. And why his father abandoned him.

Here, let us know a bit about Prince Andrew, the circumstances of the breakdown of his marriage and why he left his son at the care of his in-laws in England.

Where's Prince Andrew?

Prince Andrew was born in a royal palace as a Greek and Danish prince but died in a hotel in Monaco like a commoner. Unlike reports that he was impoverished at the time of his death, he was not, in fact he lived in an extravagant lifestyle of gambling and champagne in the glamorous Monte Carlo.

There was at least one disappointment. 

He abandoned his wife and only son for a glittery life in Southern France. He knew little about the growing up years of Prince Philip and probably did not know that his son graduated as the best cadet of his class at Dartmouth Royal Naval School.

As a prince who treasured his life in the military, Prince Andrew would have been very proud of his son's accomplishment, much more when the latter entered the navy and joined the combat mission during Word War II, but circumstances drew them farther and farther from each other. 

Royal but not rich

Prince Andrew descended from the two prominent royal and imperial houses in Europe, the Glucksburg and the Romanovs. But due to exile, he lived in France almost penniless. He was royal but not rich.

In 1930, he thoroughly left his family and moved to Southern France to live with his rich mistress. There, he lived a lavish lifestyle and became addicted to gambling and drinking. While his wife suffered a nervous breakdown and was institutionalized in Switzerland. 

His only son, Prince Philip, who was only  nine years old at that time, was brought to England to be cared by his wife's mother, Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine, known also as the Marchioness of Milford-Haven, at Kensington Palace. 

Prince Philip and his parents, Princess Alice and Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark

Princess Victoria was the eldest child of Princess Alice, second daughter of Queen Victoria, and was born in Windsor Castle. She married Prince Louis of Battenberg who became Louis Mountbatten, 1st Marquess of Milford-Haven in 1917 due to bitter anti-German sentiments in England.

They lived at a grace-and-favor apartment in Kensington Palace and Prince Louis died in 1921 when Prince Philip was only three months old.

Following the death of Princess Alice's brother, George Mountbatten, 2nd Marquess of Milford-Haven, Prince Philip's next guardian was Alice's youngest brother, Lord Louis Mountbatten.

Lord Mountbatten and his nephew, Prince Philip

Prince Philip's education was also financed by various royal relatives, most notably, the Crown Princess of Sweden, Louise, his maternal aunt, the second wife of the future King Gustav Adolf VI of Sweden. 

He grew up visiting royal cousins in the continent, Princess Alexandra of Greece and Denmark in Greece, Crown Prince Michael in Romania, whose mother, Princess Helena of Greece and Denmark was his first cousin.

But he had no contact with his father and saw very little of his mother and sisters. Prince Philip had to fend himself in England with the support of his royal relatives.

What happened to Prince Andrew?

Get to know Prince Andrew

Known to his friends in Greece as Andreas, Prince Philip's father was born His Royal Highness, Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, on January 20, 1882, at Tatoi Palace in Greece.

Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark

He was the fourth son and seventh child of King George I of Greece and Grand Duchess Olga Constantinovna, granddaughter of Emperor Nicholas I of Russia.

At the time of his birth, he was fourth in line of succession to the Greek throne behind his three older brothers, Prince Constantine, Prince George, and Prince Nicholas (the father of Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent).

Prince Andrew's parents, Queen Olga and King George I of Greece

King George I of Greece was the younger son of King Christian IX of Denmark and Queen Louise. He was the brother of Queen Alexandra, wife of King Edward VII of Britain, Empress Marie, wife of Emperor Alexander III of Russia. King Frederick VIII of Denmark and Princess Tyra who married a great grandson of King George III, The Hereditary Duke of Brunswick, Ernest Augustus II.

At an early age during the reign of his father, Prince Andrew began attending military school in Greece and military trainings. He was particularly noted with his quickness and intelligence. And despite his near-sightedness, he became an officer in the Greek army.

By most account, Prince Andrew was regarded as the most "Greek" among his royal siblings. Despite being fluent in German, English, Danish, French and Russian, he would speak only Greek to his parents.

Marriage and Exile

In 1902, Prince Andrew, together with other royal relatives in Europe, traveled to England to attend the coronation of his uncle, King Edward VII, and his aunt, Queen Alexandra. During this occasion, he was awarded with the Honorary Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order.

It was there that he got acquainted with Princess Alice of Battenberg, Edward VII's great niece, and the eldest child of Prince Louis of Battenberg and Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine.

Prince Andrew and Princess Alice during the early part of their marriage

Princess Alice was especially close to Queen Victoria, who witnessed her birth at the Tapestry room at Windsor Castle. And at 17, grew up into one of the most beautiful princesses in Europe. But she had one disability, she was deaf.

Her disability did not discourage Prince Andrew from pursuing her. He was smitten. And on the following year, 1903, they were married in a civil ceremony in Darmstadt, Germany followed by religious ceremonies in Lutheran and Greek Orthodox.

Their first child, Princess Margarita, was born in 1905, followed by another daughter, Princess Theodora, in 1906. The royal couple would not have another child until 1911 when third daughter, Princess Cecille, was born.

Political turmoil in Greece

Prince Andrew devoted his life to a military career but Greece was embroiled in political turmoil. And the Greek royals had to come in and out of the country due to force exile.

In 1909, a conflict erupted. The Athens government refused to support the Cretan parliament which called for the union of Crete and the mainland Greece. 

This unrest led to a coup d'etat, which created more tension in the country. This prompted Prince Andrew to resign from the army.

However, in 1912, the Balkan wars were erupted, and Prince Andrew was reinstated to place in command of the field hospital where he rose to a rank of a lieutenant colonel.

With the continued political unrest and fueled by the unstable condition of the war, his father, King George I, was assassinated in March 1913.

Prince Andrew's older brother succeeded the throne as King Constantine I. His wife was Princess Sophia of Prussia, daughter of Queen Victoria's eldest child, Princess Vicky, and Emperor Frederick III of Germany.  

Royal residence in Mon Repos, Corfu, where Prince Philip was born in 1921

Following his father's death, Prince Andrew inherited the royal summer palace in the island of Corfu, Mon Repos, where his two younger children, Princess Sophie and Prince Philip were born in 1914 and 1921 respectively.

Prince Andrew then served as his brother's commander in the Army. But during World War I, King Constantine I refused to take side on either the Central powers and the Allies, in part because the leader of the Central powers was Germany whose emperor, Wilhelm II, was his brother-in-law. 

Prince Andrew (standing left) with his older brothers, Prince Nicholas (right) and King Constantine I (seated)

This neutral policy of the king infuriated the Greek government which supported the Allies. By June 1917, his policy became unpopular in Greece and, through the pressure of the Allies, King Constantine I abdicated the throne in favor of his second son, Alexander I.

Constantine and his family, including his heir-apparent, who would later reign as King George II, were forced to live in exile in Switzerland. Prince Andrew and his family joined his brother in exile.

King Alexander I would create a scandalous affair later when he married Aspasia Manos, a childhood friend and non-aristocratic commoner, who, by royal standard, was considered unsuitable. Nonetheless, the king married her in 1919. 

Due to her commoner background, Aspasia was not crowned as Queen Consort and was only given the title, Princess consort. 

King Alexander I's reign was only short-lived, in October 1920 following complications from a monkey bite, he died at the age of just 27. 

At the time of his death, Princess Aspasia was four months pregnant with their only child, Princess Alexandra, born in March 1921. She would become one of Prince Philip's closest cousins in later life. 

Upon the death of King Alexander I, a general election was held and the monarchy was restored. King Constantine I was reinstated to the throne. 

Prince Andrew was also reinstated in the Greek army and was promoted to Major-general. When the Greek royal family went back to live in Greece, Princess Alice was pregnant with the couple's only son, whom they named Philip, and was born on June 10, 1921 at the royal palace in Mon Repos.

Death by Firing Squad

During the Battle of Sakarya in the ongoing Greco-Turkish war (1919-1922), Prince Andrew took command of the 11 Army Corps but he had a disagreement with his superior officers whom he viewed as incompetent.

Their most heated argument blew up when his superiors ordered him and his troops to attack the Turkish positions. Prince Andrew considered the order an act of "ill-concealed panic".

His troops lacked sufficient ammunition and food and going into war against Turks would mean a deliberate suicide. Prince Andrew refused to put his men in imminent danger, instead, he followed his own command plan.

This action angered his commanding general, Anastasios Papoulas, and Prince Andrew's troops were forced to retreat. He was asked to take a leave for two months.

When he resumed, the prince was transferred to the Supreme Army Council and  in March 1922 was appointed as commander of the V Army Corps in Epirus and Ionian Islands.

In August 1922 Greece was defeated by Turkey which led to the September 1922 Revolution. Among arrested were Prince Andrew and other military officers. 

He was court-martialed, put into trial, and was found guilty of disobeying order from his superiors during the Battle of Sakarya in 1921. The verdict was death by firing squad with other military officers and Greek politicians. 

While Prince Andrew was in prison, his wife, Princess Alice appealed for help from their powerful British relatives and sought the support of his cousin and her uncle, King George V. 

Save by King George V

King George V, who was still living in guilt over his refusal to grant asylum to their other cousin, Emperor Nicholas II of Russia and family which led to their deaths in the mountain of Ekaterinburg in Russia, determined never to repeat the same mistake.

In 1918, most of Prince Andrew's Romanov imperial cousins and uncles, and Princess Alice's two maternal aunts, Empress Alexandra and Princess Elisabeth, were massacred by the Russian revolutionists.

King George V dispatched a British warship, HMS Calypso, to Greece to forcibly take Prince Andrew and his family out of the country. 

Prince Andrew secured his youngest child and only son, Prince Philip, in an orange crate for safety as they boarded the British battleship out of Greece.

The family settled in Saint-Cloud outside Paris in France where they lived in a house owned by one of Prince Andrew's rich sisters-in-law, Princess Marie Bonaparte.

Prince Andrew, Princess Alice and their five children were stripped of their Greek nationality and their passports were revoked, so they traveled under Danish diplomatic passports because Prince Andrew was also a Danish prince.

The breakdown of royal marriage

While living in France, Prince Andrew continued to defend his action during the Battle of Sakarya and even published a book in 1930, "The Greek Army in Asia Minor in 1921". 

Prince Andrew and Princess Alice

With his inheritance and properties in Greece confiscated by the Greek government, and without a job to support his family in France, Prince Andrew was forced to accept financial aid from his royal relatives.

Six years into exile in France and stripped of his Greek citizenship and honor and forced to early retirement from the military career he most loved, Prince Andrew sank info self-pity and found himself a man without purpose.

He and his family would spend time apart, either visiting various royal relatives scattered across Europe, or attending social scene in England and Germany or on holiday.

In October 1928, the family gathered at home in Saint-Cloud to celebrate Prince Andrew and Princess Alice's silver wedding anniversary. The occasion was marked with a family photo taken at the beautiful garden of their home. 

Prince Andrew and Princess Alice with their children posed for a photograph at the garden of their home to celebrate their silver wedding anniversary. Prince Philip in sailor's uniform was seven.
The royal siblings arranged themselves based on their chronological age

The silver wedding anniversary was the last time the family was photographed as one entity. By 1929, the marital situation gradually became unstable.

As Prince Andrew was still struggling to recover from a stained self-esteem brought by the loss of his dignity as a prince and military general, his wife became intensely mystical.

Princess Alice, who had been traumatized by a number of tragedy that befell into her family and the sufferings they undergone, resorted to find answers in superstitions.

She would tell friends that she could receive divine messages, could heal with her hands and that she was a saint.

Unable to understand his wife's surprising behavior, Prince Andrew went off for a time and traveled to Southern France for vacation.

But while he was away, Princess Alice's behavior worsened. She would write to her mother in England about the vision she saw. Alarmed, Prince Andrew returned and summoned Princess Alice's gynecologist who diagnosed her of psychosis.

Princess Marie Bonaparte, who was a friend to Austrian psychoanalyst, Sigmund Freud, arranged for her sister-in-law to see one of Freud's co-workers and psychoanalyst, Dr. Ernst Simmel who diagnosed Alice as paranoid schizophrenic. 

She was treated by Freud's experimental treatment, but Princess Alice's condition was not improved. In 1930, she was brought to a mental facility in Switzerland and would not see her family again until five years later.

This event saw the collapse of the couple's marriage. Prince Andrew abandoned his home in Saint-Cloud, sent his son to England to be cared by his mother-in-law, and his daughters to Germany to marry German princes.

Princess Alice and Prince Philip. October 1928

He then moved to Southern France to get rid of the frustrations he felt over the collapse of his marriage and spent days gambling and drinking. Not long after, he moved to an apartment in Nice and spent lavished nights aboard a yacht owned by his rich mistress.

Prince Andrew had not visited Princess Alice in Switzerland nor connected with his son in England. He just disappeared from their lives with no plan of ever reuniting with them again. His four daughters were already married in Germany and had comfortable lives, thus, less affected with the family turmoil.

Prince Philip's fate

Prince Philip, who as a child, learned sign language to communicate with his deaf mother, grew up in England but would occasionally visit his sisters in Germany. He had not seen his parents since he left France in 1930.

He would also visit other royal relatives in the continent including close cousins, Crown Prince Michael of Romania and Princess Alexandra of Greece and Denmark, and his maternal aunt, the Crown Princess of Sweden, who would become Queen Louise.

Prince Philip as a young navy officer

He attended Cheams, a private boarding school in England attended by rich children of aristocrats, then moved to Baden, Germany and enrolled in a school ran by his brother-in-law, Prince Berthold.

When one of his professors moved to England to establish Gordonstoun, he moved back to Britain and studied at Gordonstoun where he became active in sports.

The young boy was determined to leave behind the bitter memories of the breakdown of his parents' marriage and the absence of both parental care.

He was under the guidance of his uncle, Lord Mountbatten, known in the royal family as Uncle Dickie, one of the most powerful men in the British royal court. 

Lord Mountbatten rose to a rank of Admiral in the royal navy and during World War II, was the Supreme Commander of the Allied forces posted in Southeast Asia.

It was Lord Mountbatten who guided Prince Philip's upbringing and education and urged him to enter the Royal Navy instead of the Royal Air force. 

And by most account, the one who engineered the marriage between his nephew and the future Queen of the United Kingdom.

Prince Andrew's last years

In 1936, the Greek government overturned his sentence of exile and his properties and annuities were restored. Prince Andrew traveled back to Greece to claim his inheritance. 

But he was unable to take back his royal palace in Mon Repos. It was returned to the monarchy as a crown property, thus, was given to his nephew, King George II. 

Prince Andrew went back to Monte Carlo and lived in an extravagant lifestyle with his mistress. However, in 1937, the first tragedy befell to his direct family. 

His third daughter, Princess Cecille, son-in-law, the Hereditary Grand Duke of Hesse, Prince Georg Donatus, and two grandchildren, were killed in a helicopter crash in Belgium on their way to England to attend the wedding of Georg Donatus's younger brother, Prince Louis.

For the first time in six years, he saw his wife, daughters and son again in Darmstadt, Germany, during the funeral. Prince Philip was then 16 years old.

The brief meeting was uneventful. And the family reunion was short-lived. Soon, they went on separate ways. Prince Philip went back to England, Princess Alice went back to Greece and Prince Andrew to his mistress.

Whether Prince Andrew still had plans to reconnect with his wife and son after 1937, it was unclear, but if there was any, all hopes were shattered when World War II erupted in 1939.

Second World War

Forced to live in early retirement as a military general, Prince Andrew watched the world sunk into another bloody war. This war would torn his family apart even more.  

While he was trapped in France, his wife was in Athens doing charitable works with the Sisterhood of Martha and Mary and hid a Jewish family in her apartment. 

Their sons-in-law where Nazi sympathizers who worked on Hitler's Third Reich. Prince Christoph of Hesse, first husband of Princess Sophie, was a war helicopter pilot, Prince Berthold of Baden, husband of Princess Theodora, and Prince Gottfred of Hohenloe-Langeburg, husband of Princess Margarita, were fighting on the Eastern front.

While their only son, Prince Philip, was fighting on the side of the British forces, joining Allies in war with Germany.

Despite being in England since he was 10 years old and lived all his life in the country, Prince Philip remained a Greek and Danish prince and in line of succession to both thrones.

However, his Uncle Dickie arranged for him to join the British royal navy as a young midshipman at the outbreak of World War II.  

During the duration of the war, Prince Philip served in different battleships in both Mediterranean and the Pacific Fleets where he rose to a rank of a lieutenant. And around this time, he began corresponding to the young Princess Elizabeth.

In 1943, Prince Christoph died when his helicopter crashed in the mountain in Italy. 


Prince Andrew remained in Southern France during the duration of the war, unable to visit Greece or England and was not in contact with any of his children including his only son. By then, he was suffering from poor health condition.

On December 3, 1944, just as the war was closing, his health rapidly deteriorated and died due to heart failure at a hotel in Monte Carlo, Monaco, in the arms of his mistress.

He was first buried at a Russian Orthodox church in Nice, France but later his remains were taken by a Greek cruiser and buried at Tatoi Palace in Greece.

It was not known if Prince Philip attended his father's burial but it was reported that he went to Monaco accompanied by his private secretary, Michael Parker, to collect his father's belongings and inheritance.

Among the things he collected were Prince Andrew's signet ring as a Greek royal prince, a suitcase of clothing and an ivory shaving brush. 

His father left him seven-tenths of his estate. Prince Andrew however, left behind a debt of £17,500 due to his extravagant lifestyle in Monaco. 

The royal wedding in 1947

Prince Philip wed Princess Elizabeth in November 1947 but his three living sisters were not invited because of their husbands' ties to Nazi. 

However, their mother attended the royal wedding and spent the remaining years of her life at Buckingham Palace where she died in 1969.


None was heard about Prince Philip's opinion or reaction towards his father. He had not spoken about him in public. Whether he harbored ill-feelings for abandoning him while still a child, no one knew.

However, Prince Philip did honor his father's memory.

Prince Philip and his second son, Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, named after his father, Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark

He had worn Prince Andrew's signet ring for the most part of his life, used his ivory shaving brush, restyled the clothing he collected in Monaco and wore some of the pairs, and named his second son, Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, in honor of his father.

No Surname

Like most royals, Prince Philip carried no surname. His father descended from the royal house of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg, but it's a dynastic name, not a surname. In school and royal navy, he was simply known as Philip of Greece.

But he needed to appear more like a British subject than a foreign prince to be more acceptable in the British establishment to marry its future Queen.

This, to avoid further criticism of his royal connections to Germany. It was still following the war and the British were critical of those who have German ties.

His Uncle Dickie worked on his cause. He advised him to give up his royal title and claims to the Greek and Danish thrones, and changed name.

What remained his last connection to his biological father, the royal house name, thoroughly disappeared in February 1947, when he gave up his Greek royal title and succession rights and adopted his maternal grandfather surname, Mountbatten.

In July 1947, his official engagement to Princess Elizabeth was announced and he went by a name Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten. 

In 1960, the Queen announced that their descendants who do not carry the style of prince and princess, will take the coined surname Mountbatten-Windsor.

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