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Prince Philip: An Extraordinary Life of Europe's Last Royal Prince Consort

In this extraordinary moment of our time, the royal House of Windsor, which is currently facing serious challenges, is grieving over the loss of its patriarch who had been the monarchy's staunchest defender since the Queen ascended the throne in 1952. 

The Royal Family released an official statement on its social media pages: 

"It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty, The Queen has announced the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness, The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh."

HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh
June 10, 1921 - April 9, 2021

In his death ended the glorious age of European monarchy where royal spouses really mean ROYAL. Today, only her niece, Queen Sofia of Spain, bears that distinction. 

We're also deeply saddened with this devastating news because we've been looking forward to see Prince Philip celebrate his centenary birthday this coming June 10, 2021. 

We're extending our heartfelt condolences to Her Majesty and all the members of the House of Windsor for this great loss. Our hearts are also grieving with this loss because we greatly adored the Duke of Edinburgh.

Prince Philip will forever be missed 😔

Prince Philip was the last prince consort in Europe who was born of royal blood. He was short of just two months for his centenary birthday celebration. 

Just last year, palace officials laid down initial plans for Prince Philip's 100th birthday celebration this June. Unfortunately, he did not make it.

Here's our tribute to the extraordinary life of the Duke of Edinburgh, his turbulent childhood, his greatest legacy, and for the man whom the Queen described as "my strength and stay all these years".

Prominent royal lineage

He was more royal than his wife, Queen Elizabeth II.

At the opening of Parliament

Prince Philip was the last European royal prince to marry into the British royal family, and his first cousin, Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark, was the last royal princess to marry into the House of Windsor. Marina was the wife of the Queen's uncle, Prince George, Duke of Kent.

The Duke of Edinburgh descended from Europe's most prominent royal and imperial houses: The House of Glucksburg, the House of Windsor, and the Imperial House of the Romanovs, the last ruling family of the Russian empire.

A grandson of King George I of Greece, great grandson of King Christian IX of Denmark, great-great grandson of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, maternal great nephew of the last Russian empress, Alexandra Feodorovna, nephew of Queen Louise, the wife of King Adolf VI Gustaf of Sweden, closest cousin of King Michael of Romania and Queen Alexandra of Yugoslavia, and a great-great grandson of Emperor Nicholas I of Russia.

Prince Philip had an illustrious royal lineage.

He also came from the family of great naval officers in the British Royal navy. His maternal grandfather, Prince Louis of Battenberg (who was created Louis Mountbatten, 1st Marquess of Milford-Haven in 1917) was the first Sea Lord of England at the outbreak of World War I, and maternal uncle, Lord Mountbatten, Earl of Burma, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces assigned in Southeast Asia during World War II.

His blood relatives scattered around the European royal court, both reigning and defunct. The Greek, Romanian, German, Yugoslavian, Bulgarian, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Spanish, and British royals are all his direct relatives.

All his four older sisters married German princes and into the family of Queen Victoria. The princes of Baden, Hanover, Hesse, Hohenlohe-Langeburg. 

His mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg, and grandmother, Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine, were all born in Windsor Castle.

Before his death, he held the distinction of being Queen Victoria's oldest surviving great-great grandchild, one of the last three remaining great-grandchildren of King Christian IX of Denmark, and the one of the two only living grandchildren of King George I of Greece, the other is Prince Michael of Greece and Denmark, a book author.

Prince Philip's turbulent childhood

However, Prince Philip's life was not easy.

Though born into royalty, he did not live a life of privilege and wealth. He even had no permanent home before marrying the Queen in 1947. His childhood and youth years were marked with a series of family tragedies.

Prince Philip's family in 1928 on the occasion of his parents' wedding anniversary

In 1923, before he turned two, his father, Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, a high-ranking military officer in the Greek army, was condemned to die by firing squad.

Andrew was accused of High Treason for breaking the rules of engagement during the Greek-Turkish war, which saw the defeat of the Greek army.

His first cousin, King George V of Britain, who was still grieving the death of their other first cousin, Emperor Nicholas II of Russia, and most of their imperial Russian relatives massacred by the Bolsheviks, was determined never to repeat the same mistake of refusing to offer help.

The British king then dispatched a British battleship to Greece to save Prince Andrew.

The British royal navy destroyer, Calypso, took Prince Andrew and his family out of Greece for safety. Prince Philip was then 18 months old and was carried by his father in an orange crate.

They lived in France, just outside Paris, in a home leased to them by Prince Andrew's rich sister-in-law, Princess Marie Bonaparte.

Since then they lived under the support of various royal relatives. 

Prince Andrew was forced to leave behind his military career, and raised his family in a modest lifestyle and under a humiliating circumstance. It would become the catalyst of the breakdown of his marriage.

To ensure a bright future for his only son, Prince Andrew, agreed to send the nine-year-old Prince Philip to his mother-in-law in Britain. Philip matriculated in Cheams, a boarding school for sons of wealthy British aristocrats.

Prince Philip's education in later life was financed by his older sisters, maternal aunt, Princess Louise, then the Crown Princess of Sweden, and Lord Mountbatten.

In 1931, Prince Philip's mother, Princess Alice, began suffering a mental illness called schizophrenia. She was institutionalized in Switzerland. 

This circumstance saw the end of Prince Philip's parents' marriage. By 1931, all his sisters would marry German princes and Prince Philip lived entirely in England. 

He would not see his parents again until six years later in 1937 during the funeral of his older sister, Princess Cecil, who died in a plane crash with her husband, Prince George Donatus, and their two sons.

Prince Philip practically grew up separated from his parents and sisters, and considered his maternal grandmother, Princess Victoria, Marchioness of Milford-Haven, and maternal uncle, Lord Mountbatten, as his foster parents (His maternal grandfather, Prince Louis, died in September 1921).

Feeling lost at the young age of 10, Prince Philip found himself no permanent home, and just shuffling residences from various royal relatives. 

But even without a permanent abode, he lived entirely in royal homes: Kensington Palace in London where his grandmother lived, Lynden Manor in Berkshire, home of his uncle, Prince George Mountbatten (who died in 1945), palaces in Germany where his sisters lived.

After his education in England, he was taken by his sister, Princess Theodora, to Germany to be educated at Baden, Schule Schloss Salem, owned by Theodora's husband's family, Prince Berthold.

However, before he turned 16, Prince Philip moved back to England to live permanently with his maternal grandmother at Kensington Palace. He attended Gordonstoun in Scotlandm founded by his teacher in Salem, Kurt Hahn.

After George Mountbatten, 2nd Marquess of Milford-Haven, died in 1937, Lord Louis Mountbatten, took over the responsibility of raising Prince Philip.

These unfortunate family circumstances molded Prince Philip's principles in later life to be drivingly independent, steadfast, carefree at times, and determined.

Future Prince Consort

For the young man who was not raised by his own parents, Prince Philip lived a difficult life. Though born into royalty, it was not a life of privilege and wealth.

Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip in 1947

For the most part of his young life, he frequently switched homes like those of a wandering prince in fairytale books.

One day he was at Kensington Palace, then the next he would find himself wandering around the corridors of castles and palaces in Germany and Romania.

Christmastime and New Year were sometimes spent in Windsor castle and Balmoral castle, under the invitation of his uncle Bertie (King George VI). But despite no wealth and home of his own, Prince Philip lived an aristocratic life.

His closest cousins were King Michael of Romania, Queen Alexandra of Yugoslavia, Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, and David Mountbatten, 3rd Marquess of Milford-Haven.

While at Gordonstoun, he became active in sports, becoming the team captain of Cricket. He was also known to be fascinated with fast cars, which irritated his future mother-in-law, Queen Elizabeth.

Prince Philip wanted to join the Royal Airforce as a fighter pilot, but his uncle, Lord Mountbatten, advised him to join the Royal Navy instead because most British kings took a career in the navy.

Lord Mountbatten was also known to have arranged the first official meeting of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip in 1939 at Dartmouth Royal Naval school. 

As the king and queen, accompanied by their daughters - Princesses Elizabeth, then 13, and Princess Margaret, toured the naval school, Prince Philip served as their tour guide. 

World War II Veteran

In 1939, he completed his cadet training at the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth.

The young Prince Philip

However, searching for his identity, he decided to reconnect with his roots and moved back to Athens to live with his mother, Princess Alice, who by then living a life of charity services and founded a sisterhood to help the downtrodden.

But his first cousin, King George II of Greece, was concerned with his future who thought a life in a country ravaged by political unrest and economic turmoil was inappropriate for him.

He advised the young prince to return to England to pursue his naval career. The Greek king believed England could provide his cousin a brighter future and a distinguished military career.

After only living for a few months in Athens, Prince Philip decided to return to England to continue his naval training in Dartmouth. He finished at the top of his class in the following year.

Lord Mountbatten and his nephew, Prince Philip

At the outbreak of World War II, he was appointed as a young midshipman in the Royal Navy. He spent the first four months aboard the battleship, HMS Ramillies, protecting the convoy of the Australian expeditionary forces in the Indian Ocean.

After gaining a top grade on his naval courses at Portsmouth, Prince Philip was commissioned as a sub-lieutenant and spent most of his life at sea fighting under enemy's fire during the duration of World War II.

For his war service, he was awarded with the Greek War Cross.

In 1942, Prince Philip was promoted to a lieutenant post in the Royal Navy and appointed first lieutenant of a British destroyer, HMS Wallace. At 21, he became one of the youngest first lieutenants of the Royal Navy.

Prince Philip was present in Tokyo Bay when the Japanese surrender instrument was signed, marking the end of World War II in Asia. 

Upon his return to the United Kingdom, he was posted as an instructor of the Petty Officers' School in Wiltshire, HMS Royal Arthur.

During the war where Prince Philip was fighting on the side of Britain, he was at odd with his two brothers-in-law, Prince Christoph of Hesse and Prince Berthold, Margrave of Baden, who were fighting on the side of Germany.

By then he was still not officially a British subject. 

Although as a direct descendant of Princess Sophia of Hanover, he was covered under the Act of Settlement of 1701 (where all non-Catholic royal relatives of Princess Sophia were granted an automatic British citizenship), it needed an official recognition from the British government.

As a royal prince, he did not carry any surname. He was born in the royal house of Glucksburg but it's not a family name. So he came to be known in the Royal Navy as Prince Philip of Greece, and carried an official name, Philip of Greece.

It was best noted also that during the war and when Prince Philip was at sea fighting for the enemies, he was in constant correspondence with his third cousin, Princess Elizabeth.

Marriage and Prince Consort

After the war, Prince Philip and the young heir-presumptive to the British throne began moving towards marriage and grew fonder towards each other.

Despite her parents' advise to consider a possible match with other princes and aristocrats in Europe, Princess Elizabeth had already set her eyes, since she was 13, for a marriage with her blindingly handsome cousin, Prince Philip of Greece.

Royal wedding in November 1947

Princess Elizabeth flatly told her parents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, that she had no other choice for a husband other than Philip of Greece.

The king reluctantly agreed but had to postpone the announcement of his daughter's engagement to Philip, who was also his second cousin through King Christian IX of Denmark, until after their return from a royal tour in South Africa.

In February 1947 Prince Philip gave up his Greek royal title and renounced his place in the line of succession to the Greek throne to become a British subject for his future marriage to Princess Elizabeth.

He adopted his maternal grandfather's surname, Mountbatten (an Anglicized version of Battenberg) and came to be known as Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten.

Prince Philip 

In July 1947, King George VI announced the official engagement of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip. He presented his future bride a diamond engagement ring, which was customized from the dismantled Greek meander tiara of his mother, Princess Alice.

On November 20, 1947, Philip and Elizabeth got married at Westminster Abbey. The event was the last real royal wedding in the House of Windsor, and the last British royal wedding that saw the large gatherings of ROYALS OF EUROPE.

On the eve of the wedding, King George VI, granted Philip the titles - Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich with the courtesy style of His Royal Highness. He also admitted Princess Elizabeth and Philip into the Most Noble Order of the Garter.

Following the wedding, Prince Philip returned to his naval career and was posted in Malta as the first lieutenant of the British destroyer, HMS Chequers.

In July 1950, he was promoted to a lieutenant commander post, taking command of the frigate, HMS Magpie. This was the only British naval ship that Prince Philip commanded as a naval officer before becoming a prince consort.

In 1952, he left his decorated naval career when his wife ascended the British throne as Queen Elizabeth II and assumed the role of prince consort for the rest of his life.

On her coronation day in June 1953, Prince Philip swore to his wife that he would be her "liege man of life and limb for life".

To which he stood true, staying at the Queen's side for the remainder of his life, supporting her in performing royal duties in service to the UK and the Commonwealth. 

He became a devoted prince consort and his wife's strength and rock during the difficult period of her reign. He was also the monarchy's staunchest defender while the royal family was navigating various crisis in the 20th century.

He came at a time the monarchy was facing serious challenges of survival. He became the primary instrument, and the Queen's great influence, of keeping the crown's continuity safe and assured.

Argument on the British Royal House Name

Upon the accession of the Queen in 1952, there was an intense public discussion about which royal house name she would reign and be known for.

As a female sovereign, many had anticipated she would take her husband's name. After all, Queen Victoria, reigned under her husband's German house name, Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (which was abandoned by her grandson, George V, in 1917 and replaced with Windsor).

Prince Philip, the Queen and their four children at Balmoral

The British royal family had long been associated with the House of Windsor since 1917 when the Queen's grandfather, King George V, changed the royal house from the Germanic ducal name, Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

In 1837, when Queen Victoria inherited the British throne from her uncle, King William IV, she was prohibited from reigning under the royal house of Hanover because the state of Hanover maintained a Salic law, barring women from taking the crown.

The House of Windsor

Queen Victoria decided to take her husband's name, Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a ducal house in Germany where her mother, Princess Victoria, Duchess of Kent, also belonged. The British royal family, and most of European royals, directly descended from this royal house name.

When Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne in 1952, speculation on which royal house name she would be known for attracted intense discussions. It was understood that as a female monarch, she would take her husband's name like Queen Victoria.

From 1947 to 1952, the Queen bore the title Duchess of Edinburgh. She was not granted with the title, Princess Royal as tradition dictates because her aunt, Princess Mary, who bore the title, was still alive at that time.

Lord Mountbatten reportedly proposed for the House of Mountbatten, because it was the name Prince Philip took when he renounced his Greek royal title. However, this was contradicted by Prince Philip himself, suggesting his ducal house name instead, the House of Edinburgh. 

This discussion irritated King George V's widow, Queen Mary. She sternly reminded her granddaughter that King George V, had already established the House of Windsor since 1917 and understood whoever sat as monarch after him would continue to reign under the name.

Queen Mary died in 1953 before Queen Elizabeth II's coronation day in June that year. However, Lord Mountbatten brought up the discussion again about the royal house name. The palace courtiers were believed to have advised the Queen to make an official declaration to settle the issue.

The Queen was forced to declare it officially in 1960, before the birth of Prince Andrew, that she will continue to reign under the House of Windsor, prompting Prince Philip to quip, "I am just a bloody amoeba", noting that he is the only man in the country who could not give his surname to his children.

The Queen understood the sentiment of her husband so she resolved the argument by declaring that all their descendants who would not bear the title and dignity of prince and princess would use the surname, Mountbatten-Windsor.

And when under any circumstances their offspring needed to use a family name, they shall take the name Mountbatten-Windsor.

This was agreed by the parliament and the British royal household, even though Prince Philip descended from the royal house of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg-Beck.

The Queen made her husband Prince of the United Kingdom in 1957.

Living an extraordinary life

In extraordinary circumstances, the man who grew up figuratively homeless, separated from his parents and siblings at the very early age, ultimately led an extraordinary life as Britain's longest-serving prince consort, and the Queen's most loyal supporter.

As what BBC News would put it:

"A life intimately connected with the sweeping changes of our turbulent 20th century, a life of fascinating contrast and contradiction, of service and some degree of solitude. A complex, clever, eternally restless man".

Prince Philip became prince consort in a time the world is ushering towards modernity and industrialization, and when the British monarchy is still living under the trappings of the 19th century monarchy.

He helped it modernized, which often met with annoyance and disapproval from the tradition-laden royal courtiers. However, the Queen trusted him massively, especially on family matters.

He became Her Majesty's steadier strength and relied on his opinion on most family matters. Prince Philip was the real face of defense of the British monarchy during its turbulent period of the 1990s when it was hit by unprecedented crisis.

His role as the Queen's consort became prominent when he spearheaded measures how to keep the crown's continuity and survival amidst crisis.

He was the most vocal parent handling the controversies involving their children's scandalous marriages and messy divorces. Ensuring none of it will affect the survival of the throne. 

Prince Philip emerged as the steadier parent during the chaotic marriage crisis of their three children. And even in making most important decisions protecting the prestige of the throne.

The Queen honored him in 1997:

"He is someone who does not take easily to compliments but he has quite simply, been my main strength and stay all these years. And I, his family, and this and many other countries, owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim or we shall ever know".

Great model of royal duty

No other member of the British royal family, apart from the Queen, who truly understood royal duty and how to live with it better than Prince Philip.

with eldest son, Prince Charles

As a royal prince himself, the Duke of Edinburgh understood "performing royal duty" perfectly well. Marrying into the British royal family, he knew he must gave up part of his freedom and full time career to live a life of a working royal.

In 1952, things all came up at once when his father-in-law, King George VI, died in his sleep, and Elizabeth ascended the throne.

Prince Philip knew he had to give up his decorated naval career to become a full-time prince consort. And he did not look back since then.

He also understood that as a spouse of a British sovereign, he needed to be at her side at all cost and must take a backseat to allow his wife to shine.

Prince Philip became the prominent sight on the Queen's entourage during royal tours and public engagement, supporting her in everything she did for the Commonwealth.

He was aware that by marrying into the royal family, he knew he had a greater responsibility to take, and must endure things not quite common for men in this worldly life.

He would walk behind his wife, as what royal protocol dictates. He had given up his job to become her "liege man for life and limb". And privately, he would take charge of the upbringing of their four children.

All of it, had to be taken up by him obediently as the Queen's husband, though at some point, the treatment would hurt his ego. 

As what his former equerry would put it, "Philip was constantly being squashed, snubbed, ticked off, rapped over the knuckles and at some point, royal courtiers considered him difficult to deal with, prickly, arrogant, defensive, sort of an adventurer".

Prince Philip had to deal everything to help the Queen's reign steadier.

At home, he was the busiest man. If not arranging family barbeques at Balmoral or making breakfast, he was at the estates' park and home farm, proposing changes on what he believed could bring good.

He helped developed and managed Sandringham and Balmoral estates of the Queen and designed the modern gardens at Windsor Castle.

He became the first president of World Wildlife Fund, a world's leading conservation organization that aims to raise awareness on wildlife conservation.

His biographer wrote: "He believes he has a great mission to present the monarchy as a dynamic, involved and responsive institution that will address itself to some of the problems of contemporary British society".

However, despite his views towards a modern monarchy, Prince Philip was a conservative in many aspects. He was also an environmentalist even before his eldest son, Prince Charles, took interest in organic farming and sustainable country living.

Prince Philip once warned the "greedy and senseless exploitation of nature".

"For much of his married life, the Duke of Edinburgh was closely involved in the management of the Queen's private estates: Sandringham and Balmoral, as well as Windsor Great and Home Parks.

The Duke worked with Estate workers, farmers, and conservationist to maintain the Estates for future generations, through wildlife conservation and biodiversity initiatives. Over recent years, His Royal Highness received regular updates and took a keen interest in developments on the Estates".

- The Royal Family's Facebook page

His greatest legacy

Prince Philip held many military honorary titles and was a patron to almost 1,000 charities and organizations, however, the Duke of Edinburgh Award, has been acknowledged as his greatest legacy.

The Duke of Edinburgh award is a youth program in the United Kingdom founded by Prince Philip in 1956. Its primary goal is self-improvement among the youth.

It would take up one to four years to complete by the recipient before his or her 25th birthday.

To qualify for the award, the youth must participate in volunteering and community services, must excel in sports and scientific innovations, and must develop practical and social skills.

The Duke of Edinburgh award, which is now under the guidance of Prince Philip's youngest son, Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex, played a crucial role empowering young people to build skills, confidence and resilience and thrive in the communities they belonged.

Throughout the decades, Prince Philip helped raise awareness on the importance of youth in building a better society and programs related to the award had his backing to prosper.

A life of dedicated public service

Prince Philip had dedicated all his life to public service in support of the monarchy. Since giving up his naval career, he had given up also part of his freedom. 

He was all too aware his life as Queen's husband would be dictated by royal protocols from then on. Although at some point he would exert his choices, he knew he needed to abide with royal decorum.

He spent much time performing royal duty, accompanying the Queen on royal tours, both local and abroad. Taking speaking engagement, patronages and gracing public events.

For 65 years he was an active prince consort until his retirement in 2017 at the age of 96. By then, he had done more than 2,000 solo engagements and royal patronages close to 1,000 organizations.

His last public appearance was in July 2020 when he turned over the role as Colonel-in-Chief of The Rifles to his daughter-in-law, the Duchess of Cornwall.

He was last scene in November 2020 with the Queen in one of the living rooms of Windsor Castle, scanning photos, to mark their 73rd wedding anniversary.

The last family event he attended was at the intimate wedding of his granddaughter, Princess Beatrice of York in July 2020 in Windsor.

Prince Philip had a well-lived life.

He died in a time the British monarchy is once again confronted with many challenges and family rift over his grandson's explosive Oprah interview. He left behind a royal house facing unprecedented crisis and a wife's reign he could no longer defend.

At the wedding of Princess Beatrice of York, July 2020

Our deepest condolences to the British royal family especially to the Queen who would be greatly affected with this loss. She became a widow in a time when the whole world is convulsed with grief, sorrow and uncertainty brought by the pandemic. 

Rest in peace Your Royal Highness, your legacy and presence will never be forgotten. Thank you for your devotion to the Queen and to royal duty, allowing us to see a kind of role expected from royalty.

Prince Philip's Full Title:

His Royal Highness, The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth, Baron Greenwich, Royal Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, Extra Knight of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, Member of the Order of Merit, Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order, Grand Master and First and Principal Knight Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, Additional Member of the Order of New Zealand, Extra Companion of the Queen's Service Order, Knight of the Order of Australia, Royal Chief of the Order of Logohu, Extraordinary Companion of the Order of Canada, Extraordinary Commander of the Order of Military Merit, Canadian Forces Decoration, Lord of Her Majesty's Most Honorable Privy Council, Member of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada, Lord High Admiral of the United Kingdom, Lord High Admiral of the United Kingdom.

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Personal information of the Duke of Edinburgh

Birth Title: His Royal Highness, Prince Philippos of Greece and Denmark
Born: June 10, 1921 Mon Repos, Corfu, Greece
Royal House: Glucksburg (birth) Windsor (marriage)
Father: Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark
Mother: Princess Alice of Battenberg
Siblings: Princesses Margarita, Theodora, Cecille, Sophie
Wife: Queen Elizabeth II
marriage: November 20, 1947
Children: Charles, the Prince of Wales, Anne, the Princess Royal, Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex

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