Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

From Citizendium
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This article is developed but not approved.
Main Article
Related Articles  [?]
Bibliography  [?]
External Links  [?]
Citable Version  [?]
Timelines [?]
This editable, developed Main Article is subject to a disclaimer.
Some content on this page may previously have appeared on Wikipedia.
(CC) Photo: Paul Woolrich
Prince Philip at the Catton Hall National Horse Driving Trials, 2006.

Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (10th June 1921 — 9th April 2021) was the husband of Queen Elizabeth II.

Originally a Prince of Greece and Denmark from the Royal House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, Prince Philip renounced these titles shortly before his marriage in 1947 to the Princess Elizabeth, the heir presumptive to the British throne. At the time of his engagement he was known simply as Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten. Just prior to his marriage, George VI of the United Kingdom created him Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth, and Baron Greenwich with the style of His Royal Highness. In 1957, Philip was created a Prince of the United Kingdom.

In addition to his royal duties, the Duke of Edinburgh was also the patron of many organisations, including The Duke of Edinburgh's Award and the World Wide Fund for Nature, and only retired as Chancellor of both the University of Cambridge and the University of Edinburgh in 2011. The Queen then transferred her post of Lord High Admiral to him. In particular, he devoted himself to raising public awareness of the relationship of humanity with the environment after visiting the Southern Antarctic Islands in 1956, and published and spoke widely for half a century on this subject.

The prince announced his retirement from public duties as a member of the British Royal Family in 2017. He was an established public figure in the United Kingdom and in the Commonwealth of Nations. He gained something of a reputation for making controversial remarks and cracking jokes during public and state visits that can come across as blunt, insensitive, and racist (see timelines for this article).

He died a little short of 100. His peerages were inherited by his eldest son, and are now merged in the Crown.

Early life

Prince Philippos of Greece and Denmark was born on 10 June 1921 at Villa Mon Repos on Corfu, a Greek island in the Ionian Sea. His father was Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, the fourth son of George I of Greece, for whom some claim a partially Byzantine Greek descent, and Queen Olga. His mother was Princess Alice of Battenberg, the elder daughter of the 1st Marquess of Milford Haven (formerly Prince Louis of Battenberg) and his wife, the former Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine. Lady Milford Haven, through her mother, the Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine (formerly Princess Alice of the United Kingdom), was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Philip's mother Princess Alice was also a sister of Queen Louise of Sweden; George Mountbatten, 2nd Marquess of Milford Haven; and Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma.

The Prince was baptised a few days after his birth at St. George's Church in the Palaio Frourio ("Old Fortress") in Haddokkos, Corfu. His godparents were Queen Olga and the Corfu community (represented by Alexander S. Kokotos, Mayor of Corfu, and Stylianos I. Maniarizis, Chairman of Corfu City Council). In his later life he had a rediscovered interest in his original Greek Orthodox faith.

Prince Andrew and Princess Alice remained in residence on the Island of Corfu for eighteen months. Greece was politically unstable at the time, and it was expected that the monarchy would soon be overthrown. On 22 September 1922, King Constantine I was forced to abdicate the throne. A revolutionary court sentenced his younger brother, Prince Andrew, to banishment for life.[1] Fortunately for the family, George V ordered that the Royal Navy vessel, HMS Calypso, evacuate the family, and Philip was carried to safety in a cot made from an orange box.

Philip survived his four elder sisters, all of whom married German princes:

Philip experienced his first major family tragedy in 1937, when his sister Cecilie, her husband, mother-in-law and two young sons were killed in the Sabena OO-AUB Ostend crash. Philip, who was sixteen at the time, attended the funeral in Darmstadt.


Prince Andrew and Princess Alice fled with their children to Paris, where they took up residence at Saint-Cloud in a villa that belonged to Prince Andrew's sister-in-law, Princess Marie Bonaparte. After being exiled, Prince Philip's parents' marriage began to crumble. His father retired to the South of France. His mother was diagnosed as schizophrenic after claiming that she was receiving divine messages.[2] She recovered and turned to religion. From then on, Prince Philip was to see little of them.

Prince Philip's education began at The American School of Paris in Saint-Cloud. However, his grandmother, Lady Milford Haven, advised her daughter to have him educated in England. He subsequently departed for the Surrey preparatory school Cheam.

At age twelve, Prince Philip departed England for Germany, where he studied at Schule Schloss Salem, a school in southern Germany that belonged to Prince Maximilian of Baden, the father of his brother-in-law. Prince Philip left Germany in 1936 and went to Gordonstoun, where he flourished academically and socially. He was head of the hockey and cricket teams, and eventually became Head Boy. Prince Philip was so fond of the school that he later sent his sons, Charles, Andrew, and Edward there, though their experienced with the school showed mixed results. The school's royal association continued with Princess Anne, who sent both her children to Gordonstoun, though neither she nor her husband had attended it.


On 20 November 1947, Prince Philip married the heiress presumptive to the British throne, The Princess Elizabeth, elder daughter of George VI and Queen Elizabeth, his third cousin through Queen Victoria and second cousin, once removed through Christian IX of Denmark. 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 convert from Greek Orthodoxy to Anglicanism, to renounce his allegiance to the Hellenic Crown, and to become a naturalised British subject.[3] He renounced his Greek and Danish royal titles on 18 March 1947 and decided to take the name Mountbatten, an Anglicised version of Battenberg, his mother's family name. The day before his wedding, King George VI titled his future son-in-law Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth, and Baron Greenwich, of Greenwich in the County of London.

The King also issued Letters patent creating the Duke of Edinburgh His Royal Highness. After their marriage, his wife became Her Royal Highness The Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh. On the popular but erroneous assumption that if Philip had the style of 'Royal Highness' he was automatically a prince, media reports often mentioned "Prince Philip," with or without reference to his ducal title. Although the princely prefix was omitted in the Regency Act of 1953 and in Letters Patent of November 1953 appointing Counsellors of State, it had been included in the Letters Patent of 22 October 1948 conferring princely rank on children of his marriage to Princess Elizabeth. George VI, however, appears to have been clear and intentional in having withheld the princely title from his future son-in-law.[4] From 1947 to 1957, Philip's correct style was His Royal Highness Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

In post-World War II Britain, it was not acceptable to invite any of the Duke of Edinburgh's German relations to his wedding. The sole exception was his mother, who was born at Windsor of parents who had both renounced their German titles. Excluded from the invitation list were his three surviving sisters, each of whom had married German aristocrats, some with Nazi connections. The bride's aunt Mary, Princess Royal allegedly refused to attend because her brother, the Duke of Windsor, was not invited due to his unusual marital situation. She gave ill health as the official reason for not attending.[5]

Naval career

After their marriage, the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh took up residence at Clarence House in 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 Princess Elizabeth set off for a tour of the Commonwealth, with planned visits to Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. On 6 February, when they were in Kenya, the Princess' 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 hotel (Tree Tops). As a result of the King's passing, the visits to Australia and New Zealand were postponed until 1954. The Duke was resigned to the fact that his naval career was over, and he had a new role as the consort of the British monarch.


Elizabeth II's accession to the throne brought up the question of the name of the Royal House. The Duke's uncle, Earl Mountbatten of Burma, had advocated the new name House of Mountbatten, as Elizabeth would typically have taken Philip's name on marriage. When Queen Mary, Elizabeth's grandmother, heard about this, she informed 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."

In 1952, the Duke was given the rank and titles Admiral of the Fleet, Field Marshal, and Marshal of the Royal Air Force. He was also made Captain-General of the Royal Marines. As was the established tradition with all previous monarchs, the Queen, as Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces, outranked as Sovereign all military personnel.

The Duke of Edinburgh supported the Queen in her role for close to seventy years. The Queen and Duke attended state visits abroad, and received foreign dignitaries together. The Duke often carried out separate engagements on behalf of the Queen at home and abroad.

The Duke was also patron of many organisations. He established The Duke of Edinburgh's Award in 1956 to give young people "a sense of responsibility to themselves and their communities." The scheme now operates in a hundred countries around the world. He was also President of the World Wide Fund for Nature.

In 1956-1957, the Duke took a round-the-world voyage on board HMY Britannia, visiting remote islands of the Commonwealth. This was when he first became aware of the effects of human industrialisation on the natural environment.

On the Golden Jubilee of 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 was 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. Mohamed Al-Fayed, the father of Diana's companion Dodi Al-Fayed and owner of Harrods, 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 rescind their Royal Warrants from Harrods. The Duke remained close to his grandchildren Princes William and Harry, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie and Lady Louise Windsor.

Royal status

In May 1954, the Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, received a written suggestion from the Queen that her husband be granted the title "Prince of the Commonwealth," or some other suitable augmentation of his style. Churchill preferred the title "Prince Consort" and the Foreign Secretary Sir Anthony Eden preferred "Prince of the Realm." While the Commonwealth prime ministers were assembled in London, against his better judgement but at the Queen's behest, Churchill informally solicited their opinions. Canada's Prime Minister, Louis St. Laurent, was the only one to express misgivings. Meanwhile, the Duke insisted to the Queen that he objected to any enhancement of his title, and she instructed Churchill to drop the matter.[6] In February 1955, South Africa belatedly made known that it, too, would object to the "Prince of the Commonwealth" title. When told, the Queen continued to express the wish that her husband's position be raised, but rejected the Cabinet's recommendations to confer upon him either the title "Prince Consort" or "Prince Royal." By March 1955, the Cabinet was recommending that Philip's new title be simply "His Royal Highness the Prince." The Queen was advised that if she still preferred "Prince of the Commonwealth," her personal secretary could write to the Commonwealth's Governors-General directly for their response, but warned that if their consent was not unanimous, the proposal could not go forward. The matter appears to have been left there until the publication on 8 February 1957 of an article by P. Wykeham-Bourne in the Evening Standard titled, "Well, is it correct to say Prince Philip?" A few days later, Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and his Cabinet reversed the previous ministers' advice, formally recommending that the Queen reject "The Prince" in favour of "Prince of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Her other Realms and Territories," only to change this advice, after she consented, to delete even the vague reference to the Commonwealth countries. Letters Patent were issued and, according to the announcement in the London Gazette, the Queen's husband officially became His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, including the capitalised definite article, a usage normally restricted to the children of monarchs.[6]

An Order-in-Council was issued in 1960, stating that the surname of male-line descendants of the Duke and the Queen who are not Royal Highness or Prince or Princess was 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 Duke's children have all used Mountbatten-Windsor as the surname they prefer for themselves and their male-line 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 meant the Duke was the first gentleman of the land, and took precedence over his son, the Prince of Wales except, officially, in Parliament. In fact, however, he only attended Parliament when escorting the Queen for the annual Speech from the Throne, where he walked and was seated beside her.

The Queen never granted the Duke the title of Prince Consort. This title had been granted to Albert, Prince Consort by his wife, Queen Victoria, but has never been used before or since by a British consort. There was some media speculation in early 2007 that such a title might be conferred to mark the royal couple's 60th wedding anniversary in November 2007; however, this was not confirmed by any official sources.

As of July 2006, the Duke was the oldest surviving great-great-grandchild of Queen Victoria and was 470th in the line of succession to the British Throne in his own right through his great-grandmother Princess Alice.

Object of worship by Pacific islanders

A small group of islanders in the southern Pacific nation of Vanuatu have believed Prince Philip to be their god since the 1960s.[7] Members of an offshoot branch of a cargo cult identified Philip as a supernatural being while he was visiting the islands in the 1960s - one prophesied to bring with him good fortune. When this was unforthcoming, the islanders met with the local British governors to demand a meeting with Philip; the authorities wrote to Buckingham Palace asking what should be done, and with Philip's permission received a number of signed photos and a portrait, which were duly distributed amongst the faithful. Since then, the objects have acquired the status of holy relics and the islanders have continued to await the return of their god - something they are prepared to do indefinitely.

Titles, styles, honours and arms

For more information, see: List of titles and honours of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.


  • 10th June 1921 - 18th March 1947: His Royal Highness Prince Philippos of Greece and Denmark
  • 18th March - 18th November 1947: Lt Philip Mountbatten, RN
  • 18th November - 19th November 1947: Lt Sir Philip Mountbatten, RN
  • 19th November 1947 - 22nd February 1957: His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh
  • 19th November 1947 - 22nd February 1957: His Royal Highness Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
  • 22nd February 1957 - 9th April 2021: His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh


The Duke had his own personal coat of arms, created on 19 November 1947. Unlike the arms used by other members of the Royal Family, the Duke's arms did not feature the Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom, as men are not entitled to bear the arms of their wives. However they did feature elements representing Greece and Denmark, from which he was descended in the male line; the Mountbatten family arms, from which he was descended in the female line; and the City of Edinburgh, representing his dukedom.

The shield was quartered, the first quarter depicting the arms of Denmark, consisting of three blue lions passant and nine red hearts on a yellow field. The second quadrant depicted the arms of Greece, a white cross on a blue field. The third quarter depicted the arms of the Mountbatten family, five black and white vertical stripes. The fourth quarter depicted the arms of the City of Edinburgh, a black and red castle.

The dexter supporter was a savage from the Danish Royal Coat of Arms; the sinister a golden lion (a traditional English symbol) wearing a ducal cornet and gorged (collared) with a naval crown, alluded to the Duke's naval career.

The coat featured both the motto God is my help and the motto of the Order of the Garter, Honi soit qui mal y pense (Shamed be he who thinks ill of it) on a representation of the Garter behind the shield.


Prince Philip's ancestors in three generations
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark
Paternal grandfather:
George I of Greece
Paternal great-grandfather:
Christian IX of Denmark
Paternal great-grandmother:
Louise of Hesse-Kassel
Paternal grandmother:
Olga Konstantinovna of Russia
Paternal great-grandfather:
Grand Duke Konstantine Nicholaievich of Russia
Paternal great-grandmother:
Alexandra Iosifovna of Altenburg
Princess Alice of Battenberg
Maternal grandfather:
Louis Mountbatten, 1st Marquess of Milford Haven
Maternal great-grandfather:
Prince Alexander of Hesse and by Rhine
Maternal great-grandmother:
Julia von Hauke
Maternal grandmother:
Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine
Maternal great-grandfather:
Louis IV, Grand Duke of Hesse
Maternal great-grandmother:
Alice of the United Kingdom


Name Birth Marriage Issue Divorce
Charles, Prince of Wales 14 November 1948 29 July 1981 Lady Diana Spencer Prince William, Duke of Cambridge
Prince Harry
28 August 1996
9 April 2005 Camilla Parker-Bowles
Anne, Princess Royal 15 August 1950 14 November 1973 Mark Phillips Peter Phillips
Zara Tindall
28 April 1992
12 December 1992 Timothy Laurence
Prince Andrew, Duke of York 19 February 1960 23 July 1986 Sarah Ferguson Princess Beatrice of York
Princess Eugenie of York
30 May 1996
Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex 10 March 1964 19 June 1999 Sophie Rhys-Jones Lady Louise Windsor

Portrayal in fiction

  • A fictionalised Philip (in his capacity as a World War II naval officer) is a minor character in John Birmingham's Axis of Time series of alternate history novels.


  • Higham C & Moseley R (????) Elizabeth and Philip: the Untold Story. Place: Publisher.


  1. The Times (London), Tuesday 5 December 1922, p.12
  2. Vickers, Hugo (2000). Alice, Princess Andrew of Greece. London: Hamish Hamilton, pp.200-205. ISBN 0-241-13686-5. 
  3. As a descendant of the Electress Sophia of Hanover through his mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg, Philip could already claim to be a naturalised British subject under the terms of the Sophia Naturalization Act 1705. His naturalisation was at Lord Mountbatten's behest and merely undertaken out of an abundance of caution in the somewhat xenophobic atmosphere of the immediate postwar years.
  4. Velde, François. Title of Prince: HRH Philip Duke of Edinburgh. Royal styles and titles: Files from the UK National Archives. Retrieved on 2006-09-05. “Home Office, Whitehall. S.W.1. 28 February 1955. "My dear George {Coldstream, Clerk of the Crown in Chancery}, We were speaking the other day about the designation of the Duke of Edinburgh. In 1948 the General Register Office consulted us about the way in which the birth of Prince Charles was to be registered. They sent over a suggested entry, in column 4 of which (name and surname of father) they had inserted: 'His Royal Highness Prince Philip'. I consulted {Sir Alan} Lascelles {principal private secretary to the King} on this and he laid my letter before The King, together with the draft entry, I have in my possession the entry, as amended by The King in his own hand. The King amended column 4, name and surname of father, to read: 'His Royal Highness Philip, Duke of Edinburgh'. Austin Strutt {assistant under-secretary of State}”
  5. Bradford, Sarah (1989). King George VI. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, p.424. ISBN 0297796674. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Velde, François. Title of Prince: HRH Philip Duke of Edinburgh. Royal styles and titles: Files from the UK National Archives. Retrieved on 2006-09-05.