A Man of Worth and Value: Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM Apr 16 2021
Columns A Man of Worth and Value:  Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

The Duke of Edinburgh lived a long life of 99 years and 10 months. We older women who were and are interested in the British Royal Family, were sad to hear of his death and actually wished he could have lived just a bit longer to complete a century: a hundred years of a very full life of sorrow, deprivation, determination, naval career and, giving it up and a private life to be Prince Consort to Queen Elizabeth II of Britain and the Commonwealth. 

A royal consort is the spouse of a ruling king or queen. In Britain, they have no constitutional status or power, but many have significant influence as did the two most important royal consorts of the British Throne. Prince Albert had immense influence on Queen Victoria, not only because she was in love with him, but because he was the more sensible of the two and a man making the decisions was very important then, in Victorian England. Queen Elizabeth II was trained to her job of being the head of her country and the remains of the British Empire, the Commonwealth, and though she had little political power, much responsibility rested on her shoulders. She needed someone who she could trust completely and to stand by her and to lean on when necessary. 

Prince Philip fitted these requirements completely. He steered the royal family to a great degree and even the country in certain spheres. Prince Philip holds the record for being royal consort for the longest length of time. Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, is next in line to be royal consort, upon the accession of Charles, Prince of Wales, as King. There was controversy about this, quoting King Edward VII deciding to abdicate since his twice divorced wife, Simpson, would never be accepted as his consort, but would be given lower status. He did not agree to this. In Camilla’s case, a much more broadminded Parliament has eased her path as supporter of the person on the throne. I do not think she will be addressed as Queen Camilla though.

Former royal consort

Prince Albert is best known for his promotion of the arts and science, with his name living on in many institutions in Britain, the most famous being the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, built in 1852 and known as V&A for short. It is the world’s leading museum of art, design, sculptor, and performance; and curated exhibitions of art and culture are frequently held. He was also instrumental in abolishing slavery. He was Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, born in 1819, married at 20 in 1839 and gained the title of Prince Consort in 1840. He died in 1861 aged 42 years, leaving Queen Victoria so devastated that she went into months of severe isolated mourning, much to the dismay of her Prime Minister and Parliament.  

Most recent royal consort 

Queen Elizabeth II referred to her husband and thanked him when she celebrated her Diamond Jubilee on the throne, by pronouncing the complimentary statement: “My constant strength and guide.” Philip was a Prince of Greece and Denmark and had a difficult life from childhood. His father left the family to live in the South of France with a mistress, while his mother was schizophrenic. His three sisters, older than him, married German Princes, who were Nazi sympathisers. Philip was brought up by his maternal relatives, the Mountbattens in England and joined the Royal Navy. Lord Louis Mountbatten took over guiding his nephew which was towards a naval career and marriage to Princess Elizabeth, daughter of King George VI and thus heir to the British throne. Philip is said to have promised to his intended father-in-law when requesting the hand of his daughter in marriage that he would “look after her always,” which he did, though the King and Queen had harboured apprehensions due to him being poor and having German relatives.

Prince Philip was definitely beside Elizabeth in their life together and one step behind when in public, and a great support to her. He had been a hard father particularly to his eldest son, Charles. One instance being insisting he undergo boarding school at Gordonstoun in Scotland, though the young boy found the Spartan lifestyle insisted on hard to bear. But the Duke of Edinburgh improved with the years, so that he died at very near 100, having served more than 70 years as Royal Consort.

- Kumari

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM Apr 16 2021

More News