Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM Apr 16 2021
Editorial Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, born Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II and the longest-lived British Royal Consort, of over 69 years from 6 February 1952 to 9 April 2021, died at the age of 99 years on Friday 9 April 2021, two months before his 100th birthday. He was also the longest-lived male member of the British Royal family. Philip was born into the Greek and Danish Royal families. He was born in Greece but his family was exiled from the country when he was eighteen months old. 

Philip was first educated at The Elms, an American school in Paris run by Donald MacJannet, who described him as a “know it all smarty person, but always remarkably polite”. In 1928, he was sent to the United Kingdom to attend Cheam School, living with his maternal grandmother, Victoria Mountbatten. 

In 1933, he was sent to Schule Schloss Salem in Germany, which had the “advantage of saving school fees” because it was owned by the family of his brother-in-law, Berthold, Margrave of Baden. With the rise of Nazism in Germany, Salem’s Jewish founder, Kurt Hahn, fled persecution and founded Gordonstoun School in Scotland, United Kingdom, to which Philip moved after two terms at Salem.  

After leaving Gordonstoun in early 1939, Philip completed a term as a cadet at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, then repatriated to Greece, living with his mother in Athens for a month in mid-1939. At the behest of the Greek king, George II (his first-cousin), he returned to Britain in September to resume training for the Royal Navy. He graduated from Dartmouth the next year as the best cadet in his course. During the Second World War, he continued to serve in the British forces, while two of his brothers-in-law, Prince Christoph of Hesse and Berthold, Margrave of Baden, fought on the opposing German side.

In 1939, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth toured the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth. During the visit, Louis Mountbatten asked his nephew Philip to escort the King’s two daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret, who were Philip’s third cousins through Queen Victoria, and second cousins once removed through King Christian IX of Denmark. Elizabeth fell in love with Philip, and they began to exchange letters when she was 13.  

Philip was appointed as a midshipman in January 1940. He spent four months on the battleship HMS Ramillies, protecting convoys of the Australian Expeditionary Force in the Indian Ocean, followed by shorter postings on HMS Kent, on HMS Shropshire, and in British Ceylon. After the invasion of Greece by Italy in October 1940, he was transferred from the Indian Ocean to the battleship HMS Valiant in the Mediterranean Fleet. 

In the summer of 1946, Philip asked King George VI for his daughter’s hand in marriage. After the war, Philip was granted permission by George VI to marry Elizabeth, provided that any formal engagement be delayed until Elizabeth’s 21st birthday the following April. By March 1947, Philip had abandoned his Greek and Danish royal titles, had adopted the surname Mountbatten from his mother’s family, and had become a naturalised British subject. The engagement was announced to the public on 10 July 1947. 

He married Elizabeth on 20 November 1947. Just before the wedding, he was granted the style His Royal Highness and created Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth, and Baron Greenwich by King George VI. Philip left active military service when Elizabeth became queen in 1952, having reached the rank of commander, and was made a British prince in 1957. Philip had four children with Elizabeth: Charles, Prince of Wales; Anne, Princess Royal; Prince Andrew, Duke of York; and Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex. 

As a sports enthusiast Philip helped develop the equestrian event of carriage driving. He was a patron, president or member of over 780 organisations, and he served as chairman of The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, a self-improvement programme for young people aged 14 to 24. He retired from his royal duties on 2 August 2017, aged 96, having completed 22,219 solo engagements and 5,493 speeches since 1952. Prince Phillip was the President of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) from 1981 to 1996, having been the first President of WWF-UK from its founding in 1961 to 1982 and President Emeritus of WWF for life. 

Basil Boothroyd in his ‘Philip: An Informal Biography 1971’ says that the Prince Philip’s Private Secretaries initially had a hard time understanding what he meant as he did not talk much but only gesticulated, sighed, made sounds and used sign language to express his feelings!    

Prince Philip visited Sri Lanka twice, in 1954 and 1981, with Queen Elizabeth.

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

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