Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh and husband of Queen Elizabeth II, has passed away at the age of 99 after a full and often remarkable life.
As husband of the British Monarch, the Duke of Edinburgh spent seven decades in the shadow of his wife, Queen Elizabeth II, but he also had very much a life of his own.
The Duke, also known as Prince Philip, was never in line for the throne—which his eldest son stands to inherit—and never held the title of king.
He was born on June 10, 1921 on the Greek island of Corfu, the youngest child and only son of Prince Andrew of Greece and Princess Alice of Battenberg.
That heritage made him a prince of Greece and Denmark, but the following year the family was banished from Greece after a coup.
When Philip left school, Britain was on the verge of the Second World War. He joined the Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth where he proved a brilliant cadet and graduated top of his class—and also met his future wife.
When King George VI paid an official visit in July 1939, Philip was charged with entertaining his young daughters, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret.
Their governess, Marion Crawford (employed as a guardian for the princesses), recalled later that Philip had “showed off a great deal” and left quite the impression on the 13-year-old Elizabeth.
Prince Philip served with distinction in World War Two, seeing military action for the first time in the Indian Ocean. By October 1942, he was 21 years old—and one of the Royal Navy’s youngest first lieutenants.
Princess Elizabeth and the young officer kept in touch by mail. Notably, by Christmas 1943, a photograph of him in naval uniform appeared on her dressing room table. Her mind, it would appear, was made up.
They married in 1947, and Princess Elizabeth rose to the British throne in 1953.
A changing monarchy
While his official role was largely to support his wife as Monarch rather than take center stage, the Duke never forgot his own family’s forced exodus from Greece, and believed monarchies must adapt to survive.
Over the years, he set up informal lunches where the Queen could meet people from a broader range of backgrounds. The footmen—palace servants with a traditional uniform—stopped powdering their hair. And when he learned the palace was running a second kitchen exclusively to feed the royals, he had one shut down.
The Duke also championed a 90-minute fly-on-the-wall BBC documentary entitled Royal Family, which aired in 1969 and was considered a landmark step in bringing the Royals closer to the British public.
The Duke of Edinburgh was, of course, first and foremost a father, to Prince Charles, 72, Princess Anne, 70, Prince Andrew, 61, and 57-year-old Prince Edward. Royal biographer Ingrid Seward quotes Prince Andrew as saying of his childhood: “Compassion comes from the Queen. And the duty and discipline comes from him.”
But Andrew also remembered how his father made time to invent bedtime tales, or listen to his children read Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories.
Plans for his funeral will be affected by Covid-19 restrictions in England but it is expected to take place at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. It will not be a state funeral as per the Duke’s wishes. Further arrangements regarding the funeral will be announced in the coming days.