Looking Back at Prince Philip's Life

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

From Town & Country

Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh and husband to Queen Elizabeth for over 70 years, has died. He was 99 years old. Buckingham Palace confirmed the sad news with the following statement.

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

His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle.

Further announcements will be made in due course.

The Royal Family join with people around the world in mourning his loss.

From a difficult childhood to the longest-serving British consort in history, Philip lived a remarkable life. Take a look back at it here.

An Unstable Childhood

While then-Princess Elizabeth grew up with loving parents and the carefully structured upbringing of a future Queen, Philip’s childhood and adolescence were filled with isolation and uncertainty.

A member of both the Danish and Greek royal families, who at one point also had his own place in the British line of succession, Philip was born into an increasingly dysfunctional family on June 10, 1921.

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

Prince Philip was the youngest child of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, and Princess Alice of Battenberg, and the product of a time in which royalty strictly married royalty. To put a finer point on it, he can trace his lineage back to two formidable 19th-century European sovereigns who were known, among other things, for their their royal matchmaking skills: on his mother's side, he is related to Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, often called the “Grandmother of Europe,” and on his father's, King Christian IX of Denmark, dubbed the “Father-in-Law of Europe.”

Between them, Victoria and Christian’s children and grandchildren married and intermarried into nearly every European royal family. Victoria is also an ancestor of Queen Elizabeth's, making her and Philip third cousins.

Not long after Philip was born, his family was forced into exile and had to flee Greece at the end of the Greco-Turkish War in 1922.

They left so hastily that the infant Prince was carried out in a makeshift bed made from a wooden fruit crate. The family, including Philip's four older sisters, Margarita, Theodora, Cecilie, and Sophie, settled in a Paris suburb, living in a house that belonged to one of Andrew’s relatives.

World War II tore his family apart again.

All four of Philip's sisters married German princes in the 1930s, which made things difficult for Philip, who served in the British Royal Navy during World War II. Alice didn’t attend any of her daughters’ weddings, having been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and committed to a sanatorium in Switzerland. Exiled from Greece and increasingly estranged from his wife, Andrew lived in France and Monaco until his death in 1944. Alice eventually moved back to Greece to do charitable work and helped shelter persecuted Jews from the Nazis.

Philip, who last saw his father in 1939, went to school in England and was raised by his mother’s relatives, including her brother Louis Mountbatten, who later became Earl Mountbatten of Burma, and was a lifelong mentor to not only Philip but also Prince Charles. Little Prince Louis is likely named after him.

A Royal Courtship

Uncle Louis was keen to arrange a brilliant match for his penniless, stateless, and essentially homeless nephew. He steered Philip into the path of the 13-year-old Princess Elizabeth by asking him to give her and her sister, Margaret, a tour of the Royal Naval College when the Princesses visited with their parents. The two became pen pals and Philip asked Elizabeth’s father for her hand in marriage in 1946, although a formal engagement was not announced until she turned 21.

Photo credit: Hulton Archive - Getty Images
Photo credit: Hulton Archive - Getty Images

Philip Mountbatten married then-Princess Elizabeth on November 20, 1947 and was named Duke of Edinburgh on the eve of their wedding. On his marriage to Elizabeth, Philip renounced his Greek and Danish titles, as well as his place in the line of succession to the British throne as a descendant of Queen Victoria.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a wedding without family issues. Philip’s four sisters and their German husbands did not attend the wedding because of the anti-German sentiment in Britain following World War II.

The husband of the Queen

When Elizabeth became Queen in 1952, Philip retired from active military service and five years later was made a British Prince. Until August of 2017, when he officially retired from public life, he was a very active working royal, serving as patron or president of more than 780 organizations. He is survived by not only the Queen but also their four children, eight grandchildren, and ten great-grandchildren. It is thought that Prince Edward will inherit the title of Duke of Edinburgh, though that has not been confirmed.

Photo credit: WPA Pool - Getty Images
Photo credit: WPA Pool - Getty Images

Philip was known for both his sense of duty and a blunt, occasionally racist sense of humor. Despite their unique dynamic, Philip’s marriage to Elizabeth was seen as a true partnership, and their union is the longest in the history of the British royal family. He also holds the title of the oldest-ever male member of the British royal family and was the longest-serving British consort.

“The Queen wears the crown, but her husband wears the trousers,” Gyles Brandreth, author of 2004’s Portrait of a Marriage said. “He is the power behind the throne: steadfast, never-failingly supportive.”

Or, as the Independent put it: “Marriage gave Philip a home, a country, a passport, a new religion and the first real stability he’d ever enjoyed. Elizabeth accepted the exile for what he was, and offered him a sense of belonging. Theirs is an unwritten pact that allowed him to bury the demons of his youth. In return, he gave her, quite simply, his total support.”

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