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The prince who wouldn’t be king


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The prince who wouldn’t be king

Messages and floral tributes are pictured outside Windsor Castle in Windsor, west of London, following the April 9 death of Britain’s Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. AFP PHOTO

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Summary

  • Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich, also called Philip Mountbatten, original name Philip, Prince of Greece and Denmark, was born on June 10,1921, in Corfu, Greece.
  • His father was Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark (1882-1944), a younger son of King George I of the Hellenes (originally Prince William of Denmark) while his mother was Princess Alice (1885-1969).
  • Brought up mainly in Britain, Philip was educated at Gordonstoun School, near Elgin, Moray, Scotland where three generations of British royalty have been educated.

Rudyard Kipling’s novella The Man Who Would Be King tells the story of David Dravot and Peachy Carnahan, two British ex-soldiers in India when it was under British rule. They decide that the country is too small for them, so they head off to Kafiristan in order to become kings in their own right.

This week my subject is Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, who passed on last week, just three months shy of his 100th birthday. The prince gave up everything, including a promising career in the navy, to be with his Queen, the love of his life. He was a constant presence at the side of Queen Elizabeth II and was the longest-serving consort to a monarch in British history. The Prince who would not be King.

Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich, also called Philip Mountbatten, original name Philip, Prince of Greece and Denmark, was born on June 10,1921, in Corfu, Greece.

His father was Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark (1882-1944), a younger son of King George I of the Hellenes (originally Prince William of Denmark) while his mother was Princess Alice (1885-1969), who was the eldest daughter of Louis Alexander Mountbatten, 1st Marquess of Milford Haven, and Princess Victoria of Hesse and the Rhine, granddaughter of Queen Victoria.

Brought up mainly in Britain, Philip was educated at Gordonstoun School, near Elgin, Moray, Scotland where three generations of British royalty have been educated. Gordonstoun’s curriculum emphasised an experiential approach and Philip excelled showing clear leadership skills.

He then proceeded to the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, Devon, England. From January 1940 to the end of World War II, he served with the Royal Navy in combat in the Mediterranean and the Pacific.

On February 28, 1947, Philip became a British subject, renouncing his right to the Greek and Danish thrones and taking his mother’s surname, Mountbatten. (His father’s family had been Schleswig-Holsten-Sonderburg-Glucksburg; quite a mouthful, I might add!).

His marriage to distant cousin (which was quite common with royalty) Princess Elizabeth took place in Westminster Abbey, on 20 November 1947.

On the eve of the wedding, he was designated a royal highness and was created a Knight of the Garter, Baron Greenwich, Earl of Merioneth, and Duke of Edinburgh. The couple’s first child, Charles Philip Arthur George, was born in 1948. He was joined by Anne Elizabeth Louise (born 1950), Andrew Albert Christian Edward (born 1960), and Edward Antony Richard Louis (born 1964).

Philip continued on active service with the Royal Navy, taking command of the frigate “Magpie”, until Elizabeth’s accession on 6 February 1952, following the couple’s trip to Kenya where Philip broke the news to Elizabeth of the death of her father, King George VI.

From that time, Philip shared Queen Elizabeth’s official and public life. He attended an average of 350 official engagements each year on behalf of the royal household.

In 1957, the Queen conferred upon him the dignity of the Prince of the United Kingdom, and in 1960 his surname was legally combined with the name of her family as Mountbatten Windsor, as a surname of the lesser branches of the royal family.

His gaffes and outspoken right-wing views, the public expression of which he sometimes found hard to resist, occasionally embarrassed a monarchy trying to erase its traditional upper-crust image. But that was who he was, and he was unapologetic about it.

While most of his time was spent faithfully fulfilling the duties of his station, Philip engaged in a variety of philanthropic endeavours.

He served as president of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) from 1981 to 1996, and his International Award programme allowed more than six million young adults to engage in community service, leadership development, and physical fitness activities.

In 2011, to mark his 90th birthday, Elizabeth conferred on him the title and office of Lord High Admiral, the titular head of the Royal Navy. In May 2017 it was announced that Philip, who was one of the busiest royals, with more than 22,000 solo appearances over the years, would stop carrying out public engagements in August of that year. His last solo event took place on August 2, 2017.

What impressed me most about Prince Philip was his unwavering support for his Queen. He truly stood by his Bedouin, as the Arabs would say, having given up his own hereditary royal rights in Greece and Denmark.

Philip went through a difficult childhood and his family were pushed out of Greece during a period of political turmoil. He was actually smuggled out of the country in an orange crate. After the exile, Philip’s mother had a nervous breakdown and his father moved to France, leaving Philip alone to live with various relatives.

Talking to the Mirror, Jennie Bond said, “After almost 74 years of marriage, they didn’t need words, a simple glance or gesture would do. His wife claimed his enduring love, but she had also earned his trust. And that was important.”

“After his nomadic, rootless childhood Philip had developed an impenetrable defense mechanism to hide the hurt caused by the absence of his parents.”

Elizabeth may have been Queen, but Prince Philip was still the patriarch of the royal family with massive sway. He was firm with his children, a trait which may not have particularly enamored Prince Charles and enjoyed great rapport with his grandchildren.

In the arena of life, sometimes it is more important to have influence than to have power; to influence the course of affairs without necessarily being at the forefront or the limelight but from the background, behind the scenes.

Farewell, Prince Philip.

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