The Death of the British Consort: Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (1921-2021)

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh on the occasion of their 73rd wedding anniversary, 2020.

This morning (Friday, 9 April), Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, died at Windsor Castle. The prince had been hospitalised for several weeks between February and March. Prince Philip was ninety-nine years-old and the husband of Queen Elizabeth II for seventy-three years. 

Princess Alice and Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark.
Photograph (c) Getty Images.


Baby Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark.


Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and his wife Princess Alice of Battenberg with their five children: Princess Margarita, Princess Theodora, Princess Cecilie, Princess Sophie, and Prince Philip.  

During the reign of his uncle King Constantine I of the Hellenes, Prince Philippos of Greece and Denmark was born at Mon Repos, Corfu, on 10 June 1921, as the only son and fifth and final child of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and and his wife Princess Alice of Battenberg, who married in 1903. Prince Philip’s four elder sisters were Margarita, Theodora, Cecilie, and Sophie. The prince, who was seventh in the line of succession to the Greek throne, was baptised in the Greek Orthodox rite at St. George’s Church in the Old Fortress in Corfu. He received as godparents his paternal grandmother Queen Olga of Greece (for whom Princess Olga of Greece stood proxy) and the Corfu City Council (for whom the Mayor of Corfu stood proxy). At the time of Philip’s birth, his father Prince Andrew was away fighting on the front of the Greco-Turkish War. After Greece lost the war in Autumn 1922, the monarchy was abolished and the royal family went into exile. Andrew, Alice, and their five children settled in France, where Andrew’s sister-in-law Marie Bonaparte, wife of his brother George, gave the family a house at Saint-Cloud in which to live. In the meantime, little Philip attended an American school in Paris called The Elms. In 1928, Philip was sent by his parents to stay in the United Kingdom with his maternal grandmother Victoria, Dowager Marchioness of Milford Haven. He was looked after by his uncle George Mountbatten, 2nd Marquess of Mildford Haven. Victoria Milford Haven enrolled her grandson at Cheam School in Headley, Hampshire.

The Marchioness of Milford Haven (née Countess Nada de Torby), Lady Tatiana Mountbatten, the Marquess of Milford Haven (né Prince George of Battenberg), Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, and the Dowager Marchioness of Milford Haven, 1931.


Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark prepares for a role in the play Macbeth while at Gordonstoun, 1935.
Photograph (c) Getty Images.


Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark playing cricket at Gordonstoun, 1939.

Between 1930 and 1931, young Philip’s family centre effectively deteriorated from under him. Those years saw the marriages of all four of Philip’s sisters: in December 1930, Sophie married Prince Christoph of Hesse; in January 1931, Cecilie married Hereditary Grand Duke Georg Donatus of Hesse and by Rhine; in April 1931, Margarita married Prince Gottfried zu Hohenlohe-Langenburg; and in August 1931, Theodora married Prince Berthold of Baden. These years also witnessed the deterioration of Philip’s parents’ marriage: his mother Alice’s state of mental health declined to the point that she had to be institutionalised numerous times, and his father Andrew moved in with a mistress. After 1931, there was no home base at Saint-Cloud for Philip. As Philip’s sister Sophie remarked about this period in a 1992 profile of her brother: “Then we all sort of disappeared, and the house in St Cloud was closed down.” In 1933, Philip was sent to Schloß Salem where he was educated by Kurt Hahn. Owing to the rise of the Nazis in Germany, in 1935, Philip transferred to Gordonstoun in Scotland, which was founded by Hahn after he was forced to leave Salem due to the persecution of the German Jewish population. In 1939, Philip left Gordonstoun and began studying as a cadet at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, from which he graduated in 1940 at the top of his class. Philip then enlisted in the British Royal Navy, where he saw active service during World War II. On 16 July 1942, Philip was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant in the Royal Navy.

The Princess Elizabeth and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten upon their engagement, 1947.
Photograph (c) Getty Images.


The Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh on the day of their wedding, 1947.


The wedding of The Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh, 1947.

In 1939, Philip became reacquainted with The Princess Elizabeth, the daughter of King George VI of the United Kingdom and Queen Elizabeth, during a visit that the king and queen in the company of their young daughters undertook to the Royal Naval College, where Philip was studying. Philip was asked by the princesses’ mother Queen Elizabeth and his uncle Lord Louis Mountbatten to look after Elizabeth and Margaret during the visit. Thirteen year-old Elizabeth took to the dashing eighteen year-old cadet. As the years passed, the couple fell in love; Princess Elizabeth would often write to Philip during his naval service. In Summer 1946, Philip asked King George VI for his daughter Elizabeth’s hand in marriage, and the king agreed so long as the announcement of the engagement would be delayed until Elizabeth’s twenty-first birthday in April 1947. On 28 February 1947, Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark became a British subject with the surname Mountbatten. On 10 July 1947, the engagement was officially announced between The Princess Elizabeth and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten. In a Letters Patent dated 19 November 1947,  Philip’s future father-in-law George VI granted Philip the title, style, and attribute of Royal Highness in addition to awarding Philip the Order of the Garter. In a Letters Patent dated 20 November 1947, King George VI bestowed upon Philip the titles Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth, and Baron Greenwich. On 20 November 1947, the wedding of The Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh took place at Westminster Abbey. Elizabeth and Philip were doubly related: they were second cousins once removed through their descent from King Christian IX of Denmark and they were third cousins through their descent from Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom. The couple’s nuptials were broadcast by the BBC and seen by over 200 million people around the world. Among the guests at Philip and Elizabeth’s wedding was his eighty-four year-old grandmother Victoria, Dowager Marchioness of Milford Haven, who had been such a source of stability for her grandson. 

The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh with their first child Charles, 1948.


The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh with their son Charles and newborn daughter Anne, 1950.


The Duke of Edinburgh at his desk in his office at Clarence House, 1951.
Photograph (c) Getty Images.

After a honeymoon at the Mountbattens’ Broadlands home, Philip and Elizabeth took up residence at Clarence House. Almost a year after their marriage, the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh welcomed the birth of their first child, a son: Prince Charles Philip Arthur George of Edinburgh (now The Prince of Wales) was born on 14 November 1948 at Buckingham Palace. Almost two years later, Philip and Elizabeth welcomed the birth of their second child and only daughter: Princess Anne Elizabeth Alice Louise of Edinburgh (now The Princess Royal) was born on 15 August 1950 at Clarence House. Lady Pamela Hicks, the younger daughter of Lord Mountbatten of Burma and a first cousin of Philip, said in the 2014 television documentary The Duke: A Portrait of Prince Philip: “Prince Philip has always been very much the head of the family privately, which is what the Queen wants, because she thinks it is the natural state of things and it is right, because, don’t forget, we are talking about two, or three, generations ago, when we all thought like that.


The Duke of Edinburgh kneels before the Queen during the Coronation, 1953.
Photograph (c) Getty Images / Central Press.


The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh during the Queen’s Coronation, 1953.


The British State Visit to Sweden: The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh with King Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden and his wife Queen Louise, who was Prince Philip’s maternal aunt, 1956.

On 6 February 1952, Philip’s father-in-law King George VI died at the age of fifty-six. At the time, Philip and Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II) were on a royal tour in Kenya. Philip had to break the news to his wife of her beloved father’s passing. The couple quickly flew back to the United Kingdom and moved into Buckingham Palace. The Coronation of the Queen took place at Westminster Abbey on 2 June 1953, during which Philip knelt before his wife and sovereign and swore the following oath: “I, Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, do become your liege man of life and limb, and of earthly worship; and faith and truth I will bear unto you, to live and die, against all manner of folks. So help me God.” Philip remained true to this vow for the rest of his life. On 22 February 1957, Queen Elizabeth II created her husband a Prince of the United Kingdom. From then on, he was known as “His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.”

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh with their four children, 1970.


The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh pictured with their two youngest children, Prince Edward and Prince Andrew, 1974.
Photograph (c) Estate of Godfrey Argent / National Portrait Gallery, London
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, 1984.
Photograph (c) Yousuf Karsh / Camera Press.
On 8 February 1960, Queen Elizabeth II issued an Order in Council declaring that “Mountbatten-Windsor” would be the surname of her and her husband’s male-line descendants who are not styled as Royal Highness or titled as Prince/Princess. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh welcomed the arrival of their third child and second son: Prince Andrew Albert Christian Edward of the United Kingdom (now The Duke of York) was born at Buckingham Palace on 19 February 1960. Four years later, the family of Elizabeth II and Philip was completed with the arrival of their fourth child and third son: Prince Edward Antony Richard Louis of the United Kingdom (now The Earl of Wessex) was born at Buckingham Palace on 10 March 1964. The Duke of Edinburgh was patron, president, or member of over 750 organisations; he served as chairman of The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, a self-improvement program for young people that he created in 1956. In 2009 Prince Philip became the longest serving British consort, a distinction previously held by Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III.
Princess Sophie of Hannover and her brother the Duke of Edinburgh attend the ceremony in Jerusalem when Yad Vashem named their mother Princess Alice to be Righteous Among Nations, 1994.
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh celebrate their golden wedding anniversary with their four children: the Prince of Wales, the Duke of York, the Princess Royal, and the Earl of Wessex, 2007.
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh celebrate their platinum wedding anniversary, 2017.
On 2 August 2017, Prince Philip retired from his royal duties, having completed 22,219 solo engagements since 1952. On 20 November 2017, Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II celebrated their seventieth wedding anniversary, which made the Queen the first British monarch to celebrate a platinum wedding anniversary. A polyglot, Philip spoke English, German, and French fluently. In a 1992 interview, Philip recalled: “If anything, I’ve thought of myself as Scandinavian. Particularly, Danish. We spoke English at home. The others [his sisters] learned Greek. I could understand a certain amount of it. But then the (conversation) would go into French. Then it went into German, on occasion, because we had German cousins. If you couldn’t think of a word in one language, you tended to go off in another.” Prince Philip enjoyed carriage-driving, painting, flying, sailing, and polo. 
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh with their four eldest grandchildren: Prince William of Wales, Peter Phillips, Prince Harry of Wales, and Zara Phillips, 1980s.


The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh with their four children and five of their grandchildren, 1990s.


The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh with the British Royal Family on the occasion of their golden wedding anniversary, 2007.
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, is survived by Queen Elizabeth II, his wife of seventy-three years. He is also survived by his four children and their spouses: the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, the Princess Royal and Vice Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence, the Duke of York, and the Earl and Countess of Wessex. In addition, Prince Philip is survived by his eight grandchildren and their spouses: the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Peter Phillips, Zara Tindall and Mike Tindall, Princess Beatrice and Edoardo Mapelli-Mozzi, Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank, Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor, and Viscount Severn. Furthermore, Philip is survived by ten great-grandchildren: Prince George of Cambridge, Princess Charlotte of Cambridge, Prince Louis of Cambridge, Archie Mountbatten-Windsor, Savannah Phillips, Isla Phillips, Mia Tindall, Lena Tindall, Lucas Tindall, and August Brooksbank.
May Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Rest in Peace.
Coat of Arms of the Duke of Edinburgh.
  • Leave a Comment