Start at the Beginning:
Prince Philip was born on June 10, 1921, in Corfu, Greece. His tabloid image is one of an over-privileged, insensitive, even racist boor; his actual story is far more interesting than the caricature.
Tell Me More!
‘Philippos’ was sixth in line to the Greek throne, son of Andrea (often called Andrew), the brother of ruler King Constantine. A failed war against Turkey saw Constantine abdicate and his brother receive a death sentence. King George V sent a Royal Navy ship to evacuate his second cousin Prince Andrea, his wife Princess Alice, their four older daughters and, in a cot made from an orange box, 18-month-old Philip. They fled with little more than the clothes they were wearing and were eventually taken in by another brother in Paris.
By the Numbers
Philip creates the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award to challenge young people and recognise their achievements.
Number of countries in which the Award is run. It has more than one million participants annually.
Philip’s family lived in a small lodge outside Paris and scraped to get by. He was not yet ten when his mother was committed to a psychiatric clinic for a time. His father drifted aimlessly on the French Riviera, while Philip was sent to boarding school in the UK and effectively raised by Alice’s British relatives, including her brother Lord Louis Mountbatten. Mountbatten was devoted to his nephew, a close bond that lasted until Lord Louis’ tragic death in a 1979 IRA bombing. But Philip was 16 before he next heard from his mother. “It’s simply what happened,” he said matter-of-factly. “The family broke up. My mother was ill, my sisters were married, my father was in the south of France. I just had to get on with it. You do. One does.”
Handsome and Suspect
In 1939, 13-year-old Princess Elizabeth met her third cousin Prince Philip, 18, an officer cadet in the British Navy. He was tall, handsome and funny; she was smitten. By the time she was 17 the feeling was mutual. In 1947, Philip gave up his Greek royal title, gained British citizenship, taking the surname Mountbatten. Elizabeth’s father, George VI, bestowed titles including Duke of Edinburgh upon him and decreed he be addressed as ‘His Royal Highness’. The couple married in November 1947 despite the opposition of some courtiers to the ‘penniless foreigner’.
Anguish Over a Name
In 1952, the death of George VI made Elizabeth the new monarch, making Philip’s surname a problem. Her mother, grandmother and Prime Minister Winston Churchill were adamant it should be Windsor and she acceded. Prince Philip and Lord Louis Mountbatten were furious. “I am the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his children,” he is famously said to have told friends.
Prince Philip is an enthusiastic sportsman, taking part in charity cricket matches and learning to fly. He took up competitive carriage driving in 1971 when he officially retired from playing polo – believing it was the perfect sport for someone in ‘middle age’. Over the intervening years, he has represented the UK at several world events and still drives today, as well as judging at the Windsor Horse Show.
Royal Wisdom (and Gaffes)
“You have mosquitoes. I have the Press.” During a conversation with a hospital matron while on tour in the Caribbean in 1966
“You managed not to get eaten then?” To a British student who had trekked in Papua New Guinea, during an official visit in 1998
“Tolerance is the one essential ingredient. You can take it from me that the Queen has the quality of tolerance in abundance.” Giving advice for a successful marriage in 1997
“The man who invented the red carpet needed his head examined.” Said as he was about to disembark on a state visit to Brazil in 1966
“We don’t come here for our health. We can think of other ways of enjoying ourselves.” During an official visit to Canada in 1976
“If you like, I’ll walk with you.” Said to Princes William and Harry following the death of their mother, Princess Diana, in August 1997 when neither of the boys wanted to walk behind her coffin. As their grandfather, he was concerned they would regret it later
“They’re not mating, are they?” Indulging his fancy for mischievous humour when watching robots colliding, Science Museum, 2000