The husband of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, has died. He was the longest-serving consort of a British monarch, with a marriage that lasted 73 years. But his was not simply the role of a humble husband; as a prince in his own right, a decorated military man, a sportsman, and an artist, he carved out a reputation for both brilliance and cultural faux pas.
Born in Corfu in 1921 to Prince Andrew of Greece, Philip would have been in line for the Greek throne if not for his father’s exile after the revolutionary war, and the final dissolution of the monarchy in the 60s. In December 1922, the infant Philip was evacuated (along with his family) in a crib made of a fruit box, then moving on to Paris to stay in a house loaned by a distant relation.
From an early age, the prince in exile made his mark in the military. Graduating top of his class as a cadet in the Royal Navy, he went on to have an illustrious career during the Second World War, stationed on battleships in the Indian Ocean and with the British Pacific Fleet.
A Fairy-tale Romance?
Philip met Princess Elizabeth while she was touring the Royal Navy College with her father King George VI. The story goes that they fell in love and Philip asked the king for permission to marry. Permission was granted, but only after Elizabeth’s 21st birthday.
On November 20, 1947, the couple were married. The day before, King George bestowed Philip the title Royal Highness and the young groom became the Duke of Edinburgh.
When Elizabeth ascended to the throne, she announced that Philip was to have “place, pre-eminence, and precedence” with her “on all occasions and in all meetings, except where otherwise provided by Act of Parliament.” Despite the pressures of rule, Queen Elizabeth has maintained that theirs was a happy marriage and that Philip was at all times her “constant strength and guide.”
No Stranger to Controversy
The British Royal Family is rarely far from the pages of the nation’s tabloids. The latest Harry and Meghan Markle scandal is merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to charges of cultural missteps and accusations of racism. Philip was often the cause of such uproars. Yet he was all too aware of the image held of him in the public eye. Speaking to a dental conference in 1960, he said, “Dontopedalogy is the science of opening your mouth and putting your foot in it, a science which I have practiced for a good many years.” In one instance, when speaking to the Nigerian secretary-general of the Commonwealth who was wearing ceremonial robes, Philip remarked, “You look as if you’re ready for the bed.” The prince had a talent for causing chaos.
However, despite the media tears at his near constant “Dontopedalogy,” the British public remained firmly in his corner, viewing him in the vein of a tipsy uncle at the wedding party. In his own words, he admitted that his actions may have made him appear “a cantankerous old sod.”
The End of an Era
With Prince Philip now gone, it seems that the remaining royals are of a somewhat different personality. All very politically correct and concerned with media buzzwords, the passing of Philip may represent the end of an era for the royal family, and the beginning of a new way of ruling.
Read more from Mark Angelides.