HRH The Duke of Edinburgh

HRH The Duke of Edinburgh

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Margaret Duggan writes:

He had been her "strength and abode" for 50 years, the Queen said of her husband on their golden anniversary, and the truth of it lingered longer until he died last Friday morning at the age of 99 at Windsor Castle.

In 1952, Prince Philip of Greece, a dynamic, ambitious, and very masculine naval commander, gave up his own career to join his wife, take two steps behind her on official occasions, and be excluded from state affairs. She was privy to a career do. It could have been second rate. Instead, it was brilliant.

At the time they were married and King George VI. Having reluctantly consented to the idea that someone would take his beloved daughter away, Philip was known to refer to himself as a "discredited Balkan prince". In fact, his royal lineage was at least as long and even more complex than that of Princess Elizabeth. His "Uncle Dickie", Lord Louis Mountbatten, claimed that it could be traced back at least 42 generations to Giselbert, Count of Darnan, in the year 846, Denmark and Greece as well as Yugoslavia and Sweden. In terms of his British connections, like the Queen, he was a great-great-grandson of Queen Victoria. He was a great-nephew of Edward VII. Queen Alexandra and the second cousin of Marina, Duchess of Kent.

He was born on June 21, 1921 as Prince Philip of Greece, the fifth child and only son of Prince Andrea of ​​Greece and Princess Alice von Battenberg at the dining table of an elegant villa, Mon Repos, on the island of Corfu. He was sixth on the Greek throne and was consequently baptized in the Greek Orthodox Church. His grandfather, King George I of Greece, had been murdered eight years earlier, and his successor, King Alexander, had died of a fatal monkey bite received while trying to protect his dog.

In 1913, Prince Andrea's older brother, Constantine, had become king, and Philip's father served as an officer in the Greek army. The family had already been sent into exile after Constantine's abdication, but returned to Corfu in time for Philip's birth. It was at the height of the war with Turkey when Greece tried to claim part of the Ottoman Empire after World War I. A poorly prepared and equipped Greek army set out to conquer part of Turkey. Andrea, a major general, disagreed with the army commander in chief over strategy, and although he fought valiantly, he was eventually accused of disobeying orders, scapegoating the defeat of the Turks, and facing execution.

With the help of George V, the family escaped in a British warship: the baby Philip was carried on board to be put to bed in an orange crate. It was the last time Philip had a sedentary family home until his marriage to Princess Elizabeth 23 years later.

The royally impoverished family only spent a short time in London before accepting an offer from Andrea's brother for a house in Paris, and Philip and his four older sisters began their peripatetic lives by vacationing with hospitable relatives everywhere Europe. Philip's mother, Princess Alice von Battenberg, sister of the Mountbatten brothers George and Louis, was profoundly deaf and was likely born with a manic-depressive personality. During the war with Turkey she had thrown herself into setting up and equipping hospitals and taking care of the wounded. She later became interested in spiritualism and converted to the Orthodox Church while in London.

A form of religious mania took over, and by the time Philip was about eight years old, her behavior became so extreme that she turned to the care of the Bellevue Sanatorium in Switzerland, which marked the end of her family life. His father closed the house in Paris and spent his following years drifting between Monte Carlo, Paris and Germany while Philip was sent to live with his grandmother Victoria (Queen Victoria's granddaughter) at Kensington Palace.

From there he went to his mother's older brother, George, who recently achieved success as the second Marquis of Milford Haven. Georgie, as he was called, became Philip's guardian and surrogate father in his teens and early teen years. (Philip saw his real father only occasionally; and his mother, despite her early devotion to him, had completely disappeared from his life.) From the Milford Havens house in Lynden Manor on the Thames, Philip was sent to Cheam, England's oldest preparatory school. There was already his cousin David, Uncle Georgie's son, who became one of Philip's closest friends and eventually his best man.

PA / © Anwar Hussein / allactiondigital.comThe Queen and Duke of Edinburgh relax at Balmoral in 1974

It was a harsh regime in Cheam, but Philip came to make a living from it. At the time, it was described that he came by "a strange name (Prince Philip of Greece; he had no surname) with a mop of white hair" and spoke and wrote French better than English. But he was good at games, won the math award in his first term, and seemed so confident he was never bullied.

He returned to Uncle Georgie and his wife Nada for many of his shorter vacations, but at the beginning of each vacation he never knew where it would be. The Milford Havens remained his base, if he had one. He increasingly loved and visited his grandmother at Kensington Palace, but during his extended vacations he usually went to one or more of his German relatives, although even Nada's South African brother-in-law, Sir Harold Wernher, and his wife became an honorary uncle and aunt, with whom he stayed for a long time stayed near Market Harborough.

He had developed remarkable resilience and independent confidence and, despite his impatience and quick temper, was always apparently cheerful and ready to help. It was a strength of character that benefited him through many turbulent years.

Although his cousin David became Cheam's Head Boy, Philip didn't stay long enough. Almost without consultation, he was taken to the Salem School in Germany, which had been built in a wing of the old monastery where his sister Dorothea and her husband, the Margrave of Baden, lived. Kurt Hahn had been his headmaster, but had already fled to England when Philip arrived there in 1933, shortly after Hitler came to power.

Under the new headmaster, the regime was that of the Hitler Youth, and the boys had to listen to the Fiihrer's lengthy radio conversations. But after little more than a term, Philip was on the move again, this time back to Britain and to Gordonstoun, the northern Scottish school that Hahn had founded.

When Philip arrived there were only 27 boys, although the school grew rapidly after that. The emphasis was on "character building" with a Spartan regime – fresh air, cold showers, games, seamanship, housework and gardening, and the boys expected to help renovate a neglected building. Philip's vacations continued to be spent with his widespread family, many of them now in an increasingly National Socialized Germany. However, during a brief stay in England, he attended the wedding of his cousin Princess Marina of Greece to the then Duke of Kent at Westminster Abbey when one of the bridesmaids was eight-year-old Princess Elizabeth. It was the first time they looked at each other.

It took all of his resilience for Philip to survive the emotional roller coaster of the next two years. At 15, he was brought back to his mother for the first time in five years. Alice had regained much of her equilibrium and was living in Bonn, although she planned to return to Greece to start an order of nuns. Nobody really knew what impact the meeting had on their son. Then, when he was 16, Hahn had to bring him the news that his favorite sister Cecile had died with her husband, the Grand Duke, and their two sons on their way to a family wedding in a plane crash, to which Philip had also gone was.

He went to Germany alone for the funeral and went in procession with his surviving brothers-in-law, who were in Nazi uniform, and his uncle Lord Louis Mountbatten as a royal naval officer, who was greeted by Heil Hitler. Not long afterwards, his uncle Georgie, who had been his guardian since his real father left that responsibility, died of cancer.

After a while, Lord Louis, Uncle Dickie, stepped forward to take on this role. Philip returned to Gordonstoun and still spent holidays with his sisters in Germany and his grandmother at Kensington Palace, but increasingly with the Mountbattens. He became Head Boy on the report that he was "universally trustworthy, popular, and respected," a born leader who "would need the high standards of great service to do justice to himself."

His mother wanted him to return to Greece with her; his father wanted Philip to join the Greek Navy; while Philip wanted to become a fighter pilot in the RAF himself. But it was largely Lord Louis' influence that ended up with the Royal Navy at Dartmouth. As in school, he excelled in all physical activity and leadership skills, and was more than adequate in technical subjects. And he was increasingly noticed. At Edward VIII's abdication, when Princess Elizabeth suddenly became the heir to the throne, his name surfaced in the media among possible bridegrooms, an idea that had already crossed Mountbatten's mind.

Philip's first significant meeting with the Princess took place in July 1939 when he was still in Dartmouth and she was 13 years old. She attended marine college with her family on the royal yacht. Mountbatten held several meetings between Philip and Elizabeth, though the prince found the young Princess Margaret more lively. It was reported, however, that Elizabeth was clearly impressed by what her governess Marion Crawford referred to as a young Viking and was thrilled to see him row furiously behind the royal yacht as he left port.

War was declared two months later when Philip came to Greece with his mother. He was now second on the Greek throne, but he wanted to continue his career in the Royal Navy and fight on the British side despite his German family ties. Back in Dartmouth he was awarded the King & # 39; s Dirk as the best all-round cadet, but as a "neutral foreigner" he was denied the fight. Although he applied for naturalization as a British citizen, he was told that this could only be decided after the war. It was Mountbatten who was with George VI. Strings pulled and a compromise was reached when Philip was placed as a midshipman on a battleship escorting Australian and New Zealand troops to Egypt.

The situation changed for him when Italy attacked Greece and led Greece to war on the Allied side. He saw his first action on a more modern battleship, the Valiant. It also enabled him to spend five weeks social life with his mother in Greece. Whenever he was ashore he was a lively young naval officer who never turned down a party, was happy to be around pretty girls, and always took the chance to explore new territory.

In early 1941 Valiant was involved in a major battle with the Italian fleet, whereupon Philip was mentioned in the dispatches for his ability to handle the headlights. He later returned to Dartmouth to earn his second lieutenant qualifications. At the time he had a Canadian girlfriend, Osla, with whom he had a long and happy, but supposedly "innocent" relationship. After months of perilous months on a destroyer in east coast convoys, he was invited to spend Christmas 1943 at Windsor Castle. According to "Crawfie," the royal governess, 17-year-old Elizabeth had already confided that he was "the one," and Crawfie noted that "it was a serious and charming young man who went there with nothing from the rather crazy boy sat "he had been. More than ever he looked "like a Viking, weather-beaten and tense, and his manners left nothing to be desired".

At this point, he was surrounded by a conspiracy of relationships aimed at his marriage to Elizabeth. Osla had married a diplomat. He and Elizabeth exchanged letters, and after serving in the Far East as first lieutenant in HMS Whelp, during which he heard of his father's death, he returned to England in 1946 at Corsham near Bath, from where he was a frequent one Buckingham Palace visitor dining informally with the two princesses. When invited to Balmoral in 1946, he finally proposed and was accepted.

The king, reluctant to “lose” his beloved daughter, did not want them to marry until Elizabeth turned 21 the following year. Philip suffered from deeply conservative courtiers who referred to him as a "no gentleman" and suspicious of German. It was a hostility that made the early years of his married life both uncomfortable and frustrating. With the journalistic help of Tom Driberg MP, who made it clear that Philip had left Greece as a child and never wanted to be anything but British, and with the consent of the Admiralty and the consent of the King, Mountbatten not only constructed Philip's naturalization, but made sure that he would be known as HRH Prince Philip.

PAPrince Philip of Greece (center left, kneeling) appears as King Melchior in a nativity play at his public school in Gordonstoun on December 12, 1938

This prompted the press to demand that he be told whether to marry the heir to the throne. The media and the public were very divided as to whether they still wanted a foreign prince, especially since it was known that his dynastic name was Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg. The College of Arms proposed changing Oldcastle, an Anglicized version of Oldenburg, the German duchy that gave rise to the royal house of Greece and Denmark, but it was meant to sound plebeian, and so Philip reluctantly agreed to his uncle's name to take over Mountbatten.

All of this was done while the Royal Family was touring South Africa and great discretion was maintained. The engagement was not announced until July 9, 1947. By and large, the media agreed and made the most of Philip's British connection and war career. The public also agreed, although at a time when the country was bankrupt and almost everything was being rationed, there were many calls for an austerity wedding. In keeping with the general mood, Philip continued to wear his war-worn naval uniform and drive his tiny sports car.

The wedding was scheduled for November 20th. Shortly before, Philip was inducted into the Church of England by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Geoffrey Fisher, at a private service at Lambeth Palace. And on the eve of the wedding, George VI created it. As a compliment to Scotland, Wales and the Royal Navy for the Duke of Edinburgh, the Earl of Merioneth and the Baron Greenwich. There were 1,500 wedding favors, including a turkey from Brooklyn "for having nothing to eat in England," and a Gandhi-woven tray that Queen Mary shocked because she thought it was a loincloth.

Members of the royal family came from all over Europe with the exception of the three surviving sisters of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and Philip. His mother was the only member of his immediate family at the wedding at Westminster Abbey, which in this case was far from strict. Philip was married in his usual naval uniform but wore his grandfather's garter and ceremonial sword. The first few days of their honeymoon were in Broadlands, the Mountbattens' home in Hampshire, and they then sought greater seclusion in Balmoral.

Back in London, they had to live in Buckingham Palace for a few months while their future home, Clarence House, was being renovated. Not only did Philip find it frustrating to live with the in-laws and his job at the Admiralty was boring, but he also found himself exposed to considerable hostility from the stifling courtiers. Elizabeth soon became pregnant, and during this time there were significant rumors about the parties he attended and the male and female company he entertained. Gradually, however, he gained recognition for the royal duties he undertook and for the speeches in which he showed his intelligence and spiritual independence.

They moved with little Prince Charles in July 1949 to Clarence House, the first house Philip had had since his parents' temporary home in Paris. He was more interested in domestic arrangements than Elizabeth, but it wasn't long before he was transferred to Malta, where Lord Mountbatten commanded the First Cruiser Squadron. Elizabeth joined him for two long periods of time (leaving Charles behind), and it was there that she lived the closest to any "normal" life she had ever known, cruising around the island and participating in social life. In Malta, with Elizabeth's encouragement, Philip developed his passion for polo.

He received his first command of the frigate HMS Magpie and soon had a reputation for leading a tight ship and working hard with his crew so that she became a "rooster ship". It was much to his dismay and disappointment when his sea career began in July 1951 with the deteriorating health of George VI. Ended.

The king had lung cancer. His surgery to remove a lung delayed a state visit Elizabeth and Philip were to make to Canada and the United States. It was Philip who, along with Prime Minister Clement Attlee and Winston Churchill as opposition leaders, convinced the king that it would be safe for him and Elizabeth to fly across the Atlantic to make up for time. The tour was so successful that another tour of South Africa, Australia and New Zealand was planned for the beginning of the following year. On January 31, 1952, they said goodbye to a clearly ill king, never to see him again. It was Philip who had to tell his wife during her stay at the Treetop Hotel in Kenya that she was now queen.

It was devastating for Philip. There was no question of resuming the career he loved, and from now on he would always be two steps behind his wife and be officially disfellowshipped while she took over the affairs of state. When he moved back to Buckingham Palace, he suffered from yellow jaundice and depression for the first few weeks. It didn't help that Churchill's government made it clear that they wanted the Queen to take her father's Windsor name instead of going on with Philip's Mountbatten.

PAOn their knees in prayer, the Queen and Prince Philip are blessed by Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey during the Thanksgiving service for their 1972 silver wedding anniversary at Westminster Abbey. On the other side of the Duke of Edinburgh, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother kneels

Elizabeth did what she could to give him a role, and gave him responsibility for the royal estates and all of their internal affairs. But it took the more stuffy courtiers a long time to realize his talents and tremendous energy. However, he made a name for himself as President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science and made it clear that he had a mind and intelligence of his own. He took part in the preparations for the coronation, and that day he was the first to kneel before his wife and swear allegiance.

And that promise was kept. Though he was occasionally heard to refer to them as "bloody fools", his loyalty and support never wavered. He has been innovating wherever he could, from introducing a training program for new lackeys at the palace, to introducing the Duke of Edinburgh & # 39; s Award, to expanding the national playing fields. He garnered patronage and became President of the World Wildlife Fund in Great Britain. He suggested converting the bombed-out chapel at Buckingham Palace into the Queen & # 39; s Gallery, with an ever-changing art exhibition from the Royal Collection. And although he had no influence on state banquets, it was he who set up the modest lunches in the palace, which the Queen and Philip each held for half a dozen guests from a wide range of national life.

The range of his interests was almost unlimited and included a serious interest in theology and the effects of faith on the world. The arrival of Robin Woods as Dean of Windsor (later Bishop of Worcester) made it possible to make the work of St. George & # 39; s Chapel in the castle an invisible influence for many years. The prince and dean worked together to set up St George's House in one of the great houses within the castle walls to be a place of training for high-ranking clergy and leadership consultation in many areas of society and in different fields Denominations and Beliefs.

The prince was involved at every stage, and when business leaders, theologians, academics, journalists and clergy were invited over several days to discuss matters of national concern, he was occasionally able to attend. He was particularly interested in gatherings of Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders and convinced all major religions to make "declarations of nature," an expression of his own intense interest in the environment.

He himself stated that "the relationship between scientists and theologians was one of my hobbyhorses". In 1984 the letters between the Prince and Michael Mann, later Dean of Windsor, were published under the title A Windsor Correspondence. It shows the prince wrestling with the concept of evolution from a Christian perspective, and he had clearly read and was able to quote from On the Origin of Species.

He had the agnosticism that so many Anglicans had in common: “Whether God became man in Jesus Christ is a philosophical question; The fact is, Jesus tried to show us how to live so that the world could be a better place. “He was worried about any fundamentalism, and at the time of this writing he was particularly keen to discredit the creationists.

PAThe Queen and Prince Philip in Sandringham after visiting the church on Christmas Day 1992

He was Chancellor of the Universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh; He wrote books, including books on theology and spirituality, and gave lectures. He valued all of his formal relationships with the armed forces and took a deep interest in industry, promoting the Queen & # 39; s Awards for Industry, Export and Business. At the age of 64, he acquired and mastered one of the earliest personal computers. He was always fascinated by devices. He competed internationally in both polo and carriage driving and wrote the final rules for the latter. Although he had to retire from polo for good, he continued to ride a horse-drawn carriage in his spare time, fishing and shooting almost to the end of his life. And, perhaps surprisingly, he was a competent watercolourist.

As a father, however, he was criticized. Gordonstoun was a school that suited his tough personality but was far from appropriate for the very different temperament of his eldest son, and Prince Charles was most unhappy there. And it was the Duke who is said to have done the most to convince Charles to marry the very young Diana, which again – just in case – was an unwise decision.

For several years after Diana's death, outward appearances seemed to suggest a coolness between the palace and the prince, especially with the prince's remarriage. However, at the time of the Diamond Jubilee, this was clearly no longer the case. And of course, on that occasion, Prince Philip had stood by the Queen's side for four hours at the age of 90 as he blew wind and rain at the Royal Launch. He was clearly interested and enjoying everything that was going on despite what had to be. The discomfort took him to the hospital for the next few days. It was one of the disappointments that had marked his life that he could not attend the rest of the festivities for that weekend.

Despite all of his gawking – and there were many due to his irascibility and robust sense of humor – and even considering his almost catastrophic determination to be behind the wheel of his Land Rover until he was 98 – it was one truly remarkable man who took on a role wholly unsuitable for his personality and yet made it a brilliant achievement.

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