Written by Philippa Blakeley.
Photo Credit: AP/Sky News.
Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh died on the 9 April, aged 99, just months before his 100th birthday.
It was announced in a statement by Buckingham Palace, released just after 12 noon, that Prince Philip ‘passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle’.
He was the longest-serving consort in British history, and throughout this time supported the Queen through many of her royal duties. He retired from active duties on 2 August 2017, aged 96, but continued to be seen at public occasions such as Princess Charlotte’s christening and the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
In recent months, there have been concerns about Prince Philip’s health with him spending a month in hospital, before leaving on the 16th March, and returning to Windsor Castle where he had been bubbling with the Queen over the course of the pandemic.
Throughout Prince Philip’s long life, he has always remained a busy man, despite giving up his career in the navy to work as consort to the Queen, always maintaining his respect for her role, and remaining in the shadows.
Prince Philip first met the Queen while he was training to be in the Navy, just before the outbreak of WW2 in 1939 when she visited Dartmouth Naval College with King George VI. Being in the Navy was a long tradition for members of Prince Philips extended family, with his maternal grandfather being the commander of the Royal Navy and his uncle, ‘Dickie’ Mountbatten also being a member of the Navy.
However, Prince Philip’s life was not as rooted in British history as it may first be assumed. In 1901, his mother and father met at the funeral of Queen Victoria, as they were both members of different royal families from across Europe. His father was the King of Greece and his mother was a great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria. He also had roots from Russia and Germany – with his four older sisters going on to marry Germans and support the Nazi’s, while Prince Philip fought for Britain in WW2.
He was born in Corfu on 10 June 1921, but his family were forced to move off the island after his father was condemned to death – after moving around, and not really having a stable or permanent home in any of the countries they ended up in, Prince Philip began attending boarding school in the north coast of Scotland, Gordonstoun. While he was already a strong independent child, these traits were built upon even more during this time, because of the strong ethos focused around community service and teambuilding.
These skills were ones which Philip carried with him for the rest of his life, when on tour with the Queen and also through his charitable work and projects, such as The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme.
Throughout WW2, the Queen, then Princess Elizabeth and Philip kept in contact, with Princess Elizabeth keeping a photograph of the prince in his naval uniform. After he returned from war, their relationship blossomed and in 1947 they married at Westminster Abbey – which is when Prince Philip got given his title as the Duke of Edinburgh. It was only five years after this in 1952 that King George VI died after struggling with his health post-WW2. Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip were on a royal tour in Africa when he had to break the news to the, now Queen, about the passing of her father.
It was at this point, Prince Philip had to give up life as he knew it, including his career in the navy, to support the Queen. This was difficult for Philip to comprehend, but he did it and did it with impeccable grace ever since. However, their relationship wasn’t welcomed with open arms by many within the royal family, as they felt he wasn’t suitable for the role and that he hadn’t had the right upbringing.
The Queen and Prince Philip’s relationship, while kept private, has also been built on support and devotion from both sides. In 1997, at a lunch celebrating their Golden Wedding anniversary, the Queen said “he is someone who doesn’t take easily to compliments. He has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years, and I, and his whole family, and this and many other countries, owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim or we shall ever know.”
When he first joined the Palace, he was seen as a moderniser – always intrigued about everyone’s role and getting involved within the family. He also held a major role in the maintenance and redevelopment of the Sandringham Estate, where he would spend most of his retirement in later life. At the time, people wrote that he wanted “to present the monarchy as a dynamic, involved and responsive institution.” He also had very modern ideas about the environment, beliefs which have been passed on through the generations of Royal Family members.
While he will be fondly remembered by all the royal family, and members of the public – he was also quite a controversial character, known for his dry sense of humour and ‘gaffes’ on royal tours. That being said he didn’t miss any of the Queen’s Commonwealth tours or overseas State Visits and he often went on his own trips around the world to represent the Queen.
Prince Philip was also associated with 992 organisations throughout his life, focusing generally on science and technology, the welfare of young people, the environment and also improving and maintaining sport and sports facilities. He often visited research centres, factories and industrial plants, in areas that help grow British industry. Similarly, he raised awareness for the relationship between humanity and the environment, being the first President of the World Wildlife Fund – UK (WWF) from 1961 to 1982 and continued working with charities focusing on the environment until his death.
On 10 April, Prince Charles spoke at his Highgrove home, after visiting the Queen on the previous day describing the life of Prince Philip and also speaking solemnly about how much the family will miss him and his devotion to the family, country and the commonwealth. It was a moving speech, with Prince Charles describing him as “my dear papa.”
This was after a 41-gun salute which took place across the UK and Gibraltar with members of the armed forced firing a ceremonial gun every minute for 41 minutes in unison as part of the remembrance. This has only happened for the likes of Winston Churchill and Queen Victoria.
Many heads of state paid tribute to Prince Philip throughout the 9 April, with Prime Minister, Boris Johnson leading the condolences with a statement at Downing Street, praising his “extraordinary life” and his “bravery.” Parliament will also be returning a day early from their Easter recess to share their condolences in the Commons. Many political leaders and heads of state have been sending their support and well wishes to the Queen and the rest of the Royal Family.
Similarly, many royal commentators, throughout 9 April, have been describing the dynamic of Prince Philip within the royal family, describing how he was the head of the family, despite the Queen being head of state and being the lead in front of the public. Behind closed doors, Prince Philip would have a close relationship with his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, working with the families – especially his children during the breakdown of their marriages, to keep the whole family together.
Announcements regarding the funeral were announced on the 10th April. It will take place on the 17April at 3pm, in St George’s Chapel, in the grounds of Windsor Castle.
It is going to be a very toned-down affair, which is what Prince Philip wanted, as well as having to follow to the coronavirus restrictions, there will only be 30 guests – it is expected this will be close family, the Queen, children and grandchildren. Prince Harry will be attending but Meghan is remaining at their home in America due to her pregnancy. The royal family are also encouraging crowds not to gather and have asked rather than flowers, people donate to charities the Prince was passionate about.