The United Kingdom was rocked by the news that His Royal Highness, Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, sadly passed away at the age of 99 on the morning of 9th April.
Touching tributes have poured in from across the globe for a man who served Queen and country for his entire life.
LeftRight to Centre commemorates Prince Phillip’s life by remembering three primary parts of his life: his military years, royal service and sheer devotion to his wife, Queen Elizabeth II.
For much of his earlier life, Prince Phillip served for many years in the British Armed Forces. After training with the Royal Navy in the 1930s, he served in the British forces throughout World War Two, while two of his brothers-in-law fought on the opposing German side.
On 1st February 1941, Philip was commissioned as a sub-lieutenant after a series of courses at Portsmouth, earning the top grade in four out of five sections of the qualifying examination; shortly afterwards, he was involved in the Battle of Crete, earning himself the ‘Greek War Cross’.
In October of 1942, he became first lieutenant of HMS Wallace, and at 21 years old, he was one of the youngest first lieutenants in the Royal Navy. During the invasion of Sicily (July 1943), he saved his ship from a night bomber attack.
In terms royal service, what Prince Phillip will perhaps be most remembered for is his role in founding the infamous ‘Duke of Edinburgh’ award, which he set up in 1956 to give young people ‘a sense of responsibility to themselves and their communities’.
Phillip’s time in the Royal Family came not without controversy, however, especially in relation to the Prince Charles and Lady Diana love affair, as well as the Diana’s sad death in 1997.
Mohamed Fayed, whose son was also killed in the crash, claimed that Prince Philip had ordered the death of Diana and that the accident was staged. According to an inquest, however, there was “not a shred of evidence” that the Duke of Edinburgh ordered Princess Diana’s death or that it was organised by MI6.
In fact, it came to light how supportive the Duke of Edinburgh had been throughout Charles’ marriage with Diana, and after her untimely death. It has since been documented how Philip wrote to Diana, expressing his concern at both Charles’ and Diana’s extra-marital affairs, whilst acting as a mediator to salvage what was left of their marriage.
At Diana’s funeral, Philip told her son, Prince William, “If you don’t walk, I think you’ll regret it later. If I walk, will you walk with me?” On the day of the funeral, Philip, William, Harry, Charles, and Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer walked through London behind her bier.
The Duke also partook in the formation of the World Wildlife Fund in 1961 and later served as its President, leaving a tangible legacy on the wildlife conservation movement.
Marriage to Queen Elizabeth II
Despite Prince Phillip’s devotion to his country, his family and issues across the world, he will no doubt be remembered most for his sheer devotion to his beloved wife, Queen Elizabeth II.
After falling in love with the Elizabeth upon a visit to the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth; by March 1947, Philip abandoned his Greek and Danish royal titles, adopted the surname Mountbatten from his mother’s family, and became a naturalised British subject. His engagement to the Queen was announced to the public on 10th July, 1947.
It was the day prior to his wedding that King George VI bestowed the style of Royal Highness on Philip and on the morning of the wedding, he was made the Duke of Edinburgh.
Phillip and Elizabeth were married at Westminster Abbey, a ceremony that was broadcast across the world to over 200m people.
The two were married for 74 years, a royal marriage which he saw not only personally, but as an act of public service. Speaking of republicanism in 1969, he noted: “It is a complete misconception to imagine that the monarchy exists in the interests of the monarch. It doesn’t. It exists in the interests of the people. If at any time any nation decides that the system is unacceptable, then it is up to them to change it”.
The Duke retired from public service in 2017, making a visit to the Royal Marines his final act, aged 96.
The news broke about HRH’s passing yesterday morning, just two months before his 100th birthday. He might have been happy about that, though, since he was not particularly enthused about living an extremely long life. In 2000, he remarked in an interview (when he was 79) that he could not “imagine anything worse” and had “no desire whatsoever” to become a centenarian, stating “bits of me are falling off already”.
May he rest in peace.