by Susan Flantzer
Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark was born at Mon Repos, formerly the summer residence of the Greek Royal Family, on the Greek island of Corfu on June 10, 1921. His parents were Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and Princess Alice of Battenberg.
Prince Philip has some interesting genealogy and several connections to other royal families. His paternal grandparents were King George I of Greece and Grand Duchess Olga Constantinovna of Russia. King George was born Prince William of Denmark and was the son of King Christian IX of Denmark and the brother of King Frederik VIII of Denmark, Queen Alexandra of the United Kingdom and Empress Maria Feodorovna of Russia. Philip’s paternal grandmother Grand Duchess Olga Constantinovna of Russia was the daughter of Grand Duke Constantine Nikolaevich, the second son of Tsar Nicholas I of Russia.
Philip’s paternal aunts and uncles were:
- King Constantine I of Greece who married Princess Sophia of Prussia, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria
- Prince George who once saved the life of his first cousin, the future Tsar Nicholas II
- Princess Alexandra who married Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich of Russia; their son, Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich of Russia, was one of the assassins of Grigori Rasputin
- Prince Nicholas who married Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna of Russia; their daughter, Princess Marina, married Prince George, Duke of Kent, son of King George V
- Princess Marie
- Prince Christopher
Philip’s maternal grandparents were Prince Louis of Battenberg and Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine. Through his maternal grandmother Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine, Philip is a great great grandson of Queen Victoria. Princess Victoria’s mother was Princess Alice of the United Kingdom, the third child of Queen Victoria. Philip’s maternal grandfather, Prince Louis of Battenberg, had a 40-year career in the British Navy and was First Sea Lord. During World War I, at the request of his wife’s first cousin King George V of the United Kingdom, Prince Louis relinquished his German styles and titles and changed his name to Mountbatten. King George V created him Marquess of Milford Haven.
Philip’s maternal aunts and uncles were:
- Queen Louise of Sweden who was the second wife of King Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden
- George Mountbatten, 2nd Marquess of Milford Haven
- Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma who was Supreme Allied Commander South East Asia Command during World War II, the last Viceroy of India, the first Governor-General of India, and First Sea Lord; he was killed by an IRA bomb in 1979.
Philip had four sisters, all quite a bit older than him:
Princess Margarita of Greece and Denmark (1905 – 1981) married Prince Gottfried of Hohenlohe-Langenburg (1897 – 1960), five children
Princess Theodora of Greece and Denmark (1906 – 1969), married Prince Berthold, Margrave of Baden (1906 – 1963), three children
Princess Cecilie of Greece and Denmark (1911 – 1937), married Georg Donatus, Hereditary Grand Duke of Hesse (1906 – 1937), three children; Cecilie, her husband, their two sons, and husband’s mother all died in a plane crash. See the Unofficial Royalty article about this here.
Princess Sophie of Greece and Denmark (1914 – 2001), married (1) Prince Christoph of Hesse (1901 – 1943), five children (2) Prince George William of Hanover (1915 – 2006), three children
In 1922, when Philip was a little more than a year old, his uncle King Constantine I was forced to abdicate and his father Prince Andrew was arrested by the military government and court-martialed. Prince Andrew was found guilty and faced possible death. Through the efforts of King George V of the United Kingdom, arrangements were made for Andrew to be spared and with his family to go into exile in Paris. The family settled in the Paris suburb of Saint-Cloud in a house lent to them by Andrew’s French-born sister-in-law Princess Marie Bonaparte.
Prince Philip first attended the MacJannet School for Young Americans in Saint-Cloud, France. In 1928, he was sent to England where he lived with his maternal grandmother at Kensington Palace, his maternal uncle George Mountbatten, 2nd Marquess of Milford Haven at Lynden Manor in Bray, Berkshire, England and started to attend the Cheam School in 1930. Over the next three years, all four of Philip’s sisters married German royals, his mother was placed in a sanatorium after being diagnosed with schizophrenia, and his father moved to a small apartment in Monte Carlo. Philip spent most of his childhood in the care of other family members and did not see his mother again until the funeral of his sister Cecilie in 1937. In 1938, Philip’s uncle and primary guardian, the Marquess of Milford Haven, died at age 45 of bone marrow cancer.
In 1933, Philip was sent to the Schule Schloss Salem in Germany where money could be saved on his tuition because the family of his brother-in-law, Berthold, Margrave of Baden, owned the school. With the rise of Nazism in Germany, Schule Schloss Salem’s Jewish founder, Kurt Hahn, left Germany and founded Gordonstoun School in Moray, Scotland. After two terms at Schule Schloss Salem, Philip moved to Gordonstoun School where he became Head Boy and captain of the hockey and cricket teams.
After finishing Gordonstoun School, Philip joined the British Royal Navy in 1939. He completed his training at the Royal Naval College Dartmouth, where he was the best cadet of his class. Philip was on active duty during World War II and remained in the Royal Navy until 1952. Read more about his naval career here.
In 1939, during Philip’s first year at the Royal Naval College Dartmouth, King George VI, Queen Elizabeth, Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret made a visit. Because of his family relationship (Elizabeth and Philip are second cousins once removed through their descent from King Christian IX of Denmark and third cousins through their descent from Queen Victoria), Philip was asked to join the party to entertain the two young princesses. Elizabeth and Philip had already met in 1934 when she was a bridesmaid at the wedding of her uncle, The Duke of Kent, to Philip’s first cousin, Princess Marina of Greece. However, it was at Dartmouth that the 13-year old Elizabeth truly took notice of her nearly 18-year old cousin. It is said that Elizabeth was instantly smitten with the dashing Philip and the two began a correspondence which quickly blossomed into a romance.
Eventually, in the summer of 1946, Philip asked King George VI for Elizabeth’s hand in marriage. The King consented, with the condition that the announcement be held off until after Elizabeth’s 21st birthday the following year. In March 1947, Philip relinquished his Greek and Danish royal titles, adopted the surname Mountbatten from his mother’s family, and became a naturalized British subject. The engagement of Princess Elizabeth and Lt. Philip Mountbatten was announced on July 10, 1947. The day before the wedding, King George VI bestowed the style His Royal Highness on Philip, and on the morning of the wedding, he was made the Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth, and Baron Greenwich.
Philip and Elizabeth were married at Westminster Abbey in London on November 20, 1947. See Unofficial Royalty: Wedding of Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten for more details on the wedding.
Following their honeymoon, spent at Broadlands (the Mountbatten estate in Hampshire) and Birkhall on the Balmoral Estate, the couple took up residence at Windlesham Moor, a country home in Surrey which was leased for them. They remained at Windlesham Moor until July 1949 when they moved into Clarence House in London.
The couple had four children:
- Prince Charles, Prince of Wales (born November 14, 1948), married (1) 1981 Lady Diana Spencer, divorced 1996, two children: Prince William, Duke of Cambridge; Prince Harry; married (2) 2005 Camilla Shand Parker-Bowles
- Princess Anne, Princess Royal (born August 15, 1950), married (1) 1973 Mark Phillips, divorced 1992, two children: Peter Phillips, Zara Phillips Tindall; married 1992 (2) Timothy Laurence
- Prince Andrew, Duke of York (born February 19, 1960), married 1986 Sarah Ferguson, divorced 1996; two children: Princess Beatrice of York, Princess Eugenie of York
- Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex (born March 10, 1964), married 1999 Sophie Rhys-Jones, two children: Lady Louise Windsor, James, Viscount Severn
On February 6, 1952, while on a visit to Kenya, Philip broke the news to Elizabeth that her father King George VI had died and they immediately returned to London. Queen Elizabeth’s coronation took place on June 2, 1953.
With Elizabeth’s accession, it seemed probable that the royal house would become the House of Mountbatten, following the custom of a wife taking her husband’s surname upon marriage. However, both Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Elizabeth’s grandmother, Queen Mary, were in favor of keeping the House of Windsor. On April 9, 1952, Queen Elizabeth issued a declaration that Windsor would continue to be the name of the royal house. Prince Philip supposedly told some friends, “I am the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his own children.” In 1960, Queen Elizabeth modified the 1952 declaration by declaring that “while I and my children will continue to be styled and known as the House and Family of Windsor, my descendants, other than descendants enjoying the style, title or attributes of Royal Highness and the titular dignity of Prince or Princess, and female descendants who marry and their descendants, shall bear the name Mountbatten-Windsor.”
Then there was a situation with Philip’s titles. On the day before his marriage to Elizabeth, Lt. Philip Mountbatten, who had previously relinquished Greek and Danish styles and titles, was created His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh. Apparently, King George VI was under the impression that since he had given Philip the style of His Royal Highness, it meant he was also giving him the title of prince, which was not so. It wasn’t until February 22, 1957 that Queen Elizabeth corrected this situation and issued a Letters Patent that made her husband a Prince of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Since 1952, Prince Philip has made over 620 solo visits to 143 countries. He has also accompanied Queen Elizabeth on all her Commonwealth tours and State visits, as well as on most of her public engagements in the United Kingdom. Prince Philip is the patron of over 800 organizations in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth with special interests in scientific and technological research and development, the encouragement of sport, the welfare of young people, and conservation and the environment. His first patronages date back to the late 1940s soon after his marriage to Queen Elizabeth.
On May 4, 2017, Buckingham Palace announced: “His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh has decided that he will no longer carry out public engagements from the autumn of this year. In taking this decision, The Duke has the full support of The Queen.
Prince Philip will attend previously scheduled engagements between now and August, both individually and accompanying The Queen. Thereafter, The Duke will not be accepting new invitations for visits and engagements, although he may still choose to attend certain public events from time to time.”
Some interesting facts about Prince Philip:
- Philip is the is the longest-lived male member of the British royal family.
- Philip is the longest-serving, oldest-ever spouse of a reigning British monarch having surpassed Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III.
- Philip and his wife are third cousins through Queen Victoria and second cousins once removed through King Christian IX of Denmark.
- Philip is the oldest living great-great grandchild of Queen Victoria as well as her oldest living descendant. Other great great grandchildren of Queen Victoria , and therefore third cousins, include Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, King Juan Carlos I of Spain and his wife Sofia, born a Princess of Greece and Denmark; King Harald of Norway, King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, former King Constantine II of Greece and his wife Anne-Marie, born a Princess of Denmark, and Queen Elizabeth II’s paternal first cousins: Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester; Prince Edward, Duke of Kent; Princess Alexandra of Kent and Prince Michael of Kent.
- In July 1993, through mitochondrial DNA which is transmitted from mother to child, a sample of Prince Philip’s blood was used to confirm the identity of the remains of several members of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna of Russia’s family. Empress Alexandra Feodorovna was a daughter of Princess Alice of the United Kingdom, Queen Victoria’s second daughter, as was Philip’s maternal grandmother Victoria. The female line continued through Philip’s mother Alice of Battenberg.
- The inhabitants of some villages on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu worship Prince Philip as a god. The villagers have portraits of the prince and hold feasts on his birthday.
- Philip has become famous for making remarks that were often interpreted as being offensive or stereotypical. Read some of his quotes here.
Read more about the British Royal Family here!