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Prince Philip, Consort of Queen Elizabeth, Dies at 99

Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Credit: Twitter / The Royal Family @RoyalFamily

Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh and consort of the Queen of England Elizabeth II, passed away early Friday morning at the age of 99 at Windsor Castle. There was no official statement as to the cause of his death but he had been recently discharged from the hospital after having been there for several weeks.

In a recent BBC program, Prince Charles called his father’s life an “astonishing achievement,” adding “His energy was astonishing in supporting my mama (the Queen) – and doing it for such a long time, and, in some extraordinary way, being able to go on doing it for so long.

“What he has done has amounted to an astonishing achievement, I think.”

Princess Anne, his and the Queen’s only daughter, said the duke “treated everyone as an individual, and gave them the respect he felt they were due as individuals.”

Prince Philip’s marriage to Queen Elizabeth, which lasted 74 years, was the longest marriage of any British royals in history.

Born on the island of Corfu into the royal family of Greece and Denmark, the Prince knew little but constant upheaval as a child, when as a result of the chaos that ensued because of the Asia Minor catastrophe, his father, Prince Andrew of Greece, was forced into exile.

Philip himself had to be spirited out of the country hidden in an orange crate for safety, leading to many years of great difficulty in his life.

Mother was great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria

His mother, Princess Alice, who was the great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, had been born in Windsor Castle on February 25, 1885. Her father was Prince Louis of Battenberg and her mother was Princess Victoria of Hesse and the Rhine.

In 1903, Alice married Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark (who was known as “Andrea” within the family), the fourth son of King George I of Greece and Olga Constantinovna of Russia. The couple settled down in Greece and had five children.

After the First World War and the referendum of 1920, Constantine I returned to Greece from self-imposed exile in Switzerland along with the rest of the royal family. In June of 1921, Princess Alice had Prince Philip, her fifth child, in Corfu.

Spirited away in an orange crate

After the Asia Minor Disaster of 1922, however, the king and his uncle were unwanted in the country and were forced to flee into exile in Paris.

After the infant Prince Philip was spirited away from Greece hidden inside a crate of oranges, his father, Prince Andrew, was sentenced to death by an extraordinary military court, but his sentence was later reduced to exile.

Princess Alice was so traumatized by the events that she turned to mysticism as a solace, and she began to embrace the Greek Orthodox faith. At the time, she was also diagnosed as suffering a nervous breakdown.

Although Princess Alice tried to escape the sanatorium in which she lived many times, she eventually stayed there for two years, where her husband visited her only once. He preferred to spend his days in southern France, drinking and playing cards, surrounded by women.

Life at Gordonstoun

Meanwhile, Prince Philip attended a number of boarding schools, ending up at the formidable Gordonstoun School in Scotland, which was run like a military academy by a Jewish refugee from Europe. Despite its rigors, Philip found a true home there and it became the formative experience of his early years. He insisted later on that his son Charles attend the same school.

Prince Philip
Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip after they became engaged in 1947. Credit: Nationaal Archief –
CC0/Wikimedia Commons

Life had more hardship in store for Philip, however. In 1937, his sister Cecilie; her husband Georg Donatus, the Hereditary Grand Duke of Hesse; her two young sons, Ludwig and Alexander; her newborn infant; and her mother-in-law, Princess Eleonore of Solms-Hohensolms-Lich, were all killed in an air crash at Ostend, Belgium.

That tragedy, however, led to the reunification of Philip with his mother, who had recovered and was living back in Greece, after founding a charity for the poor.

Prince Philip
Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip after their marriage. Credit:
CC BY 2.0/Wikimedia Commons

Later spending some time with her in Athens, Philip then entered the Royal Navy, where he thrived in its world of masculine camaraderie and fellowship. When he was only 17 years old, he was assigned to show the royal family — including a 13-year old Princess Elizabeth — around the frigate on which he served. Princess Elizabeth was smitten by her dashing third cousin and the two began to correspond from that time forward.

Prince Philip
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip in one of the royal carriages during the Trooping the Colour parade in 2015. Credit: Myles Cullen – Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

Serving in the Second World War in the Atlantic, the Mediterranean and the Pacific, Prince Philip took part in the Battle of Crete and was awarded the Greek War Cross.

A long-awaited announcement came in 1947 when the betrothal of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip was shared to the world.

“To have been spared in the war and seen victory, to have been given the chance to rest and to re-adjust myself, to have fallen in love completely and unreservedly, makes all one’s personal and even the world’s troubles seem small and petty,” Philip wrote in a letter to Elizabeth later that year, according to biographer Ingrid Seward.

Although never granted the title of “King Consort,” Prince Philip gamely accepted the unusual role of supporter of his wife, the Queen, after she ascended to the throne in 1953. Although at times reportedly chafing at having to leave his naval career, he represented the throne at ceremonies for many decades and became the patron of 800 different charities as part of his role.

Prince Philip Retired at age 96 after a life of service

Taking part in many sports and traveling around the world until very recently, Prince Philip was quite active until several years ago, when he was allowed to retire from representing the royal family at events.

He officially retired at age 96 in August of 2017 after having completed a total of 22,219 official engagements since the year 1952. Just the year prior, he had been seen gamely sitting next to the Queen outdoors during a rainstorm as the British celebrated her 90th birthday on June 16, 2016.

Now in the 69th year of her reign, Queen Elizabeth will now have to face life without the man to whom she has been completely devoted since she was 13 years of age. Through the many high points of their lives, as well as the terrible lows, including the death of their daughter in law Princess Diana, and the divorces of their children, she and Prince Philip shared everything a married couple could share — in the unforgiving spotlight of fame.

Prince Philip: “My strength and my stay all these years”

Prince Philip’s most improbable life, from being born in a villa on Corfu to living in Buckingham Palace and becoming the father of the next King of England, was one that included many hardships as well as joys.

Queen Elizabeth stated in her Golden Wedding Anniversary speech in November of 1997, “All too often, I fear, Prince Philip has had to listen to me speaking. Frequently we have discussed my intended speech beforehand and, as you will imagine, his views have been expressed in a forthright manner.

“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.”

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