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  • Writer's pictureJustin Friedberg

The Life and Legacy of Prince Phillip

Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, died just one year shy of becoming a centenarian on April 9, 2021 due to natural causes. Prince Phillip was a consequential man of the monarchy, who knew well both controversy and triumph. His was a life full of rich possessions but also rich lessons that will be remembered and taught for years and generations to come.

Phillip was born on the Greek island of Corfu on June 10, 1921 to father, Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, and mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg. His birth name and title were Prince Philippos of Greece and Denmark. Although his being sixth in line to the Greek throne did have its perks, his childhood was a turbulent one, marked by pain and tragedy.

In 1922, when he was one, his uncle, King Constantine I of Greece, was forced to abdicate the throne after Greece’s fantastic defeat in the Greco-Turkish War. He would die a year later while in exile. Philip’s father, having been accused of treason, was also exiled and the whole family was forced to flee to Paris. In 1931, at the age of four, his mother, Princess Alice, suffered a nervous breakdown and was sent to a hospital. She was later diagnosed with schizophrenia, but for five years Prince Philip didn’t hear from her. He was virtually alone, and later said to a biographer, “The family broke up. My mother was ill, my sisters were married, my father was in the south of France. I just had to get on with it. You do. One does.” He was mostly cared for by his aunts and uncles and would spend most of his youth in Britain.

However, in 1937, at the age of 16, Prince Philip’s sister, the Princess Cecilie of Greece and Denmark, her husband, Prince Georg Donatus, and two of their three children died in a horrific plane crash. Princess Cecilie was eight months pregnant at the time, and it is believed they crashed while trying to make an emergency landing in bad weather because she had given birth on the plane. Their third child, the fourteen-month-old Princess Johanna, who was not on the flight, died two years later of meningitis. Only a few months later, his uncle and caretaker, George Mountbatten, died of cancer at the age of forty-six. He reportedly buried his feelings, and remained involved socially, serving as the captain of his school's hockey and cricket teams.

In 1939, only a year later, at the age of eighteen, Philip joined the Royal Navy. This is where he would first meet his later wife, Princess Elizabeth, who was only thirteen years old at the time. Interestingly enough, the pair were third cousins, both sharing the same great-great- grandmother, Queen Victoria. Their relationship steadily developed throughout World War II, and he eventually proposed to her in 1947, to the dismay of most of the royal family, who viewed him as an outsider, and a foreigner. They were married at Westminster Abbey on November 20th, 1947, and, the night before, King George VI gave him the new title Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

When Elizabeth became queen, he stayed by her side and continued to do so for the next seventy-three years. He later became known for his unconventional and oftentimes insensitive humor. He would have four children, eight grandchildren, and ten great-grandchildren. He wrote 14 books and made 5,493 speeches. Finally, His Royal Highness made 637 solo trips outside the United Kingdom; in fact, there are that many words in this article, meaning every word you read represents just one of his trips. So, as the Prince once said, let's “get on with it”, but never forget the life and legacy of the man who honorably served his country and married its monarch.


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