Duke of Edinburgh Longes Serving Royal Consort
By Dr. Tilak S. Fernando
The news about the Duke of Edinburgh, who is married to one of the world's famed women, the Queen Elizabeth II of England, after enjoying 70 years of marital bliss has gone viral on news and social media about his decision to throw in the towel from all Royal duties from November 2017 after serving as the longest consort in British history. He was 96 years old on the 10 June 2017. The Duke has, however, decided to remain and continue as patron, president, or member of 785 organizations he has links with.
Prince Philip was born in Mon Repos, formerly the summer residence of the Greek royal family in Corfu on 10 June 1921 to Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and Princess Alice of Battenberg. His paternal grandmother, grand Duchess Olga Constantinova of Russia, the daughter of Grand Duke Constantine Nikolayevich, was the second son of Tsar Nichols 1 of Russia.
In 1922 a military coup d'état in Greece overthrew his uncle King Constantine I. Simultaneously his father was arrested and court-martialed, found guilty and faced possible death. In the meanwhile, King George V (Queens's grandfather) ordered the Royal Navy to rescue Prince Andrew of Greece and family and arranged for the entire family to go into exile in Paris and live in a house belonged to his father's French-born sister-in-law Princess Marie Bonaparte. During the evacuation of the family baby Philip was carried to safety in a cot made out of an orange box!
In 1928 he was sent to England to live with his maternal grandmother and uncle George Mountbatten at Kensington Palace, London. In 1930 he went to Cheam School and later attended the Gordonstoun School in Morayshire. During the family upheaval, his mother was diagnosed as suffering from a mental disorder, schizophrenia, and ended up in a sanatorium. This made his father to move into a smaller apartment in Monte Carlo. Such compounded unhappy incidents made him spend most of his childhood in the care of his other family members, but never saw his mother until at the funeral of his elder sister, Princess Cécile of Greece and Denmark, known in the family as Cécile, who died on 16 November 1937 in a tragic plane crash.
In 1939 Prince Philip joined the British Royal Navy and completed his training at Dartmouth Royal Naval College. Until 1952 he remained in the Royal Navy and was actively involved during the World War II. He had once met Princess Elizabeth during her uncle's (Duke of Kent) wedding as a bridesmaid. When Princess Elizabeth was 13 years old, King George VI visited the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth (during Philip's first year) with Queen Elizabeth, Princesses Elizabeth, and Margaret. It was the moment Princess Elizabeth really noticed her 18-year-old cousin Philip.
Love at first sight
The chemistry of love between the two worked instantly, and the princess immediately fell head over heels for the dashing Philip. Subsequent correspondence between the two blossomed into a romance. Queen mother apparently was worried about the Princess getting obsessed with the very first person she came across, but she (Princess Elizabeth) picked up courage at the age of 21 and sought blessings from her parents to marry Philip. Three months later their engagement was announced. On 20 November 1947, the royal wedding took place at Westminster Abbey giving access to 200 million people wide across the world, after the Greek Prince renounced his own title and became naturalized, thereby a British citizen by paying £10. The King subsequently granted him the Duke of Edinburgh title.
Princess Elizabeth's aspiration has always been to be a lady at large in the country and to lead a relaxed life, yet the sudden demise of her father, King George VI on 6 February 1952, transmuted her to devote her whole life in an entirely unexpected dimension as the Queen of Great Britain and Head of the Commonwealth.
The new queen had not been groomed to handle up-to-the minute responsibilities in a monarchy that made her to devote her time on royal duties. The Duke too had not been trained to cope with new obligations that made the royal establishment 'not to take him seriously' as a result. It made him feel 'unimportant,' and was driven him into a 'black depression'. To place matters into the right perspective a Royal Warrant authorized Prince Philip to 'enjoy place, prominence and preference to be present next to her Majesty,' despite the Duke having had to always walk one step behind his wife, which was regarded as an 'impossibility for a man of his aggressive temperament.'
The Duke was a talented sportsman who was keen in playing polo regularly until 1971. He participated in four-in-hand carriage racing at several European and international and world championships, qualified as a pilot while attached to the Royal Air Force and gained his RAF wings in 1953, helicopter wings in 1956 and private pilot's licence in 1959. Kindled by his college days at Gordonstoun, he set up the Edinburgh Award in 1956, which became one of the UK's well-known youth self-improvement schemes. After being advised to keep out of the 'Queen's official duties' he became involved in reorganizing the Royal estates at Balmoral and Sandringham and a warden of Windsor Park.
In private, the Duke has been the head of the family and visionary of the royal household. To the public, he appeared as a hot-tempered, irritable and no nonsense-approach member of the royal family with a mordant wit. In 1983 Prince Philip got into a bit of hot water with a pretty young fashion reporter in Canada when he bluntly asked her: "Are you wearing mink knickers?" Within minutes it was transmitted to the international media. Naturally, it was considered as a 'heinous royal slip-up,' although many failed to see the logic behind posing such a royal high command as the girl could have easily answered 'affirmatively or negatively.'
It was often mentioned in the media that considering the enormous differences in their temperaments the marriage between the Queen and Prince Philip has worked well for 70 long years, whereas almost all the other royal marriages have foundered. One reason for the couple's contentment is said to be their shared interests, although it was not regarded as a marriage made in heaven.
His excess energy always got him involved with many sports activities such as polo playing, sailing, flying, playing cricket, and fast-paced dangerous carriage-driving, and mainly working for the welfare of the youth. Over his 70-year-old marriage with Queen Elizabeth II, numerous stories have erupted, yet Duke of Edinburgh has been serving faithfully as the longest serving consort in the British history, as well as being the oldest partner of a reigning monarch.
He is well known for being pathological about having policemen as guards anywhere near him or the Queen in the belief that "too much security is self-defeating". He became a father when he was 26 years old and had his last son prince Edward born when he was 46.
Duke of Edinburgh seems to have few close friends since he is not regarded an easy buddy to have, because of the very fact that one has to necessarily agree with him; more so, he could be very unpleasant if others do not agree with his point of view.
Statistics: Courtesy Unofficial Roayal.com, Daily Mail London, News Group Newspapers Ltd.