A Very Royal Prince - The Life Of Prince Phillip, The Duke Of Edinburgh
Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh was born Prince Philippos of Greece and Denmark on 10 June 1921 at Villa Mon Repos on Corfu, a Greek island in the Ionian Sea. His father was Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and his mother was the former Princess Alice of Battenberg.
The prince was educated first at Cheam School in Surrey, England, then at Schule Schloss Salem in Germany and finally and most successfully, at Gordonstoun, a private boarding school in the north east of Scotland.
Gordonstoun's tough, spartan regime found an apt pupil in Philip and created in him a a strong, self-reliant individual ever-ready to tackle whatever new challenges life cared to throw at him. He became Head Boy of the school. and excelled at sports and physical activities, ending as captain of the school's hockey and cricket teams. He left Gordonstoun in 1939, but the pioneer spirit it had fostered in him soon found another home: the Royal Navy.
The Young Naval Officer
Phillip joined the Royal navy in 1939, much to the delight of his family, particularly his uncle, Lord Louis Mountbatten.
He took to the life immediately and in addition to distinguishing himself by winning both the prestigious King's Dirk and the prize for best cadet of his entry, something else rather important took place during his training year. On July 22, a mere two months into his time at Dartmouth, the Royal Family visited the naval college - some say at the suggestion of Louis Mountbatten - and the Prince received his first proper introduction to his future wife, Princess Elizabeth, then a shy 13-year-old.
At 18, Philip was five years older than "Lilibet" and had a very healthy interest in girls of his own age. Also as war broke out, Philip was forced to put aside any thoughts of home and family.
Commissioned as a Midshipman, Prince Philip spent six months on the battleship HMS Ramillies then serving in the Indian Ocean. In January 1941 he was posted to the Mediterranean fleet aboard the battleship HMS Valiant where, amongst other engagements, he was involved in the Battle of Crete. He was mentioned in despatches for his service during the Battle of Cape Matapan and was also awarded the Greek War Cross of Valour
Promoted Sub-Lieutenant, and after a series of courses, Prince Philip was posted to the destroyer HMS Cornwallace, where he was subsequently involved in convoy escort tasks. Promotion to Lieutenant followed on 16 July 1942 and in October 1942, he became the ship's First Lieutenant (at 21 years of age, he was one of the youngest to be appointed a First Lieutenant). Whilst with HMS Cornwallace, he took part in the Allied invasion of Sicily
Prince Philip was later posted as the First Lieutenant of the new destroyer HMS Whelp where he saw service with the British Pacific Fleet in the 27th Destroyer Flotilla, including being present in Tokyo Bay when the Japanese surrender was signed. He eventually returned to Britain with the ship in January 1946.
Phillip had maintained a correspondence with Princess Elizabeth during the war and in 1943 had accepted an invitation to spend Christmas with the Royal Family at Windsor Castle. It seems that after this visit that Phillip and the young future Queen of England had decided that their future life should be spent together. But before any possible union could be considered, the pressing issue of Philip's nationality had to be addressed. He was a prince without a home and the case for his becoming a British subject was a strong one, particularly as the Navy was unwilling to extend him a peace-time commission unless he became naturalised. With the active help of his uncle, Lord Mountbatten, this problem was overcome, and, on March 18, 1947, Philip Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksberg, renounced his Greek Royal titles and became Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, a naturalised Briton.
Some MP's felt that the match had come too soon and expressed reservations about both the Princess's youth and her choice of suitor but both Elizabeth and her dashing suitor were extremely popular with the British public and on July 8, 1947, Buckingham Palace announced the engagement of Princess Elizabeth and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten. In view of is new status, Philip was created Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth, Baron Greenwich, with the style of His Royal Highness, and was appointed a Knight of the Garter. The wedding, which followed on November 20 of the same year at Westminster Abbey, was a spectacular distraction from the austerity of the post war years. It was, in many ways, indicative of the more progressive and contemporary direction the British Monarchy was soon to take under the stewardship of Elizabeth.
After spells spent instructing at the Petty Officers' School and attending the Naval Staff College in Greenwich, the Duke was keen to return to what he loved best - sailing. Although Philip was delighted to return to his vocation, his joy was inevitably mitigated by the knowledge that as a new husband, his duty to his wife would have to co-exist with and perhaps even eclipse his duty to the Navy.
Following the birth of Charles in November 1948, that duty became more apparent still. The Duke succeeded in striking a balance between the two, juggling his role as a new father with his tasks as First Lieutenant aboard HMS Chequers, which was then Leader of the First Destroyer Flotilla in the Mediterranean Fleet. In 1950, he received promotion and found himself a Lieutenant Commander and, soon afterwards, in command of the frigate HMS Magpie. By the end of his Naval career he had attained the rank of Commander.
In January 1952, the Duke and Princess Elizabeth set off for a tour of the Commonwealth, with planned visits to Africa, Australia and New Zealand. On 6 February, when they were in Kenya, the Princess' father, King George VI, died, and she ascended the Throne as Queen Elizabeth II. The Duke broke the news to the new Queen at their hotel (Tree Tops). As a result of the King's passing, the visits to Australia and New Zealand were cancelled until 1954. The Duke was resigned to the fact that his naval career was now over, and he had a new role as the consort of the British monarch.
The Duke has enjoyed his roles of Admiral of the Sea Cadet Corps, Colonel-in-Chief of the Army Cadet Force and Air Commodore-in-Chief of the Air Training Corps, all of which have provided him with excellent channels for one of his greatest passions - the training and education of young people. To this end perhaps his most successful initiative has been the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme, which was launched in 1956. Over the course of half a century, it has enabled two-and-a-half million able-bodied and disabled 15- to 25-year-olds the world over to challenge themselves physically, mentally and emotionally by practising a range of outdoor activities designed to promote teamwork, resourcefulness and a respect for nature.
The Queen has never granted the Duke the official title of Prince Consort. This title was granted to Albert, Prince Consort by his wife, Queen Victoria, and has not been used since then by a British consort. There was some media speculation in early 2007 that such a title might be conferred to mark the royal couple's 60th wedding anniversary in November 2007, however this has not occurred. Throughout their marriage the Duke has remained a steady influence on the Queen and has become a well-known and public figure in the UK and beyond. His value to his wife and to the British monarchy has been and still is, of immense importance.
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