Today marks The Duke of Edinburgh’s 99th birthday, continuing his record as the oldest and longest-serving British consort in history. We take a look at some facts about his long and interesting life, both before and after his marriage.
1) He only became ‘Prince Philip’ in 1957
Just before his marriage in 1947, George VI created Philip ‘The Duke of Edinburgh’, with HRH styling, and made him a Knight of the Garter.
After her accession in 1952, The Queen announced that the Duke was to have “place, pre-eminence and precedence” next to her, which gave Philip precedence over his son, Prince Charles, even though he didn’t technically have the same or superior rank.
The Queen, however, created her husband a Prince of the Realm in 1957.
2) An island worships Prince Philip as a god
Some villages on the island of Tanna, Vanuatu think the Duke is a god, and hold feasts on his birthday. Philip visited in 1971, with Prince Charles heading back there in 2018.
3) Philip gave up his citizenship, titles & religion to marry Princess Elizabeth
Philip was born a Prince of Greece and Denmark on the island of Corfu, he was a grandson of George I of Greece, and nephew of King Constantine. Even though the family had been run out of the country, in order to marry a British Princess, he had to abandon his royal titles.
He adopted the surname ‘Mountbatten’ from his mother’s side of the family and additionally became a naturalised British subject.
Although he had attended Anglican services throughout his childhood in the UK, and felt Anglican, Philip was baptised into the Greek Orthodox Church. In October 1947, the Archbishop of Canterbury brought him into the Church of England.
His engagement came in the summer of 1946, but was announced to the public on 10th July 1947; George VI had requested the announcement be delayed until after Elizabeth’s 21st birthday.
4) The Duke was the first royal father to attend the birth of one of his children
Philip attended Prince Edward’s birth at Buckingham Palace in 1964, reportedly after The Queen read about the benefits of the father being present at the special time.
During Prince Charles’ birth in 1948, the Duke had been playing squash!
5) His mother became a nun
Princess Alice of Battenberg, The Duke of Edinbufgh’s mother, was a great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, born at Windsor Castle. Upon her marriage in 1903, she became Princess Andrew of Greece and Denmark, but became estranged from her husband and suffered from ill mental health.
In January 1949, the Princess founded a nursing order of Greek Orthodox nuns, called the Christian Sisterhood of Martha and Mary. She based the order on the convent that her aunt, Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna had founded in Russia in 1909.
Alice was known for her love of playing cards and smoking, two traits not usually associated with nuns!
She attended The Queen’s 1952 coronation in her distinct habit, and lived with her son and daughter-in-law at Buckingham Palace from 1967 until her death in 1969.
6) He has been pretty busy as Prince Consort…
During the course of his 65-years at The Queen’s side, Prince Philip has completed 22,219 solo engagements since 1952, the BBC calculates, and has made 5,496 speeches!
Some 785 organisations have has the Royal as patron, president or member, and 4 million youngsters have taken part in The Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme, which Philip launched in 1956.
7) The Duke of Edinburgh is a war veteran
Philip not only graduated from Dartmouth as the best cadet in his course, but he was commended for his actions during World War Two.
Between 1940 and 1941, Philip served as a Midshipman on HMS Ramillies and HMS Valiant, before moving to Sub-Lieutenant on HMS Wallace the year after.
He saw action at the battle of Crete in May 1941, and was mentioned in dispatches for his service during the battle of Cape Matapan, when he controlled the battleship’s searchlights. He was awarded the Greek War Cross of Valour.
The Duke ended his naval career in 1952 with his wife’s accession, reaching the rank of Commander, but The Queen gave him the honour of Lord High Admiral – the head of the Royal Navy – in 2011 to mark his 90th birthday.
8) Philip is a keen painter
While not quite as prolific or public as his son’s work, the Duke enjoys painting and his preferred medium is oil.
One of his paintings was displayed in 2016, for an exhibition at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace.
9) The Prince Consort first met his future wife when she was just 13
In 1939, George VI and Queen Elizabeth toured the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, where Philip was undertaking his training.
The Queen and Louis Mountbatten asked him to escort the two young Princesses during the visit. Philip and the Princess began exchanging letters after they met, when it is said Elizabeth fell in love.
10) Philip is a descendant of the Romanovs
Philip is related to the House of Romanov through both of his parents.
His paternal grandmother Grand Duchess Olga Constantinovna of Russia was the granddaughter of Tsar Nicholas I, while Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine, his maternal grandmother, was a sister of Alexandra Feodorovna, Tsarina to Nicholas II.
The Russian Imperial House came to an end with the murder of Nicholas and Alexandra in 1918, after the Emperor was forced to abdicate the year before in the Bolshevik Revolution.