Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh in 2015.
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LONDON – Prince Philip, the Greek-born king who was the longest-serving consort of a British sovereign as the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, passed away on Friday. He was 99 years old.
“HRH passed away peacefully at Windsor Castle this morning,” announced the Royal Family. “Further announcements will be made in due course. The royal family and people around the world mourn his loss.”
The Duke of Edinburgh’s death came 12 days before Queen Elizabeth’s 95th birthday on April 21st. After a long-running plan known as Operation Forth Bridge, his death heralds a time of national mourning.
Philip, whom the Queen described as “my strength and my stay,” was hospitalized in February after “feeling unwell” and being treated for an infection and pre-existing heart disease, Buckingham Palace said. He was released a month later after heart surgery.
Philip, who popularized the sobriquet “The Firm” for the family firm Windsor, finished his official duties in the fall of 2017. Months earlier, in June, he was hospitalized for an infection and missed the Queen’s speech re-elected Parliament opened this month.
Two days after the absence of Easter 2018 In St. George’s Chapel he was admitted to King Edward VII Hospital for a previously planned hip operation, the palace announced. This 10-day hospitalization came weeks before the birth of Prince William and Kate’s third child, Prince Louis Arthur, and Prince Harry’s wedding to Meghan Markle on May 19, 2018 in St. George’s.
In January 2019, Philip was uninjured after being involved in a collision while driving a Land Rover near the Queen’s Sandringham Estate at the age of 97. According to witnesses, the vehicle overturned and two women were treated for injuries. Weeks later, he decided to surrender his driver’s license.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Philip and Elizabeth lived at Windsor Castle, west of London.
The Duke of Edinburgh supported his wife in an unprecedented time of social, economic, technological, political change and family crises.
Fourteen prime ministers held their office, while Philip was British consort – companion of the sovereign – under Winston Churchill in 1952 through the incumbent Boris Johnson.
Both the Duke and Queen, the longest-ruling monarch in the world, saw the transformation of a once global British Empire into a Commonwealth of 52 independent member states, a free association led by the Queen.
Philip’s public statements had been rare in recent years, and his direct contact with the media was even rarer. Previously, the Duke was known to express his opinion in public engagements, often with terrifying remarks that went beyond the boundaries of humor.
For example, during the 1981 recession he said, “Everyone said we needed more free time. Now they are complaining that they are unemployed.”
“Aren’t most of you descended from pirates?” Philip asked a wealthy Cayman Islands resident in 1994.
“You are too fat to be an astronaut,” he said in 2001 to a 13-year-old boy.
When Philip met a mayor in 2012 who was using a mobility scooter, he asked him, “Did you run over someone?”
Philip was born on June 10, 1921 on the Greek island of Corfu as the youngest child and only son of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and Princess Alice von Battenberg. Andrew, whose father, King George I of Greece, was murdered in 1913, was the commander of the Greek army during the war with Turkey from 1919 to 1922. After the defeat of Greece, Andrew and the family were exiled in 1922 and settled in France.
Philip’s maternal grandfather, Prince Ludwig von Battenberg, renounced his German title, took the surname Mountbatten, an Anglicized version of the German Battenberg, and became a British citizen.
At the age of 7 in 1928, Philip was sent to school in England. He lived with his maternal grandmother, Victoria Mountbatten, and his uncle, George Mountbatten.
Philip’s four sisters married German aristocrats, and three of them – Sophie, Cecilie, and Margarita – joined the NSDAP. Of course, one of his brother-in-law was among those involved in the 1944 conspiracy to kill Adolf Hitler.
In an interview with historian Jonathan Petropoulos, published in his 2006 book Royals and the Reich, Philip said he was never “aware that anyone in the family was actually expressing anti-Semitic views,” but admitted that there was “inhibitions against the Jews” and “jealousy of their success. “
As a teenager, Philip joined the Royal Navy and served in World War II, including participating in the battles of Cape Matapan and Crete and the invasion of Sicily. He was in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945 because of the Japanese surrender and later received the Greek War Cross of Valor for his service in the Navy.
In 1947, 26-year-old Philip married his third cousin, Princess Elizabeth, 21, renouncing his Greek title in order to become a naturalized British subject. He was later made Duke of Edinburgh by Elizabeth’s father, King George VI.
The royal marriage was not without controversy at the time, as Philip was not a native son. The Queen Mother is said to have called him “the Hun”. Even so, the couple married at Westminster Abbey and received more than 2,500 wedding favors from around the world. A year later, the son and heir to the throne, Charles, was born, followed by Anne, Andrew and Edward.
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh wave from the balcony of Buckingham Palace during the Queen’s coronation celebrations on June 2, 1953.
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Philip’s maritime career, during which the newly married couple were briefly stationed in Malta, later ended when George VI died on February 6, 1952 and Princess Elizabeth became Queen.
The Duke assumed his new role as wife and accompanied Her Majesty on domestic trips, state visits and Commonwealth tours around the world.
Elizabeth was officially crowned Queen in the first live television coronation broadcast worldwide in 1953. Shortly thereafter, Philip and Elizabeth embarked on a seven-month international tour, visiting 13 countries and covering over 40,000 miles.
“Nobody has ever forgotten to meet him”
In addition to his royal obligations, the Duke became a qualified pilot and played polo regularly until his 50th birthday. Philip achieved many flight qualifications that earned him his Royal Air Force wings in 1953, his helicopter wings two years later, and his private pilot’s license in 1959.
In an official capacity, Philip has traveled to more than 140 countries.
“The great thing about my dad is that nobody ever forgot to meet him, so they all have their stories,” said Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex, during an engagement at Windsor Castle in May 2017.
“Wherever he’s been, wherever in the world – people remember him. You can’t really get a better award,” he added.
The reign of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip also had to survive times of crisis, including the British monarch being fired at with blanks in 1981. Two years earlier, the Queen’s art advisor, Anthony Blunt, was exposed as a communist spy and Philip’s uncle Louis “Dickie” Lord Mountbatten was killed by an Irish Republican Army bomb.
In 1992, the marriages of three of her children broke down. Andrew and Anne divorced their spouses, and Charles and Diana began a separation that ended in divorce four years later. Also in 1992, Windsor Castle, one of the couple’s official residences, was destroyed by fire. The Queen described this 12 month period as “annus horribilis”.
During Charles and Diana’s troubles, Philip reportedly advised the couple to reconcile, but to no avail. A year after their 1996 divorce, Diana and her boyfriend Dodi Fayed were killed in a car accident in Paris while photographers chased their limousine. Before the funeral, Philip successfully encouraged his 15-year-old grandson William to walk behind Diana’s coffin. Sixty years earlier, Philip, then 16, marched behind his sister Cecilie’s coffin after she was killed in a plane crash.
“If you don’t go, you will probably regret it later,” Philip told William, according to British media reports. “If I go, will you go with me?”
Fayed’s father claimed Philip ordered the couple’s execution, but in 2008 a London medical examiner dismissed Mohamed al Fayed’s allegations of conspiracy and ruled that there was no such evidence. The jury eventually decided the crash was due to grossly negligent driving of the couple’s chauffeur and paparazzi chasing their limousine.
“I … owe him a debt greater than he would ever say.”
Queen Elizabeth II sits with Prince Philip as she delivers her speech during the Opening Ceremony of Parliament at the House of Lords in Westminster on June 4, 2014 in London.
In the decades following his marriage to the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh had made more than 22,000 individual engagements, made 637 overseas visits, made an estimated 5,493 speeches, and acted as a patron of nearly 800 organizations, according to the royal website.
One of his most successful associations was arguably the creation of the Duke of Edinburgh Award, a youth self-improvement program that has been running for 65 years.
In May 2017, the palace announced that the then 95-year-old prince would finally cease his royal duties from autumn. Philip and his wife had gradually passed on some of their respective workloads over the past few years. Their son and heir, Prince Charles, as well as grandchildren, Princes William and Harry and other family members, assumed more collective responsibility until Andrew was effectively stripped of royal duties in 2019 for being linked to late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and Harry back as a senior Royal in 2020.
The Queen said in honor of her husband on their golden wedding anniversary on November 20, 1997: “Quite simply, he was my strength and remained all these years and I and his whole family in this and many other countries owe him a debt that is greater is than he would ever ask, or we will ever know. “
The couple celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary in November 2017. During their private ceremony at Windsor Castle, Elizabeth presented him with the Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order for “Services to the Sovereign”.
Survivors include his wife, Queen Elizabeth II, and their children: Charles, Prince of Wales; Anne, Princess Royal; Prince Andrew, Duke of York; and Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex. The Queen and Philip also had eight grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren, including Augustus Philip Hawke Brooksbank, who was born on February 9, 2021 to Princess Eugenie and her husband Jack Brooksbank and was named in part in honor of the Duke of Edinburgh.
Philip had insisted that, according to The Times of London, he didn’t want the “excitement” of a state funeral at Westminster Hall. Instead, his body is expected to be in St. James’s Palace, where Prince Diana’s body lay prior to her burial.
– CNBC’s Marty Steinberg is based in New Jersey.