Written by Zulfick Farzan
09 Apr, 2021 | 4:50 pm
LONDON — Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth II’s husband and the longest-serving consort of any British monarch, has died at age 99.
Philip spent 65 years supporting the queen, retiring from his public role in 2017 and staying largely out of the view since. In his active years, he helped set a new course for the monarchy under a young queen, championing Britain itself, as well as environmental causes, science, and technology.
Philip helped bring the royals to life on television rather than through radio reports. He was the first member of the royal family to do a televised interview and he presented a show on a royal tour of the Commonwealth. He is also said to have had a hand in televising the queen’s coronation in 1953 and in organizing a groundbreaking 1969 television documentary about the family.
Born on June 10, 1921, on the Greek island of Corfu, he was the only son of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, and Princess Alice of Battenberg. Greece’s king, Philip’s uncle, was forced to abdicate when Philip was a baby, and the family fled to Paris, with Philip famously carried to safety in a crib made from an orange box.
At age 7, he moved to England, where he lived at Kensington Palace, now home to Prince William. Philip lived there with his paternal grandmother, Victoria Mountbatten, and later attended Gordonstoun, a boarding school in Scotland.
At 18, Philip joined the Royal Navy and graduated from the Britannia Royal Naval College as a top cadet. He saw active duty from the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean, and in 1945 at the end of World War II, he was in Tokyo Bay when the Japanese surrendered.
Then known as Philip Mountbatten, he first met his cousin Elizabeth in 1934 at a family wedding. The two are both great-great-grandchildren of Queen Victoria.
The couple exchanged letters while Philip was overseas during the war, only occasionally seeing each other. They would go out driving in Philip’s “tiny MG” sports car, as well as dancing at London nightclubs.
The pair married in Westminster Abbey on Nov. 20, 1947, with around 2,000 guests in attendance and another 200 million listening to the ceremony on the radio.
Philip renounced his Greek royal title and became a British citizen. Elizabeth’s father, King George VI, also gave him a new title: the Duke of Edinburgh.
Two years later, the couple moved to Malta, where Philip assumed command of a battleship, the last active command in his military career. Far from Britain, the couple were able to live the life of a naval officer and his wife.
But any freedom Elizabeth and Philip had was cut short by the declining health of her father. King George VI died in 1952, while Elizabeth, just 25, was in Kenya on a royal tour with Philip. They were relaxing at a wildlife-viewing lodge in the African wilderness when they were informed of the king’s death. Philip broke the news to Elizabeth during a walk on a farm.
From that moment on, he became the queen’s “consort,” the title given to the official companion of the monarch. In that role, Philip, who met every post-war U.S. president apart from Donald Trump, sought to portray himself as working tirelessly in support of his wife.
He championed causes that caught his imagination, and helped found the Royal Academy of Engineering, which promotes engineering excellence and education, and served as the first president of the World Wildlife Fund.
He created the Duke of Edinburgh Awards, a series of challenges to encourage young people to take up adventures in the outdoors, and had a hand in restoring both Windsor Castle after a devastating fire, and Westminster Abbey. He also promoted the use of the English language outside Britain in the years after the breakup of the British empire.
Even after the couple’s children took on official duties in support of the queen, Philip remained one of the most active royals until his retirement.
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