Philip Mountbatten married Princess Elizabeth in 1947, and the couple’s marriage is longer than any other royal union in history. Just as his wife is the longest-serving British monarch, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, was the longest-serving royal consort in British history. (According to tradition, a queen’s husband is known as a prince consort and does not become king.) Philip died on April 9, 2021 at the age of 99.
As third cousins - both great-great-grandchildren of Queen Victoria and her beloved husband Prince Albert – the royal couple crossed paths for the first time at events family, including the coronation of King George VI in 1937. But as Sally Bedell Smith writes in her 2012 biography, Elizabeth the Queen: the life of a modern monarch, sparks really flew (at least for the 13-year-old star-eyed princess known to her family as Lilibet) in the summer of 1939, when she and her family visited the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, where Philip was a caddy.
The relationship developed during World War II, during Philip’s service in the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean and the Pacific. In 1946 he proposed to Elizabeth at the Royal Family Estate in Balmoral, Scotland, although at the insistence of King George VI the engagement announcement was postponed until his eldest daughter had had 21 years old.
In some ways, Philip was a traditional choice – he certainly had royal pedigree. But in another way, as Smith writes, the romance has sparked controversy. Palace courtiers and aristocratic friends and relatives of the royal family regarded him as an irreverent stranger – calling him “German” or even “Hun”. (Although Philip’s maternal grandfather Prince Louis of Battenberg was in fact German, the British royal family was no stranger to German bloodlines: Queen Victoria’s husband had been Prince Albert of Saxony- Coburg-Gotha, and during World War I, King George V changed the name of the royal household from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor to downplay its German ties.)
Despite the controversy, they married in November 1947. In the early years of their marriage, the couple renovated their official London residence, Clarence House; spent time in Malta, the Mediterranean island nation where Philip served with the Royal Navy; and had two children, Charles and Anne. The King’s declining health, however, changed everything. Elizabeth’s royal duties increased, and in 1951 Philip returned to London, ending his promising naval career.
In February 1952, Elizabeth and Philip were at the start of a state visit to Kenya, then a British colony, when it was learned that King George VI had died at the age of 56. With his wife’s ascension to the throne at the age of 25, The role of the husband of the Queen of Prince Philip began.
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It was a difficult time of transition, including an embarrassing battle over Philip’s desire for his wife to take her mother’s last name, Mountbatten (the English version of Battenburg), which Philip himself had only adopted. recently when he got his UK citizenship and had to. abandon his title of prince of Greece. (He lost that battle, thanks to opposition from his mother-in-law, the Queen Mother, and his grandmother, Queen Mary, as well as Prime Minister Winston Churchill.)
Philip’s great-great-grandfather Prince Albert had wielded enormous influence during his wife’s reign, advising her on all manner of political and diplomatic matters and even acting as a private secretary and manager of his business. In return, Victoria rewarded him with the official title of Prince Consort in 1857. In contrast, Philip was excluded from his wife’s official duties and did not take that official title. Despite this, Smith writes, Philip “resolved to support his wife while finding his own niche” and sponsoring organizations dedicated to causes such as sports (he was an avid polo player), education, conservation. wildlife and the environment.
Along with his signature straightforwardness, Prince Philip has also provided comedic relief to his famous and serious wife over the years. He also raised eyebrows with some of his more controversial remarks and made no secret of some of the shortcomings of his role as a husband.
“It was not my ambition to be chairman of the Mint Advisory Board,” he told The Independent in 1992. “I didn’t want to be president of WWF. I was asked to do it … I’d much rather stay in the navy, frankly. On his 90th birthday in 2011, Queen Elizabeth gave her husband the title of Lord High Admiral, titular chief of the Royal Navy, in a gesture widely seen as recognition of the sacrifice he made to stand by his side.
Philip officially retired from his royal duties in August 2017. He passed away on April 9, 2021 at the age of 99.
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