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Loyal, Strong and Steadfast: HRH PRINCE PHILIP

Posted by Caribbean World Magazine on 24 March 2021 | 0 Comments

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24 March 2021

We mourn the passing the longest-serving Royal Consort in British history, a man of considerable intellect, surety and public service

Caribbean World magazine would like to extend its deepest sympathies to the Royal Family at this time of national mourning. The death of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, the beloved husband of our dear Queen Elizabeth has been greeted by great sorrow all around the world. According to the Palace, HRH Prince Philip, aged 99 and just two months from his 100th birthday, passed away peacefully in his sleep at Windsor Castle with his wife of more than seven decades by his side. The couple, steadfastly supportive of one another for more than 70 years, made the history books as the longest-serving monarch and longest-serving royal consort in British history. His education and experience of naval command, helped to equip Philip with the strength of character required for the demands and challenges of wholeheartedly supportinghis wife’s role as Queen. However, as well as this support role, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, also won widespread respect for his tireless work for his own charitable causes. By the time he officially retired from public life in 2017, Buckingham Palace calculated he had completed 22,219 solo engagements since his first in 1952 - a remarkable record of public service. He was patron to more than 900 charitable organisations. 

Prince Philip of Greece was born to Prince Andrew of Greece, a younger son of King George I of the Helelenes, on 10 June 1921 on the island of Corfu. His birth certificate shows the date as 28 May 1921, as Greece had not then adopted the Gregorian calendar.

His mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg, was the eldest child of Prince Louis of Battenberg and sister of Earl Mountbatten of Burma.

After a coup d'etat in 1922, his father was banished from Greece by a revolutionary court and the family were rescued by a British warship sent by his second cousin, King George V.  Baby Philip spent much of the voyage to Italy in a crib made from an orange box and was doted on as the youngest child, and the only boy in a family of sisters. 

After an early childhood education in France, Philip attended a prep school in Surrey in England from the age of seven, when he came to live with his Mountbatten relatives. Unbeknownst to him, his mother had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and contact with her after this point was scarce. In 1933, he was sent to Schule Schloss Salem in southern Germany, which was run by educational pioneer Kurt Hahn. But within months, Hahn, who was Jewish, was forced to flee Nazi persecution, moving to Scotland and founding Gordonstoun school, to which the prince shortly transferred. 

The school’s Spartan regime, with its emphasis on independence and self-reliance, was the ideal environment for a teenage boy who was very much alone. He enjoyed the camaraderie and the sense of belonging and, with war looming, Prince Philip decided on a military career in the seafaring tradition of his mother's family. After becoming a cadet at the Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, he was delegated to escort the two young princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret, while King George VI and Queen Elizabeth toured the college. The meeting made a deep impression on the 13-year-old Princess Elizabeth and Philip quickly proved himself an outstanding prospect, passing out in 1940 at the top of his class.

Philip saw military action for the first time in the Indian Ocean and went on to have a distinguished career. By October 1942, he was one of the youngest first lieutenants in the Royal Navy, serving on board the destroyer HMS Wallace. Throughout this period, he and the young Princess Elizabeth had been exchanging letters, and he was invited to stay with the Royal Family on a number of occasions. It was after one of these visits, over Christmas 1943, that Elizabeth placed a photograph of Philip, in naval uniform, on her dressing table. Their relationship developed in peacetime, and the young princess was very much in love. In the summer of 1946, Philip asked the King for his daughter's hand in marriage and began steps to renounce his Greek title and adopt the anglicised name, Mountbatten. He also became a British citizen. 

The engagement was then officially announced to jubilant London crowds. 

The day before the marriage ceremony, King George VI bestowed the title of His Royal Highness on Philip and on the morning of the wedding day he was created Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich. The wedding took place in Westminster Abbey on 20 November 1947. It was, as Winston Churchill put it, a "flash of colour" in a grey post-war Britain. 

As part of his naval career, the duke was posted to Malta where he was able to live a “normal” life much like any other service family. In 1948, their son, Prince Charles, was born at Buckingham Palace with a daughter, Princess Anne, arriving two years later. Prince Andrew was born in 1960 and Prince Edward in 1964. Prince Philip achieved a personal ambition when, in September 1950, he was appointed to his own command, the sloop HMS Magpie.

However the worsening health of George VI meant that his naval career was about to be curtailed as Princess Elizabeth was required to undertake more royal duties and Philip was needed by her side. after less than a year, he took leave from the Royal Navy, never to return to an active role. 

By 1952, the couple were representing the British monarchy on a tour of the Commonwealth originally planned to be undertaken by the King and Queen. It was while they were staying at a game lodge in Kenya in February that word came through the King had died. He had suffered a coronary thrombosis - a fatal heart blood clot. Philip was given the news to break to his young wife: she, at the tender age of 25, was now Queen of England. 

Deprived of his naval career, yet without any constitutional position,

a Royal Warrant proclaimed that Prince Philip would have precedence after the Queen on all occasions, and he set about carving out his role. He was a moderniser, full of ideas about how best to streamline the old guard and the entrenched, and often unnecessary pomposity of the monarchy. He channelled some of his energies into charitable causes, played a strong role in raising his children,and became concerned was for the welfare of young people. In 1956 that interest sparked the launch of his phenomenally successful Duke of Edinburgh's Awards, which has enabled some six million 15-to-25-year-olds - many with disabilities - the world over to challenge themselves physically, mentally and emotionally in a range of outdoor activities designed to promote teamwork, resourcefulness and a respect for nature. The Prince used his passion for wildlife to throw his considerable influence and energy behind the World Wildlife Fund, later to become the World Wide Fund for Nature. Other areas of focus have been Prince Philip’s praise-worthy commitment to preserving the world's forests. He has also campaigned against overfishing in the oceans. The Queen, on the occasion of their Golden Wedding Anniversary in 1997, complemented her husband describing him as “my strength and my stay”. 

Advancing years barely slowed the pace of Philip’s  life, he continued to enjoy sport - especially playing cricket and polo - and excelled at carriage driving. He was president of the International Equestrian Federation for many years and also a keen sailor. 

International travel still took him to every corner of the world, both for the World Wide Fund for Nature and with the Queen on state visits abroad. He also travelled on a personal pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1994 to visit the tomb of his mother and fulfilled another poignant trip during the 50th anniversary of VJ Day in 1995. 

As a strong-willed, independent and forthright man - and a natural leader - Prince Philip was sometimes criticised for his combative, intolerant tone. However, as a man who “just like to get on this things” and “get things done” he would often wonder why others didn’t just “pull their fingers out”, saying to the BBC once: "I can't suddenly change my whole way of doing things, I can't change my interests or the way I react to things. That's just my style." 

During the coronavirus pandemic, Philip and the Queen moved to Windsor Castle, and were given a vaccine in January 2021. His death on the 9th April, was just two months before his 100th birthday. In his honour, saluting batteries fired 41 rounds at one round every minute in cities including London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, as well from Royal Navy warships. Prince Charles paid tribute to his “dear Papa” and confirmed he “was missing him enormously”, saying of the father who as well as birding-watching and prolific writing was a skilled oil painter, “I think he’d probably want to be remembered as an individual in his own right, really.” 

HRH Prince Philip will be laid to rest on Saturday 17th April in a scaled-down ceremony in accordance with Covid 19 restrictions. He is reported to have requested a funeral of minimal fuss and will not lie in state. Instead, he will lie at rest until the day of the funeral, which will be at the private St George's Chapel, in the grounds of Windsor Castle, at 15:00 BST. The event, which is limited to 30 people, will be televised. 

The coffin is draped in Prince Philip’s personal flag, his standard. The flag represents elements of his life, from his Greek heritage to his British titles. The coffin also bears a wreath of flowers.