Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

The Duke of Edinburgh
The Duke of Edinburgh

The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (Philip Mountbatten, formerly Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark) (born 10 June 1921, Greece) is the husband of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom. Originally a Greek subject and a Prince of Greece and Denmark, he renounced these titles and his allegiance to marry the Princess Elizabeth. Prince Philip is a member of the Danish Royal House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, from Northern Germany. Prior to his marriage, King George VI created him Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich with the style of Royal Highness. In 1957, Philip was created a Prince of the United Kingdom by The Queen.

In addition to his royal duties, the Duke of Edinburgh is also the patron of many organisations, including the Duke of Edinburgh Award, the World Wildlife Fund, and he is Chancellor of both the University of Cambridge and University of Edinburgh.

The Prince continues to fulfil his public duties as a member of the Royal Family, and is an established public figure in the United Kingdom. He has gained something of a reputation for making "off the cuff" often controversial remarks, particularly when meeting the British public or on state visits to other countries (see below).

Early life

British Royal Family

Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark was born on 10 June 1921 atop a kitchen table at Villa Mon Repos on Corfu, a Greek island in the Ionian sea. His father was Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, the son of King George I of Greece and Queen Olga. His mother was Princess Andrew of Greece and Denmark (formerly Princess Alice of Battenberg), the elder daughter of the 1st Marquess of Milford Haven (formerly Prince Louis of Battenberg) and the Marchioness of Milford Haven (formerly Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine). Lady Milford Haven, through her mother, the Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine (formerly Princess Alice of the United Kingdom), was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Princess Andrew was the sister of Queen Louise of Sweden, George Mountbatten, 2nd Marquess of Milford Haven and Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma.

The Prince was baptised a few days after his birth at St. George's Church in the Palaio Frourio ("Old Fortress") in Corfu. His godparents were Queen Olga and the Corfu community (represented by Alexander S. Kokotos, Mayor of Corfu, and Stylianos I. Maniarizis, Chairman of Corfu City Council).

Prince and Princess Andrew remained in residence on the Island of Corfu for 18 months. Greece was politically unstable, and it was expected that the monarchy would soon be overthrown. On 22 September 1922, King Constantine I was forced to abdicate the throne. A revolutionary court sentenced Prince Andrew, his younger brother, to death. Fortunately for the family, King George V of the United Kingdom ordered that a Royal Navy ship evacuate the family, and Philip was carried to safety in a cot made from an orange box.

He had four older sisters, all of whom married German princes:


Prince and Princess Andrew and their children fled to Paris, where they took up residence at Saint-Cloud, in a villa belonging to Prince Andrew's sister-in-law Princess Marie Bonaparte. After being exiled, the marriage of Prince Philip's parents began to crumble. His father descended into alcoholism and gambling. His mother declined into mental instability and subsequent institutionalisation. She recovered and turned to religion. Afterwards, Prince Philip was to see little of them.

Prince Philip's education began at an American school in Saint-Cloud. However, his grandmother, Lady Milford Haven, advised her daughter to have him educated in England. He subsequently departed for the Surrey preparatory school Cheam.

Aged 12, Prince Philip departed England for Germany, studying at Schule Schloss Salem, a school in Southern Germany that belonged to Prince Maximilian of Baden, the father of his brother-in-law. The school was supervised by Kurt Hahn, an education pioneer who had been an early admirer and later a fierce critic of the Nazi party. By the time Hitler came to power in 1933, however, Hahn, who was Jewish, had become alarmed by the radical developments of Nazism and relocated to Scotland where he founded Gordonstoun. (He also founded the Outward Bound organization.) Prince Philip also left Germany, in 1936, and went to Gordonstoun where he flourished academically and socially. He was the head of the hockey and cricket teams, and eventually became head boy. Prince Philip was so fond of the school that he later sent The Prince of Wales, The Prince Andrew and The Prince Edward to Gordonstoun also, though his sons experienced the school with mixed results.

Naval career

On 1 May 1939, Prince Philip began his naval career at Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth as a Special Entry Cadet. In his training year, Philip won the prestigious King's Dirk and the prize for best cadet of his entry. However, with the Second World War due to begin, Prince Philip would soon see real action.

In 1940 he served on HMS Ramilles in Colombo, Ceylon, as a Midshipman, patrolling the Indian Ocean and escorting troops from Australia to the Middle East. In 1941 he was transferred to HMS Valiant, a battleship stationed in Alexandria, Egypt. Philip acted as the searchlight control on the ship, helping to sink two Italian cruisers. Later service in the war saw Philip promoted to the rank of Lieutenant and serving during the invasion of Sicily. Philip was also present onboard HMS Whelp at the surrender of Japanese forces in Tokyo Bay.


Styles of
The Duke of Edinburgh
Reference style His Royal Highness
Spoken style Your Royal Highness
Alternative style Sir

On 20 November 1947, Prince Philip married the heiress presumptive to the British throne, The Princess Elizabeth, eldest daughter of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. The couple married at Westminster Abbey in London with the ceremony recorded and broadcast by the BBC.

The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh on their wedding day.
The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh on their wedding day.

Before they could marry, Prince Philip was required to convert from Greek Orthodoxy to Anglicanism, to renounce his allegiance to the Hellenic Crown, and to become a naturalised British subject 1. He renounced his Greek and Danish royal titles on 18 March 1947 and decided to take the name Mountbatten, an Anglicised version of Battenberg, his mother's family name. The day before his wedding, King George VI created his future son-in-law Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth, and Baron Greenwich, of Greenwich in the County of London. The King also issued letters patent allowing the Duke of Edinburgh to use the style His Royal Highness, in effect restoring Philip's original princely status. After their marriage, his wife became Her Royal Highness The Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh. The King seemed to be under the impression that if Philip had the style of His Royal Highness, he was automatically a Prince of the United Kingdom. This was later deemed not to be correct, and the situation was rectified by his wife in 1957 (see below). From 1947 to 1957, Philip's legal name was technically His Royal Highness Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. However, due to the confusion, he was often referred to as His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, even in official documents.

The wedding itself was not without incident. For example, in post-war Britain it was not acceptable to invite any of the Duke of Edinburgh's German relations, excepting his mother, who was born at Windsor of German parents. Excluded from the ceremony were his three surviving sisters, each of whom had married German aristocrats, some with Nazi connections. (His sister Princess Sophie's first husband, Prince Christophe of Hesse had been a member of the SS and an aide to Heinrich Himmler.) Also, the bride's aunt Mary, Princess Royal refused to attend because her brother, the Duke of Windsor (who abdicated in 1936), was not invited.

Duke of Edinburgh

The Duke of Edinburgh accompanies the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth II back from Westminster Abbey on her coronation day
The Duke of Edinburgh accompanies the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth II back from Westminster Abbey on her coronation day

After their marriage, the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh took up residence at Clarence House in London. The Duke was keen to pursue his naval career. However the knowledge that it would be eclipsed by his wife's future role as Queen was always in his mind. Nevertheless, he returned to the Navy after his honeymoon, and was stationed in Malta. He rose through the naval ranks and commanded his own frigate, HMS Magpie.

In January 1952, the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh set off for a tour of the Commonwealth, with visits to Africa, Australia and New Zealand. On 6 February, when the Duke and Duchess were in Kenya, the Duchess's father, King George VI, died, and she ascended the Throne as Queen Elizabeth II. The Duke broke the news to the new Queen at their hotel (Tree Tops). The Duke was resigned to the fact that his naval career was now over, and he had a new role as the consort of the British monarch.


Unlike the wife of a British monarch, there is no corresponding role for the husband of a reigning Queen. In compensation, the Queen allowed Philip a free hand in the upbringing of their children, allowing Philip to decide on their education and future careers.

The accession of Elizabeth to the Throne brought up the question of the name of the Royal House. The Duke's uncle, Earl Mountbatten of Burma, had advocated the new name House of Mountbatten, as Elizabeth would typically have taken Philip's name on marriage. When Queen Mary, Elizabeth's grandmother, heard about this, she told Sir Winston Churchill who later advised the Queen to issue a proclamation declaring that the Royal House was to remain the House of Windsor. Philip bitterly remarked that he had been "turned into an amoeba".

In 1953, the Duke was given the rank and titles Admiral of the Fleet, Field Marshal, and Marshal of the Royal Air Force. He was also made the Captain-General of the Royal Marines. This was in tune with the tradition established by Queen Victoria, who did not wish to take a military role that people of her gender could not normally assume (though she did not appoint her prince consort to these positions).

The Duke of Edinburgh has supported the Queen in her role for the past 50 years. The Queen and Duke attend state visits abroad, and receive foreign dignitaries together. The Duke often carries out his own separate engagements on behalf of the Queen at home and abroad.

The Duke is also patron of many organisations. He established The Duke of Edinburgh's Award in 1956 to give young people "a sense of responsibility to themselves and their communities". The scheme now operates in 100 countries around the world. He has also been President of the World Wide Fund for Nature, despite having been an enthusiastic hunter of rare species.

In 1956-1957, the Duke took a round-the-world voyage on board HMY Britannia, visiting remote islands of the Commonwealth.

On the golden jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in 2002, the Duke was commended by the Speaker of the House of Commons for his role in supporting the Queen during her reign.

One of the most controversial aspects of the Duke was his relationship with his daughters-in-law, Diana, Princess of Wales and Sarah, Duchess of York. He was alleged to have been hostile to Diana after her divorce from the Prince of Wales. Mohamed Al-Fayed, the father of Diana's companion Dodi Al-Fayed and owner of Harrods, even suggested in court that the Duke was responsible for ordering Diana's death, remarks that led the Duke and the other members of the Royal Family to rescind their Royal Warrants from Harrods.

Personal life

Throughout his marriage, rumours spread concerning the Duke's alleged extra-marital affairs. The first public media report of the allegation appeared in 1957 in the Baltimore Sun, which claimed REPORT QUEEN, DUKE IN RIFT OVER PARTY GIRL. In a breach with precedent Buckingham Palace commented on the story, denying it in a forthright manner.

Prince Philip at one of his many trips that took him all over the world, here in Afghanistan visiting Lord Nasher
Prince Philip at one of his many trips that took him all over the world, here in Afghanistan visiting Lord Nasher

Rumours, some published, many hinted at with references to a "senior royal" being a "ladies' man", continued throughout his marriage. Australia's Woman's Day front page once promised readers a detailed exposé of 'Prince Philip's torrid sex life' with his 'famous lovers named'; The Tatler once published Philip's 'fan club', a list of famous women close to him, implying that they were his mistresses. Author Nicholas Davies suggested the Prince's supposed lovers included his cousin, Princess Alexandra of Kent, film-star Merle Oberon, and Susan Barrantes, mother of Sarah, Duchess of York. One rumour even claimed Philip had a homosexual affair with former President of France Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, while the most widely believed list of 'lovers' included actress Pat Kirkwood, 1950s personality Katie Boyle, and Hélene Cordet, a childhood friend with whom he supposedly had children. Respected Royal biographer of King George VI and Elizabeth II Sarah Bradford expressed her belief that Philip had committed adultery. It was even suggested by Lauren Bacall that Philip used his 'close friends' the actors David Niven and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr to act as his beard, with them pretending to be escorting women in Philip's company who were in reality his girlfriends.

One German newspaper even claimed in 1995 that Buckingham Palace had confirmed that Prince Philip was the father of 24 illegitimate children, only to retract the claim when they realised that they had mistranslated information from the Palace that had said he had 24 godchildren.

However, the Prince's most recent biographer, Gyles Brandreth, who interviewed Prince Philip, Kirkwood, Boyle, Cordet and friends, concluded that all the rumours were untrue; Kirkwood only met Philip socially on a handful of occasions, as did Boyle. The rumours concerning Cordet originated because she had had two children with her future second husband while separated from her first husband, but had declined at the time to name the father of her children, leading to rumours that it was her close friend Philip who was the father. Nor were Niven nor Fairbanks, contrary to Bacall's claims, more than casual acquaintances of Philip's. Brandeth concluded that Philip had not had any sexual relationship outside his marriage, believing that it would have been out of character, given his personal devotion to the Queen, and also no independent verified evidence, even in the most widely believed cases, could be found. Philip himself noted how his face is internationally recognised and that he has been accompanied continually since 1947 by police and detectives, so that extra-marital relationships could not have been carried out and had they been, would invariably have been discovered. While the rumours spread, no British tabloid has ever unearthed evidence to support the claims.[1] "I am the type who enjoys loyal company at Balmoral, if you catch my drift".

Royal status

The Queen created the Duke of Edinburgh a Prince of the United Kingdom in 1957, to correct the error that Philip had been made a Duke and given the style of His Royal Highness, but not made a Prince. To make this change significant, she styled him in the announcement His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, adding the definite article before his princely title, a usage normally restricted to the children of monarchs. An Order-in-Council was also issued in 1960, which stated the surname of male-line descendants of the Duke and the Queen who are not Royal Highnesses or Prince or Princess was to be Mountbatten-Windsor. This was to address the Duke's complaint that he was the only father in the country unable to pass his name to his children. In practice, however, the Queen and the Duke's children have all used Mountbatten-Windsor as the surname they prefer for themselves and their male-line children.

After her accession to the throne, the Queen also announced that the Duke was to have place, pre-eminence and precedence next to the Queen on all occasions and in all meetings, except where otherwise provided by Act of Parliament. This means the Duke is the first gentleman of the land, and takes precedence over his son, the Prince of Wales.

The Queen has never granted the Duke the title of Prince Consort. This title was granted to Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha by his wife, Queen Victoria, and has not been used since.

As of March 2006, the Duke is the oldest surviving great-great-grandchild of Queen Victoria and is 496th in the line of succession to the British Throne in his own right.

Coat of Arms

Arms of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh
Arms of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh

The Duke has his own personal coat of arms, created on November 19, 1947. Unlike the arms used by other members of the Royal Family, the Duke's arms do not feature the Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom, as men are not entitled to bear the arms of their wives. However they do feature elements representing Greece and Denmark, from which he is descended in the male line; the Mountbatten family arms, from which he is descended in the female line; and the City of Edinburgh, representing his dukedom.

The shield is quartered, the first quarter depicting the arms of Denmark, consists of three blue lions passant and nine red hearts on a yellow field. The second quadrant depicts the arms of Greece, a white cross on a blue field. The third quarter depicts the arms of the Mountbatten family, five black and white vertical stripes. The fourth quarter depicts the arms of the City of Edinburgh includes a black and red castle which is also part of the city of Edinburgh's arms.

The dexter supporter is a savage from the Danish Royal Coat of Arms; the sinister, a golden lion wearing a ducal cornet.

The coat features both the motto God is my help and the motto of the Order of the Garter, Honi soit qui mal y pense (Shamed be he who thinks ill of it) on a representation of the Garter behind the shield.

Children and grandchildren

Name Birth Marriage Children
The Prince Charles, Prince of Wales 14 November 1948 married (29 July 1981) and divorced (28 August 1996) Lady Diana Spencer (1961-1997)
married (9 April 2005) Camilla Parker-Bowles
Prince William of Wales (born 1982)
Prince Harry of Wales (born 1984)
The Princess Anne, Princess Royal 15 August 1950 married (14 November 1973) and divorced (28 April 1992) Captain Mark Phillips (born 1948)
married (12 December 1992) Commander (now Rear Admiral) Timothy Laurence
Peter Phillips (born 1977)
Zara Phillips (born 1981)
The Prince Andrew, Duke of York 19 February 1960 married (23 July 1986) and divorced (30 May 1996) Sarah Ferguson (born 1959) Princess Beatrice of York (born 1988)
Princess Eugenie of York (born 1990)
The Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex 10 March 1964 married (19 June 1999) Sophie Rhys-Jones (born 1965) The Lady Louise Windsor (born 2003)

Titles and honours

Shorthand titles


As part of a Cargo Cult, the Yaohnanen people of Vanuatu regarded Prince Philip as a god.


Controversial remarks

The Duke is particularly known in Britain for occasional controversial (often unkind) remarks made while on public visits.

  • When visiting China in 1986, he told a group of British students, "If you stay here much longer, you'll all be slitty-eyed".
  • After accepting a gift from a Kenyan native he replied, "You are a woman, aren't you?"
  • "If it has four legs and is not a chair, has wings and is not an aeroplane, or swims and is not a submarine, the Cantonese will eat it." (1986)
  • "British women can't cook." (1966)
  • To a British student in Papua New Guinea: "You managed not to get eaten then?"
  • Asked a Scottish driving instructor, "How do you keep the natives off the booze long enough for them to pass the driving test?"
  • On a visit to the new Welsh Assembly in Cardiff, he told a group of deaf children standing next to a Jamaican steel drum band, "Deaf? No wonder you are deaf standing so close to that racket."
  • He asked an Indigenous Australian, "Still throwing spears?" (2002)
  • Said to a Briton in Budapest, Hungary, "You can't have been here that long – you haven't got a pot belly." (1993)
  • To the President of Nigeria, who was dressed in traditional Muslim robes, "You look like you're ready for bed!"
  • Seeing a shoddily installed fuse box in a high-tech Edinburgh factory, HRH remarked that it looked "like it was put in by an Indian".
  • When a twelve-year-old boy told the Prince that he aspired to be an astronaut, His Highness responded, "You're too fat."
  • On the Royal Navy ship HMS Boxer, when given a tour of the ship, which was quite extended, was quoted to have said, "Not another fucking chamber"
  • On a visit to Exeter Cathedral, he asked a blind woman with a guide dog, "Do you know they have eating dogs for the anorexic now?"
  • Visiting San Francisco in 1983, after meeting then-mayor Dianne Feinstein and several female members of the city council, he remarked, "Aren't there any male officials?... This is a nanny city."
Preceded by:
India Hicks
Line of succession to the British Throne Succeeded by:
Maximilian, Margrave of Baden
Preceded by:
United Kingdom Order of Precedence
Succeeded by:
HRH The Prince of Wales
Preceded by:
Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon
Consorts of British monarchs
Succeeded by:
current consort
Preceded by:
New Creation
Duke of Edinburgh
Succeeded by:
incumbent (Upon death title will be inherited by The Prince of Wales unless The Duke of Edinburgh dies after The Queen, then it will merge into the Crown)
Preceded by:
Queen Mary
Grand Master of the Order of the British Empire
Succeeded by:


  1. ^ For details of the rumours surrounding Prince Philip's life, see Gyles Brandreth, Philip & Elizabeth: Portrait of a Marriage (Arrow, 1994) pp.335-369.

As a descendant of the Electress Sophia of Hanover through his mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg, Philip could already claim to be a naturalised British subject under the terms of the Sophia Naturalization Act passed in 1705. His naturalisation was at Lord Mountbatten's behest and merely undertaken out of an abundance of caution in the somewhat xenophobic atmosphere of the immediate postwar years.


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