Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, dies at 99
LONDON — Prince Philip, the irascible and tough-minded husband of Queen Elizabeth II who spent more than seven decades supporting his wife in a role that both defined and constricted his life, has died, Buckingham Palace said Friday. He was 99.
Remembering Prince Philip, 1921-2021
Born June 10, 1921, on the dining room table at his parents’ home on the Greek island of Corfu, Philip was the fifth child and only son of Prince Andrew, younger brother of the king of Greece. His grandfather had come from Denmark during the 1860s to be adopted by Greece as the country’s monarch.
Philip’s mother was Princess Alice of Battenberg, a descendent of German princes. Like his future wife, Elizabeth, Philip was also a great-grandchild of Queen Victoria.
When Philip was 18 months old, his parents fled to France. His father, an army commander, had been tried after a devastating military defeat by the Turks. After British intervention, the Greek junta agreed not to sentence Andrew to death if he left the country.
The family was not exactly poor but, Philip said: “We weren’t well off” — and they got by with help from relatives. He later brought only his navy pay to a marriage with one of the world’s richest women.
Philip’s parents drifted apart when he was a child, and Andrew died in Monte Carlo in 1944. Alice founded a religious order that did not succeed and spent her old age at Buckingham Palace. A reclusive figure, often dressed in a nun’s habit, she was little seen by the British public. She died in 1969 and was posthumously honored by Britain and Israel for sheltering a Jewish family in Nazi-occupied Athens during the war.
Philip went to school in Britain and entered Britannia Royal Naval College Dartmouth as a cadet in 1939. He got his first posting in 1940 but was not allowed near the main war zone because he was a foreign prince of a neutral nation. When the Italian invasion of Greece ended that neutrality, he joined the war, serving on battleships in the Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean and the Pacific.
On leave in Britain, he visited his royal cousins, and, by the end of war, it was clear he was courting Princess Elizabeth, eldest child and heir of King George VI. Their engagement was announced July 10, 1947, and they were married on Nov. 20.
After an initial flurry of disapproval that Elizabeth was marrying a foreigner, Philip’s athletic skills, good looks and straight talk lent a distinct glamour to the royal family.
Elizabeth beamed in his presence, and they had a son and daughter while she was still free of the obligations of serving as monarch.
But King George VI died of cancer in 1952 at age 56.
Philip had to give up his naval career, and his subservient status was formally sealed at the coronation, when he knelt before his wife and pledged to become “her liege man of life and limb, and of earthly worship.”
The change in Philip’s life was dramatic.
“Within the house, and whatever we did, it was together,” Philip told biographer Basil Boothroyd of the years before Elizabeth became queen. “People used to come to me and ask me what to do. In 1952, the whole thing changed, very, very considerably.”
Said Boothroyd: “He had a choice between just tagging along, the second handshake in the receiving line, or finding other outlets for his bursting energies.”
So Philip took over management of the royal estates and expanded his travels to all corners of the world, building a role for himself.
From 1956, he was Patron and Chairman of Trustees for the largest youth activity program in Britain, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, a program of practical, cultural and adventurous activities for young people that exists in over 100 countries. Millions of British children have had some contact with the award and its famous camping expeditions.
He painted, collected modern art, was interested in industrial design and planned a garden at Windsor Castle. But, he once said, “the arts world thinks of me as an uncultured, polo-playing clot.”
In time, the famous blond hair thinned and the long, fine-boned face acquired a few lines. He gave up polo but remained trim and vigorous.
To a friend’s suggestion that he ease up a bit, the prince is said to have replied, “Well, what would I do? Sit around and knit?”
But when he turned 90 in 2011, Philip told the BBC he was “winding down” his workload and he reckoned he had “done my bit.”
The next few years saw occasional hospital stays as Philip’s health flagged.
He announced in May 2017 that he planned to step back from royal duties, and he stopped scheduling new commitments — after roughly 22,000 royal engagements since his wife’s coronation. In 2019, he gave up his driver’s license after a serious car crash.
Philip is survived by the queen and their four children — Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward — as well as eight grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
The grandchildren are Charles’ sons, Prince William and Prince Harry; Anne’s children, Peter and Zara Phillips; Andrew’s daughters, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie; and Edward’s children, Lady Louise and Viscount Severn.
The great-grandchildren are William and Kate’s children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis; Harry and Meghan’s son, Archie; Savannah and Isla, the daughters of Peter Phillips and his wife, Autumn; Mia and Lena, the daughters of Zara Phillips and her husband, Mike Tindall; and Eugenie’s son, August, with her husband, Jack Brooksbank.
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