2021-04-14 02:46:19 Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth II’s Husband, Dead At 99
Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth II’s Husband, Dead At 99
The Duke of Edinburgh, Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, and a central figure in British public life for nearly three-quarters of a century, Prince Philip, has died, the royal family announced Friday. He was 99 years old.
“Her Majesty The Queen announces the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh,” Buckingham Palace said in a statement. “This morning, His Royal Highness died peacefully at Windsor Castle. Additional announcements will be made in due course. The Royal Family joins people all over the world in mourning his passing.”
The prince was admitted to the hospital earlier this year for treatment of an infection as well as surgery for a preexisting heart condition. In mid-March, he was released.
Her Majesty The Queen has announced the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, with great sadness.
This morning, His Royal Highness died peacefully at Windsor Castle.
Philip was the longest-serving royal consort in British history, having been married for more than 70 years. He stood by his wife’s side as she presided over a country and a royal family that had changed dramatically since she took the throne in the early 1950s.
“He has simply been my strength and stay all these years,” the Queen said in a speech commemorating their 50th anniversary in 1997, “and I, and his entire family, and this and many other countries owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim, or we shall ever know.”
The couple had four children together: Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew, and Prince Edward, as well as eight grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren.
During his lengthy public career, Philip completed over 22,000 solo public appearances, delivered nearly 5,500 speeches, traveled to over 600 countries, and was involved in over 780 organizations and charities. He jokingly called himself “the world’s most experienced plaque-unveiler.”
The occasionally bumbling prince officially retired from royal duties in 2017, at the age of 96, though he was still seen at weddings and other events.
Former Prime Minister Theresa May stated at the time of the prince’s retirement that the UK owed Philip their “deepest gratitude” for his many years of service to the country: “From his steadfast support for Her Majesty the Queen to his inspirational Duke of Edinburgh Awards and his patronage of hundreds of charities and good causes, his contribution to our United Kingdom, the Commonwealth, and the world is immeasurable.”
Philip, the only son of Prince Andrew of Greece and Princess Alice of Battenberg, was born on a dining room table on June 10, 1921, in Corfu, Greece. He was the fifth child in a family of five, with four older sisters.
After his uncle, King Constantine I, abdicated in December 1922, his family fled Greece in the aftermath of a coup. The young prince was whisked away in a crib made from a fruit box. The exiled family first settled in France before dispersing across Europe. Philip was sent to a variety of schools while his mother was institutionalized for schizophrenia, including Cheam prep school in England, Schule Schloss Salem in Germany, and Gordonstoun School in Moray, Scotland. “I just had to get on with it,” the prince later said of his upbringing.
Philip is said to have seen his parents only a few times during this time. Lord Mountbatten, his uncle, was thought to be his primary guardian toward the end of his childhood. Two of his sisters married Nazi Party members, and when one died in a plane crash in 1937, Philip was photographed marching alongside Nazis in her funeral procession in Germany. The prince, on the other hand, was never a member of the Nazi Party. After finishing high school, Philip went on to attend Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, Devon, before fighting the Axis powers in World War II.
During a visit to the naval college by their father, King George VI, in 1939, Philip was asked to show 13-year-old Princess Elizabeth and her sister, Princess Margaret, around. (They first met as children at a wedding in 1934.) Following the encounter, Philip and Elizabeth, distant cousins, stayed in touch and eventually married.
When World War II broke out, Philip’s uncle persuaded him to join the navy rather than the air force. In 1995, he told the BBC, “It seemed easier to join [the military] than to be called up.” “It was unavoidable that I would serve in one of the armed forces during the war. People our age — we just did it. But, you know, it hadn’t occurred to me before that. I had a fleeting thought, “What could I do?” Being stateless is difficult.”
He served aboard the HMS Valiant in the Mediterranean in 1941 and 1944, rising to the rank of first lieutenant. He witnessed the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay in 1945, as well as the release of Allied prisoners of war to British ships. “These people were sailors. They were emaciated… tears streaming down their cheeks, they just drank their tea, they couldn’t speak,” he recalled later. “It was an incredible sensation.”
The prince eventually returned to the UK after the war, but the Telegraph reported that in letters to Princess Elizabeth, he said he was “rather fed up with everything and feeling that there was not much to look forward to and rather grudgingly accepting the idea of going on in the peacetime navy.”
However, by the summer, his relationship with the future monarch had blossomed, and he wrote in a later letter, “To have been spared in the war and seen victory, to have been given the chance to rest and re-adjust myself, to have fallen in love completely and unreservedly, makes all one’s personal and even the world’s troubles seem small and petty.”
Philip, a foreign-born exiled royal, was a controversial choice as the future Queen’s husband, but love triumphed. Although Philip and Elizabeth were engaged in 1946, the princess’s father, George VI, requested that the announcement be postponed until after his daughter’s 21st birthday, so the news was not made public until July 1947. Philip renounced his Greek and Danish royal titles (his father was the grandson of King Christian IX of Denmark) around this time and became a British subject, taking the surname Mountbatten.
Philip and Princess Elizabeth were married at Westminster Abbey on November 20, 1947, in a ceremony broadcast to 200 million people around the world via radio. Approximately 10,000 congratulatory telegrams were sent to the couple, who also received over 2,500 wedding gifts. Philip was given the title of Duke of Edinburgh shortly before his marriage. (In 1957, the Queen bestowed the title of prince on him.)
Following their honeymoon at the Balmoral estate in Scotland, the newlyweds relocated to Malta, where Philip resumed his naval career, rising to the rank of commander. Prince Charles, Philip and Elizabeth’s first child, was born at Buckingham Palace in 1948. Princess Anne, his sister, was born two years later.
King George VI died on February 6, 1952, while Philip and his wife were on a visit to Kenya. The Duke of Edinburgh was the one who informed Princess Elizabeth that her father had died and that she had succeeded her father as Queen of England. She was only 25 years old at the time.
Philip’s naval career came to an end with the Queen’s ascension to the throne. “It was unavoidably disappointing,” he later admitted. “I had just been promoted to commander, and the most exciting part of my naval career was just beginning.” To commemorate the prince’s 90th birthday, the Queen bestowed the title of Lord High Admiral of the Navy, the ceremonial head of the force, in a move seen by some as recognition of the professional sacrifices he made for his wife.
Philip struggled for some time to find his identity as the male consort to a powerful woman in a still traditionally conservative era. “There was no precedent,” he recalled later. “If I asked someone, ‘What do you expect me to do?’ they all looked at me blankly. They had no idea, and no one had much of an idea.”
The prince kept himself busy by learning to fly and spearheading modernization efforts at Buckingham Palace and other royal residences.
During his lifetime, he also did a significant amount of charity work, including championing environmentalism with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). While denying that he was a “bunny hugger,” Philip framed his conservation enthusiasm as a matter of practicality rather than politics. In a 2011 interview, he said, “If we have this extraordinary diversity on this planet, it seems awfully silly for us to destroy it.” “All of these other creatures have an equal right to exist here; we have no greater claim to the Earth than anyone else, and if they’re here, let’s give them a chance to survive.”
David Attenborough, a natural historian and broadcaster, described the prince as extremely knowledgeable and recalled being intimidated by him on their first meeting. “He’s formidable, he’s intimidating, partly because of his position, but also because he’s a very considerable intellect,” said Attenborough. “The first time I met him, it was crystal clear that if you showed up without having mastered the papers, he would detect it very quickly and you would be in big trouble.”
Philip also established the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award program in 1956 to encourage young people to participate in social and physical development activities. The popular scheme, which was inspired by Philip’s time at Gordonstoun, is still in use in dozens of countries around the world.
Later in life, Philip became notorious for making sometimes controversial and racist remarks during royal visits. During a tour of a Scottish factory in 1999, for example, he commented on a fuse box, saying, “It looks like it was put in by an Indian.” And a year before, in Papua New Guinea, he asked a British trekker, “You managed not to get eaten, then?” His remarks frequently caused the royal family headaches, portraying him as an out-of-touch relic from another era.
Countess Mountbatten, the prince’s cousin, told the BBC that the prince’s off-the-cuff, straightforward style endeared him to many people. “He always speaks his mind, sometimes not always with tact,” she explained. “On the other hand, I think people have come to expect that from him, and they really enjoy it, thinking, how nice to hear somebody actually say what they think.”
Martin Palmer, Philip’s environmental adviser, who first met the duke in 1985 and cofounded the Alliance of Religions and Conservation with him in 1995, admitted the duke could be prickly. “Get him on a bad day, and it’s a lot of work,” he admitted. “If you catch him on a good day, you won’t want to be with anyone else.”
However, some of the prince’s most ardent supporters lived on a small island in Vanuatu. A remote community worshiped the prince as a deity and the embodiment of an ancient warrior there.
Philip announced in 2011 that he would be reducing his royal duties after his 90th birthday.
“I reckon I’ve done my bit, so I want to enjoy myself a bit now, with less responsibility, less frantic rushing around, less preparation, less trying to think of something to say,” he told the BBC at the time.
He was hospitalized for several days in December of that year after experiencing chest pains. In 2012, he was admitted to a hospital for a bladder infection, and in June 2013, he spent 10 days at the London Clinic following abdominal surgery.
Philip attended a series of events across the country in April 2016 to commemorate the Queen’s 90th birthday. He also entertained Barack and Michelle Obama, the then-president and first lady, at Windsor Castle, driving them there himself.
In April 2018, the prince underwent hip replacement surgery. He also survived a car accident in January 2019 at Sandringham Palace, in which his vehicle collided with another and overturned. He later wrote to a woman injured in the other vehicle to express his “deepest apologies.”
Philip announced in May 2017 that he would be stepping down from his royal duties.
According to a statement issued by Buckingham Palace, the Duke of Edinburgh has “decided that he will no longer carry out public engagements beginning in the autumn of this year.”
“The Duke has The Queen’s full support in making this decision,” the palace said.
Historian Christopher Lee told the BBC in 2017 that the prince should be remembered as a naturally curious man, recalling how he was the first royal to install computers in his office.
“He’ll be interested in the big issues. He will be well-versed in every nuance of Brexit, for example. He is briefed on everyone he is likely to meet, including people he will never meet, and he takes it all in,” Lee explained. “I believe he’s always been an admiral. Admirals have to be like that, and admirals never retire.”
13th of April, 2021, at 20:46 p.m.
The Queen and Prince Philip have ten great-grandchildren. The number was incorrect in an earlier version of this story.