- Schuyler Beltrami
Prince Philip Dead at 99
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and husband to Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain, has passed away at the age of 99. Philip was one of the most well-known members of the British Royal Family, having been married to the Queen since 1947, while also being the father to four children.
Prince Philip was one of the most recognizable members of the British Royal Family, almost always by the side of his wife, Queen Elizabeth II. Throughout their 74-year marriage, the Royal Family saw a lot of changes both in their own affairs as well as throughout the world. Prince Philip fathered four children including the heir apparent to the British Throne, Prince Charles. He was the longest-serving male consort, as well as the oldest male member of the British Throne in its entire illustrious history. Throughout his life, he committed himself to different causes, most notably The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, which rewards youth throughout the world for excellency in self-improvement. He was also an avid equestrian, especially in the sport of polo.
Born on the island of Corfu in Greece (then the Kingdom of Greece) in 1921, Prince Philip was the fifth child, and only son, of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and his wife Princess Alice of Battenberg. Due to his birth into the House of Glücksburg, he immediately became in the line of succession for the thrones of both Denmark and Greece. Owing to a prevailing anti-German sentiment in Britain during World War I, the Battenbergs changed their name to Mountbatten, an Anglicized version of their German name. During this time, Greece was embroiled in a war with Turkey (known as the Greco-Turkish War), which went very badly for Greece and saw Turkey make large territorial gains. Because of Greece’s failures in this war, many in the general public blamed reigning King Constantine I, who was also Philip’s uncle. The Royal Family of Greece was forced to abdicate from the throne and flee in exile from Greece. Philip first went to France before arriving in Britain to meet with other members of his family. Due to this mixed heritage and cosmopolitan upbringing, Philip was fluent in English, French and German, and spoke a little Greek as well. After spending time at boarding schools in Germany and Great Britain, Philip served in the Royal Navy during World War II, which sent him to many war theaters around Europe, including being present during the Invasions of Sicily (Italy) and Crete (Greece). Briefly before his military service began, he met Elizabeth, who was his third cousin and daughter of reigning King George VI, and the two fell in love. In 1947, two years after the end of World War II, Philip and Elizabeth married at Westminster Abbey in London, a marriage which was broadcast throughout the world to over 200 million people via a live radio broadcast. Shortly before the wedding, Philip gave up his Danish and Greek titles and became a naturalized British citizen, thus eliminating any claims he had to the Danish and Greek thrones. Elizabeth would not take over as Monarch until 1952 upon the death of King George VI, but Philip and Elizabeth already had two children before her coronation, Charles (the current heir apparent) and Anne. On February 6th, 1952, King George VI died, and Queen Elizabeth II became the ruling Monarch of Great Britain.
Philip’s time as Consort to Queen Elizabeth II was filled with ups and downs in both his public and private life. Although press reports sometimes detailed a tenuous relationship between Philip and the Queen, these were always firmly denied by the pair and they often were seen walking together in public. In a 2012 speech to Parliament, Queen Elizabeth described Philip as her “constant rock” as their marriage continued to be publicly strong for decades. As Consort, Philip undertook many trips throughout the world and the Commonwealth, sometimes joined by his wife. Upon becoming Consort, the sun was setting on the British Empire and the wave of anti-colonialism movements grew stronger around the world. Throughout the 1950’s and 60’s many countries earned their independence from Great Britain, perhaps the most notable being India (who earned their independence along with Pakistan, East Pakistan (Bangladesh) and Burma (Myanmar)). Philip became a patron to many different organizations throughout his life, focusing mostly on environmental and educational causes. Most notably, he served as international chairman and President Emeritus of the World Wildlife Fund since 1981 and served as chancellor to universities throughout Great Britain. Perhaps his most public scandal occurred in the aftermath of the death of Princess Diana, the wife of his son Prince Charles. One year after a very public divorce from Charles, Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris. The public response by the Queen and Philip was seen as cold and unemotional by many in the British public, as they stayed confined to their family home in Balmoral for nearly a week after the incident. Their image was partly restored during the funeral of Diana, where the entire Royal Family walked behind her casket.
In his later years, Philip’s health slowly deteriorated, but he remained in high spirits and continued to perform his Royal duties until nearly the end of his life. Due to his multiple health issues, Philip officially retired from all royal duties in August of 2017. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Philip spent most of his time in isolation to limit risk of exposure and he was vaccinated against the virus in January. At the end of February, he was admitted to a nearby hospital due to an infection and was discharged on March 16. On April 9, Philip passed away peacefully. No official reason has been given for his death, although at his age of 99, it is not unusual for his death to have occurred. In response to his death, Great Britain entered a day of mourning, and flags were lowered to half-mast. Plans for his funeral are currently underway with the Royal Family’s involvement. Philip is survived by four children, eight grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren.