Interesting History: Prince Philip, History Alive

By Clayton Huckaby

While the layman may consider everything that happened in the past as “history,” historians typically only consider an event as history if it occurred at least 50 years ago. Everything else is politics.

In light of this requirement for something to be considered history, this column is going to be very historical and a minutely political. As many already know, Prince Philip has retired from his royal duties as the consort to Queen Elizabeth of England. This likely means that the world is going to see a lot less from the 95-year-old prince, but hopefully he will not disappear from the public light altogether.

Much of Prince Philip’s life is, at this point, officially considered history. He is 95 years old and has lived a full life. His affection for Queen Elizabeth began when the two were but children, but his life prior to that time is also interesting. Prince Philip was born on Corfu, an island in Greece on June 10, 1921. He was the only son of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and Princess Alice of Battenberg. His family was members of both the Greek and Danish royalty, but after a military rebellion, his family was banished from their native country.

The family lived in France, Germany and Britain after they were banished. While Philip was not British, he did have familial ties to the island nation. His maternal grandfather, Prince Louis of Battenberg, became a naturalized British citizen after he renounced his German titles during World War I. Prince Louis later adopted the surname Mountbatten, the name Prince Philip would later adopt when he too renounced his royal titles and became a naturalized citizen. Philip is also a descendant of Queen Victoria of England.

Philip’s family’s flight from Greece came very shortly after his birth. Philip’s uncle, King Constantine I of Greece was forced to abdicate his throne to a military insurrection government on September 22, 1922. The government then arrested Philip’s father, Andrew, and in December 1922, the government banished Prince Andrew from returning to Greece. The family then moved to France.

Philip’s mother, in time, was committed to a psychiatric institute while his father moved to South France and maintained little contact with his son.

Philip attended a number of schools. Among them was the MacJannet American School, the Cheam School in the United Kingdom and Gordonstoun School in Scotland. In 1939, after he graduated from school, Philip joined the Royal Naval College. As a student, he excelled. He then served in the British Royal Navy during World War II where he fought against his sister’s husbands and their families.

He met his future wife while he was a student at the Royal Naval College. King George IV and Queen Elizabeth (the mother to the current Queen Elizabeth) toured the college and brought along their two daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret. At the time, Elizabeth was only 13 years old, but she developed a crush on Philip. The two soon began exchanging letters. Seven years later, in 1946, Philip asked King George for his permission to marry Elizabeth. King George agreed, but he insisted that the two were not to be formally engaged until Elizabeth’s 21st birthday.

To prepare for his upcoming engagement to Elizabeth, Philip abandoned his Greek and Danish royal titles, adopted his grandfather’s surname Mountbatten, became an Anglican and became a British subject. Their engagement was announced publically on July 10, 1947. The two were then married on November 20.

The two had four children: Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward. Charles is currently the heir apparent to the throne.

On February 6, 1952, King George died and Elizabeth became the new queen. The two learned about Elizabeth’s father’s death while they were in Kenya on a royal tour. Elizabeth ascended to the throne. This brought into question the name of the royal house. Mountbatten or Windsor was the question. The prime minister at the time, Winston Churchill, advised Elizabeth to maintain the royal name established by her grandfather, Windsor. She consented, and the monarchy continues to bear that name to this day.

After Elizabeth’s ascension to Queen, Philip became Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich.

Prince Philip has served as the Queen’s consort faithfully since she ascended, but it is too contemporary to be covered in a history article. We’ll leave the rest of the analysis to the political scientists, for now.

 

The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect those of the Sun.

Clayton Huckaby can be reached at claytonh@kvsun.com