Prince Philip: A Husband But Never A King

Prince Philip was never in line for the throne (his eldest son stands to inherit it) and never held the title of king.

The reason for that: in the British monarchy, a woman who marries the monarch can use the ceremonial title of queen - but men who marry the monarch can't use the title king, which can only be used by male sovereigns.

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  • He was born on 10 June 1921 on the Greek island of Corfu. His heritage made him a prince of Greece and Denmark, but the following year the family was banished from Greece after a coup.
  • In 1930, when he was eight years old, his mother was committed to a secure psychiatric centre after suffering a nervous breakdown. Philip saw little of either parent in the years that followed.
  • His mother's relatives in the UK helped raise him. He would later adopt their surname, Mountbatten - an anglicised form of the family name Battenberg.
  • In 1937, one of Philip's four sisters, Cecilie, died in an air crash along with her German husband, mother-in-law, and two young sons. She was pregnant at the time.
  • When Philip left school, he joined the UK's naval academy and he graduated top of his class.
  • When King George VI paid an official visit in July 1939, Philip was charged with entertaining his young daughters, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret.
  • He made quite an impression on the 13-year-old Elizabeth, as would soon become clear.
  • Prince Philip served with distinction in World War Two, seeing military action for the first time in the Indian Ocean. By October 1942, he was 21 years old - and one of the Royal Navy's youngest first lieutenants.
  • The teenaged princess and the officer kept in touch by letter.
  • King George gave Philip permission to marry his daughter, Elizabeth.
  • The Prince of Greece and Denmark became a naturalized British subject, formally joined the Church of England, and abandoned his foreign titles.
  • On his wedding day, 20 November 1947, he was made Duke of Edinburgh, a name he was widely known by for the rest of his life. He was 26, and his new wife 21.
  • During their 1952 tour of the Commonwealth, King George VI, Elizabeth's father, was dead at 56.
  • Philip's naval ambitions were curbed. The new Queen Elizabeth would need her husband by her side. The Duke of Edinburgh was named as the Queen's consort. His primary function was to support his wife.

He believed monarchies must adapt to survive.

  • He set up informal lunches where the Queen could meet people from a broader range of backgrounds.
  • Before the Coronation, when Philip and the future Queen moved into Clarence House in 1949, he installed an array of labor-saving devices, including one in his wardrobe that would eject a suit at the push of a button.
  • The Duke also championed a 90-minute fly-on-the-wall BBC documentary entitled Royal Family, which aired in 1969 and was considered landmark television.
  • At Buckingham Palace, Philip had intercoms put in so that servants no longer had to ferry written messages to his wife.

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