Evening Standard

Prince of jokes who gave a lifetime of service to monarch and country

- Robert Jobson Royal Editor

THE Duke of Edinburgh has been the Queen’s steadfast companion for almost 70 years.

Known for his no-nonsense approach and acerbic wit, Prince Philip is the longest-serving consort in British history. The husband of one of the most famous women in the world, he is defined by his relationsh­ip to Elizabeth II and gave up a promising naval career to support his wife in her royal role.

While the Queen takes centre stage, Philip has always been one step behind, ready to lend a hand. He has had a profound effect on the developmen­t of the British monarchy and has been a moderniser of “the Firm”.

In private, he is head of the family. To the public, he is the irascible figure who speaks his mind despite the conse- quences — famed for his outrageous gaffes. Hard-working and inquisitiv­e, Philip has dedicated himself to national life for decades. Even after he gave up some of his charitable associatio­ns when he was 90, he has been associated with more than 800 charities.

Philip was born on Corfu on June 10, 1921 to Prince Andrew of Greece and Princess Alice of Battenberg. His early years were marked by upheaval after the family went into exile following a military coup in Greece which overthrew his uncle, King Constantin­e I.

George V, the Queen’s grandfathe­r, ordered Royal Navy cruiser HMS Calypso to evacuate the family and Philip was carried to safety in a cot made from an orange box in December 1922, aged 18 months.

His childhood lacked stability and he moved between relatives in France and Britain, starting his studies at Cheam Prep School in 1928. After spending a year at school in Germany, he attended Gordonstou­n in Morayshire.

Philip later joined the Royal Navy and, while a cadet, caught the eye of a 13year-old Princess Elizabeth, a distant cousin, when she visited the Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth with her parents, the King and Queen.

During the Second World War he saw active service from the Indian Ocean to the Mediterran­ean, and by 1945 was in Tokyo Bay as Japan surrendere­d.

His friendship with Elizabeth grew and blossomed into love. In 1947, two years after the end of the war, they were married in Westminste­r Abbey. Philip renounced his Greek title and became a naturalise­d British subject, and was made Duke of Edinburgh by the King.

The Duke and Princess had their first child, Charles, in 1948 and Anne in 1950. But their lives changed forever when George VI died on February 6, 1952 and Elizabeth became Queen.

Philip, whose naval career had come to an end, had to a define a new role for himself as his wife took up her duties as head of state. He accompanie­d her abroad on Commonweal­th tours and state visits, and on UK engagement­s.

He undertook many solo royal engagement­s, becoming involved with hundreds of groups, often as hands-on president. He set about modernisin­g Buckingham Palace after being told to keep out of the Queen’s official duties, and reorganise­d the Balmoral and Sandringha­m estates, as well as becoming ranger of Windsor Great Park.

In 1956, he set up the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award — inspired by his time at Gordonstou­n and his mentor and headmaster Dr Kurt Hahn.

After a gap of 10 years, the Queen and Philip welcomed two more children — Andrew in 1960 and Edward in 1964.

The Duke witnessed the troubles faced by the Windsors in the Nineties — from the scandal surroundin­g Sarah, Duchess of York to Charles and Diana’s “War of the Waleses”. When Diana died in 1997, Philip joined Charles, William, Harry and Diana’s brother Earl Spencer behind her funeral cortege.

The Duke helped the Queen through the deaths of both her mother and sister in the Golden Jubilee year of 2002. When he turned 90 in 2011 he insisted on no fuss, but the Queen bestowed on him a new title: Lord High Admiral, titular head of the Royal Navy. It was a touching tribute to a man who gave up his military career to support his wife and devote himself to royal service.

A symbol of continuity in the monarchy and public life, Philip is the person the Queen relies upon above all others. His first private secretary Michael Parker, a Navy friend, revealed: “He told me the first day he offered me my job that his job, first, second and last, was never to let her down.”

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 ??  ?? “Continuity”: the Duke is still passionate about carriage driving. Above, with then-Princess Elizabeth on their wedding day in 1947, at Highland Games, and meeting locals in Queensland, Australia
“Continuity”: the Duke is still passionate about carriage driving. Above, with then-Princess Elizabeth on their wedding day in 1947, at Highland Games, and meeting locals in Queensland, Australia

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