Chris Bishop Weston Mercury April 9, 2021
It was said to have been love at first sight, when the 13-year-old Princess Elizabeth met dashing naval cadet Prince Philip of Greece, at Dartmouth Naval College, in the summer of 1939.
He entertained her by leaping over tennis nets, while her governess later wrote: “She never took her eyes off him the whole time.”
As war clouds gathered Philip, then 18, sailed off to fight for King and country, seeing active service from the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean. By 1945, he was in Tokyo Bay as Japan surrendered.
The dashing young Lieutenant continued corresponding with the young Princess throughout the war. In 1946, he asked King George VI for his daughter’s hand in marriage.
The King agreed, provided the announcement of their engagement be postponed until the following April, when Elizabeth would turn 21.
Philip, who was born on Corfu on June 10, 1921, had previously abandoned his Greek and Danish royal titles, adopting the surname Mountbatten.
His early years had been marked by upheaval after his family went into exile following a military coup in Greece which overthrew his uncle, King Constantine.
George V, the Queen’s grandfather, ordered the Royal Navy cruiser HMS Calypso to evacuate the family and Philip was carried to safety in a cot made from an orange crate in December 1922, aged just 18 months.
On the day of his wedding, November 20, 1947, Philip was given the titles of Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth, and Baron Greenwich by the King. Watch more local videos
The Duke and the Princess had the first of their four children, Charles, now the Prince of Wales, in 1948. Anne, now the Princess Royal, was born in 1950.
Their lives changed forever when George VI died at Sandringham on February 6, 1952 and Princess Elizabeth became Queen.
The couple were on holiday and the Duke broke the news to his wife after aides received a telephone call from London.
Philip – whose naval career had come to an end – had to a define a new role for himself as his wife diligently took to her duties as head of state.
He accompanied the Queen around the world on Commonwealth tours and state visits and across the UK.
He became involved with hundreds of organisations and set about modernising Sandringham, Buckingham Palace and Balmoral.
In 1956, he set up the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. It has become one of the country’s best-known youth self-improvement schemes, with millions across the globe gaining their bronze, silver and gold awards.
After a gap of 10 years, the Queen and Philip welcomed two more children – Andrew, now the Duke of York, in 1960, and Edward, now the Earl of Wessex, in 1964.
The Duke has been depicted as a tough but caring father. He witnessed first-hand the troubles faced by the Windsors in the 1990s – from the scandal surrounding Sarah, Duchess of York to the fall out from Charles and Diana’s break-up.
When the Princess of Wales died suddenly in a car crash in 1997, Philip joined Charles, Princes William and Harry, and Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer, in the solemn procession behind her funeral cortege.
The Duke also helped the Queen through the deaths of both her mother and sister in the Golden Jubilee year of 2002.
He has enjoyed good health throughout much of his life – recovering from a blocked coronary artery in 2011 and a bladder infection in 2012 – the latter leading him to miss the majority of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
He continued to take part in fast-paced, dangerous carriage-driving events, competing at international level until the age of 85.
As a younger man he was a good shot, a first-class polo player, accomplished sailor, enthusiastic cricketer and international carriage driver.
When he turned 90 in June 2011 he insisted on no fuss, but the Queen bestowed on him a new title – Lord High Admiral, titular head of the Royal Navy.
Hardworking and inquisitive, he has dedicated himself to national life for decades and even when he gave up some of his charitable associations when he was 90, he has still been associated with more than 800 charities.
As he approached his 95th birthday, in May 2017, he announced his retirement from public life. Afterwards, he spent increasing amounts of time on the Queen’s Norfolk estate at Sandringham, where he lived at Wood Farm Cottage, Wolferton.
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