While Queen Elizabeth II is one of the most famous people on the planet, she’s also incredibly private, as noted by Insider. One of the few people whom Elizabeth feels safe enough to fully open up to and be herself with, however, is her husband, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.
Married since 1947, Elizabeth and Philip’s marriage was seen as a love match at a time when arranged marriages were common among royals, according to The Guardian. In fact, Elizabeth fell for Philip when she was a teenager, and their fairy tale wedding was attended by 2,000 guests and heard on radios around the world (via O, The Oprah Magazine). In the decades since they said their vows, Elizabeth and Philip have had four children and weathered many storms — and they’ve remained married in a royal family that has seen divorces and heartbreaks.
As the monarch, Elizabeth is naturally the public face of the marriage, but behind the scenes, Philip gives his wife strength, according to Express. Royal biographer Gyles Brandreth called Philip “the power behind the throne — shrewd, steadfast, never-failingly supportive.” So what else is there to know about him? Here’s the untold truth about Queen Elizabeth’s husband.
Queen Elizabeth's husband is the longest serving consort in British history
Having turned 99 in 2020, Prince Philip is both the oldest and the longest serving consort in British history, according to USA Today.
Queen Elizabeth II had a stunning transformation when she became the monarch in February 1952, after her father, King George VI, unexpectedly died. She was at Treetops Hotel in Kenya on an international tour, according to the BBC, when she discovered that she became Queen, with Philip breaking the news to her while on a walk around the grounds. Overnight, Philip’s life changed as well. He went from husband to royal consort, a position that required adjustment, according to Biography, not to mention having to walk a few steps behind her when the two were in public. Philip also had to abandon his Naval career, something he tried to accept. “There was no choice. It just happened. You have to make compromises. That’s life. I accepted it. I tried to make the best of it.”
Prince Philip doesn't always live with Queen Elizabeth II
Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II have been married for decades and enjoy a dedicated relationship, according to Express, with Elizabeth calling her husband her “strength and stay all these years.” However, despite being devoted to each other, the royal couple have lived in separate residences after Philip retired from royal duty at the age of 96 in 2017.
These days, Philip reportedly spends most of his time going between Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, and Wood Farm, Norfolk, on the Sandringham Estate, according to Express, with the bulk of his time spent at Wood Farm. “Consequently he is away from the Queen for weeks sometimes, but they speak every day on the phone,” Joe Little, editor of Majesty Magazine, told Express. Officially retired, the Duke enjoys staying active, as well as pursuits such as reading and painting. Sounds idyllic to us!
Queen Elizabeth's husband, Prince Philip, helped create this sport
When he turned 50 years old, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, gave up his favorite sport polo, according to the Daily Mail. So, he helped created a new sport. “I was looking round to see what next, I didn’t know what there was available,” the Duke reportedly said. “And I suddenly thought, well, we’ve got horses and carriages so why don’t I have a go.” The sport he helped make — carriage driving — features two-wheeled or four-wheeled carriages pulled by horses — single, tandem, or four-in-hand — according to the Daily Mail, and involves time trials, the dance-like sport of dressage, and an obstacle course.
The Duke threw himself into carriage driving with enthusiasm, having a group of equestrian experts come up with international rules for the sport. Philip even ended up competing on the national team for England in multiple European and World Championships, going to the Netherlands, Poland, and Hungary. “Oh it was great fun,” Queen Elizabeth’s husband said.
Prince Philip gave up his Greek and Danish titles to marry Queen Elizabeth
While Prince Philip and the Queen have been married for decades in a rock-solid marriage, Philip was required to sacrifice a lot in order to marry Elizabeth, according to Express. Not only did he have to give up smoking and his career in the royal navy, but he also had to sacrifice something much more personal: his Greek and Danish titles, making him one of several royals who gave up their titles for love.
As a prince of Greece and Denmark, Philip was in the line of succession to the Greek throne. However, according to Vanity Fair, because Philip had been raised largely abroad and was exiled from Greece as an infant, he had little tie to the country and found it more important to show allegiance to Britain as a naturalized subject. Philip was not to remain title-free, however; on the day of his wedding to Elizabeth in 1947, one of the best royal weddings in history, King George VI granted him the titles of Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth, and Baron Greenwich, according to Express.
Philip took on the surname Mountbatten, the last name of his maternal grandparents, and became a naturalized British citizen. Philip’s numerous sacrifices didn’t go unnoticed, however. Queen Elizabeth II was reported as saying, “Philip is an angel.”
Queen Elizabeth's husband, Prince Philip, is a war hero
According to The Daily Beast, the Duke of Edinburgh saw active duty during World War II, and he, in fact, distinguished himself as a war hero. While in the Royal Navy, Prince Philip was in charge of the searchlights on the battleship Valiant. During the battle of Cape Matapan, he took part in a nighttime attack on an Italian fleet, with his searchlight skill playing an important role. He also helped to find survivors in the ocean. For his important skill, Prince Philip was awarded a medal.
In another instance, Queen Elizabeth’s husband saved the lives of many aboard the destroyer HMS Wallace — of which Philip was first lieutenant, second-in-command — according to The Guardian, when it was repeatedly bombarded during the Allied landings in Sicily. A yeoman, Harry Hargreaves, remembered Philip’s bravery and quick thinking, saying, “Prince Philip saved our lives that night.” Hargreaves recalled of Philip, “He was always very courageous and resourceful and thought very quickly. You would say to yourself ‘What the hell are we going to do now?’ and Philip would come up with something.”
The mother of Queen Elizabeth's husband founded an order of nuns
Queen Victoria’s great-granddaughter Princess Alice was born at Windsor Castle and lived quite a remarkable life, according to Town & Country, before having her youngest son, Prince Philip. Not only did Alice battle complete hearing loss from birth and later marry a Greek prince, but she was twice exiled from Greece, along with the rest of the royal family.
Perhaps Princess Alice’s most memorable biographical notation, however, is the fact that she founded a sisterhood of nuns in Greece, as noted by Town & Country, devoted to “looking after the poorest people,” as her mother, Princess Victoria, said. During World War II, Princess Alice worked in Athenian soup kitchens and attempted to gather valuable medical supplies using her royal status.
In 1948, Alice began wearing a gray habit and moved to the Greek island of Tinos, and given from Church of the Virgin (via Town & Country). Alice wore the habit until her death, although the mother of Queen Elizabeth’s husband didn’t take vows or ever officially become a Greek Orthodox nun.
As a baby, Queen Elizabeth's husband, Prince Philip, experienced this harrowing trauma
In December 1922, 1-year-old Prince Philip was famously taken out of Greece in a fruit crate serving as a makeshift crib, according to The Daily Beast. After King Constantine I of Greece — the older brother of Philip’s father, Andrew — was forced to abdicate, as noted by Express, Philip’s parents quickly went into exile, settling in Saint-Cloud, a Paris suburb.
In fact, young Prince Philip had a tragic childhood, as reported by Town & Country. Because the exile from Greece was difficult for his mother Princess Alice’s nerves, “the children were regularly packed off to friends and relations,” according to Philip Eade, author of the biography Young Prince Philip. When Philip was only 10, his mother was sent to a sanatorium while he was away for the day, ultimately leaving him alone without his parents or sisters in his day-to-day life. “The family broke up,” Queen Elizabeth’s husband tragically said. “My mother was ill, my sisters were married, my father was in the south of France. I just had to get on with it. You do. One does.”
Prince Philip changed his religion to marry Queen Elizabeth
When Prince Philip proposed to Queen Elizabeth II, the young royal was head over heels in love with the dashing seaman, according to Tatler. Elizabeth had had a crush on Philip since the age of 13. Her cousin Margaret Rhodes recalled in her autobiography, “Elizabeth was truly in love from the very beginning.”
However, despite Elizabeth’s devotion, the path wasn’t nearly as smooth on Philip’s side. According to the Independent, Philip was initially rejected by Elizabeth’s father because he wasn’t British and didn’t belong to the Church of England. As noted by Biography, Philip had to change his religion in order to marry the then-princess. Philip was raised in the Greek Orthodox tradition, according to PopSugar. However, as the then-future monarch, Elizabeth would be the head of the Church of England and the “Defender of the Faith” — and any spouse would be required to adhere to the same Anglican faith.
Philip converted before their wedding, as shared by PopSugar, and the rest is history.
Queen Elizabeth's husband witnessed this world-changing event
Prince Philip fought in the Royal Navy during World War II, and he has an incredible memory that few others can claim to share. According to Express, Philip was actually on a ship in Tokyo Bay in 1945, on the historic day when the end of World War II was announced.
During a speech he gave in 2015, the Duke of Edinburgh recalled how his Royal Navy destroyer was sent to Japan to evacuate prisoners of war, with Philip saying, “It was a moving experience.”
Philip was only 200 yards away from the surrender ceremony taking place on a battleship, remembering that it was possible to see everything with a pair of binoculars. Unsurprisingly, it was an extremely emotional moment, according to Express, with Queen Elizabeth’s husband recalling, “We just sat in silence as we thought what this moment must have meant to them and many guests and hosts were quite unashamed to shed a tear.”
Queen Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Philip, are both descendants of this famous monarch
Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II share more than a long-lasting marriage: They also share ancestry. The Duke of Edinburgh and the Queen are both direct descendants of Queen Victoria herself and each can claim the famed monarch as a great-great grandmother, according to Biography. Yes, them being distantly related is just one of a few strange facts about Queen Elizabeth’s marriage.
Queen Elizabeth is a direct descendant on father King George VI’s side, as her paternal grandfather, George, was the son of Victoria’s eldest son, Edward. Meanwhile, Prince Philip is a descendant of Queen Victoria through his mother’s side, according to Insider. Queen Victoria’s daughter Princess Alice had a daughter of her own named Victoria, and that Victoria’s daughter was Princess Alice of Battenberg: Prince Philip’s mother.
While it might seem odd to be keeping it all in the family, it was common back then. Sandra Pearson of Expedia — which developed an online tool showing how royal families intermarried — told Insider of royal families, “Your choice was very limited and you most probably would be related.”
This is the reason Prince Philip's sisters were not invited to his wedding to Queen Elizabeth
When Prince Philip married Queen Elizabeth II in 1947, his four older sisters — Margarita, Theodora, Cecilie, and Sophie — were not invited to the royal wedding. The reason, according to Express, was because all four sisters married German aristocrats, and anti-German sentiment following World War II was still fresh in people’s minds.
Horrifyingly, three of Philip’s sisters’ husbands had Nazi connections, according to Express, which surely must have played a role in the royal family deciding not to welcome them at Elizabeth’s wedding to Philip. However, Philip’s mother, Princess Alice, thankfully took an entirely different path during the war, choosing to shelter a Greek Jewish family in her Athenian home until after the Nazi occupation ended, according to Refinery29. As a result, she enjoyed the designation “Righteous Among the Nations,” recognized at the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem.
Queen Elizabeth's husband reportedly has this otherworldly interest
According to The Daily Beast, Prince Philip has an unusual interest: unidentified flying objects. As told by Philip Eade in his book Prince Philip: The Turbulent Early Life of the Man Who Married Queen Elizabeth II, after World War II, Prince Philip was a subscriber to the magazine Flying Saucer Review and even sent his equerry, Sir Peter Horsley, to meet a rumored extraterrestrial posing as a human at a house in England.
Alleged UFO witnesses were invited to Buckingham Palace in the hopes of testing their honesty before royalty, Horsley explained, thinking that the mere presence of Prince Philip would be “a method as effective as any truth serum.”
Retired Air Force pilot major George Filer claimed that when he met Prince Philip in the 1960s, Queen Elizabeth’s husband was “fascinated” by extraterrestrials and UFOs, according to The Sun. During a dinner with Filer in the early ’60s, Philip reportedly told him that the Royal Air Force had stopped sending fighters to pursue UFOs. The reason Philip reportedly claimed? “Some of them didn’t come back.” Otherworldly, indeed.
Queen Elizabeth's husband was unhappy his children couldn't share his last name
The first several months of Queen Elizabeth’s reign as monarch were hard on her husband, Prince Philip, according to the Daily Mail. He allegedly had trouble acclimating to life as second in command. “People used to come to me and ask me what to do,” Philip said, regarding how his role as head of household had changed with Elizabeth’s ascension to the throne. “In 1952, the whole thing changed, very, very quickly.”
One of the hardest things for Philip to bear was the fact that royal officials decided Elizabeth and Philip’s children should take the name Windsor, instead of Philip’s last name of Mountbatten. It was a decision that reportedly hurt and infuriated the Duke of Edinburgh who said, “I am the only man the country not allowed to give his name to his children.”
His close friend Countess Mountbatten confirmed Philip’s hurt at the decision, calling it a “final insult” and adding that it made Philip “unsettled and unhappy for a long while.”
How the royal staff feels about Queen Elizabeth's husband, Prince Philip
Over the years, Prince Philip has earned a reputation as “cantankerous” guy, according to Variety. However, Philip is actually surprisingly adored by people who work for him. Actor Matt Smith, who portrayed Prince Philip on the Netflix show The Crown, was quoted as saying that Queen Elizabeth’s husband is loved by the household staff who attends to him and the royal family.
“I felt there was a sort of a misconception and a preconception about him, which reduced him a bit,” Smith said, adding that all the research he did revealed Philip to be “brilliantly funny, very clever, very popular.” Smith noted that the staff loved Philip more than any other royal because he’s “a bit more of a man of the people” and hasn’t been changed by royal protocol. “There’s a sort of rebellion in him and a naughtiness and a cheekiness. I think he’s quite affable and open by all accounts with the staff,” Smith said. “They all love him.”
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