Duke of Edinburgh
Born on 10th of June 1921
British hero of the week April 20th 2009
Though now seen as a quintessentially British figure, the Duke of Edinburgh’s early life was very cosmopolitan. He was born Philippos of Greece and Denmark in Corfu in 1921, his family fleeing Greece (evacuated by the Royal Navy) with his father under threat of execution following a disastrous war with Turkey. Early childhood in Paris – where his initial education was in an American school – was followed by attendance at Cheam Preparatory School in England, then briefly the Schule Schloss Salem in Germany (supposedly to save fees as it was owned by an uncle), after which he followed the head there to his newly founded establishment, Gordonstoun in Scotland. With his father retiring from public life to live in Monaco, and his mother confined to an asylum with schizophrenia, his uncle Louis Mountbatten became a central figure in his life.
Prince Philip has often been portrayed as a bumbling fool by the likes of Spitting Image, and has made many famous gaffes, but at Dartmouth Royal Naval College he was the top cadet in his year, and in later training achieved similar status. During WWII he served with the Navy, rising from Midshipman in January 1940 to become one of the youngest First Lieutenants in the service when just 21. He saw action in the Mediterranean, Pacific, and in British Coastal Waters, and was decorated and mentioned in despatches.
It was when he escorted Princess Elizabeth, the future Queen, during a visit at Dartmouth in 1939 that the couple first met. The young princess was struck by the handsome cadet, and they began a correspondence and eventually a courtship that led to their wedding on November 20 1947. Philip had given up his foreign titles and converted to the Anglican faith from Greek Orthodoxy prior to the marriage, but King George made him Duke of Edinburgh on the morning of the ceremony.
The Duke of Edinburgh gave up his naval career in 1952 when the Queen succeeded to the throne, and has acted as her consort and support since, maintaining a heavy calendar of engagements throughout more than half a century of royal duty. He founded The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in 1956, and has a long association with environmental groups, being a senior figure in the World Wildlife Fund, though not without controversy given his interest too in shooting. Once a keen yachtsman and polo player he was also a key figure in making carriage driving a sport.
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