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Prince Philip: From Controversial Consort to Royal Stalwart

April 9, 2021 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

The Duke of Edinburgh, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, was originally a somewhat controversial match for the future queen.

Philip Mountbatten married then-Princess Elizabeth in 1947 and the pair’s marriage is longer than any other royal union in history. Just as his wife is the longest-serving British monarch, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, was the longest-serving royal consort in British history. (According to tradition, the husband of a queen is known as a prince consort, and doesn’t become king.)

Despite the fact that Philip did not carry a role in his wife’s official duties, he provided Elizabeth with vital, continuous support. He also used his time in the Royal Family to shore up causes close to his heart, including sports, education and conservation.

Philip died on April 9, 2021 at the age of 99.

As third cousins—both great-great-grandchildren of Queen Victoria and her beloved consort, Prince Albert—the royal couple first crossed paths at family events, including King George VI’s coronation in 1937. But as Sally Bedell Smith writes in her 2012 biography, Elizabeth the Queen: Life of a Modern Monarch, sparks really flew (at least for the starry-eyed 13-year-old princess, known to her family as Lilibet) in the summer of 1939, when she and her family visited the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth, where Philip was a cadet.

The relationship developed over the course of World War II, during Philip’s service with the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean and the Pacific. In 1946, he proposed to Elizabeth at the royal family’s estate in Balmoral, Scotland, though at the insistence of King George VI, the engagement announcement was postponed until after his elder daughter turned 21.

Then-princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip announced their engagement on July 9, 1947, giving them just four months to plan their wedding. They first met at another royal wedding, of Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark to Prince George, Duke of Kent, in 1934.

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In some respects, Philip was a traditional choice—he certainly had the royal pedigree. But in other ways, as Smith writes, the romance caused controversy. Palace courtiers and the aristocratic friends and relatives of the royal family viewed him as an irreverent foreigner—referring to him as “German” or even “Hun.” (Though Philip’s maternal grandfather, Prince Louis of Battenberg, was in fact German, the British royal family was no stranger to German bloodlines: …read more


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