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Prince Philip dies: Duke of Edinburgh served Queen and country

Written by on 9 April 2021

Prince Philip was a constant by the Queen’s side and for decades an integral and much-loved member of the Royal Family.

But from his career in the Navy to his charity work and efforts to modernise the monarchy, the Duke of Edinburgh has left behind his own, very personal legacy.

Prince Philip dies – Live reaction from UK and around the world

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II  and Prince Philip, left, view the horses from the parade ring before the Diamond Jubilee Coronation Cup race at Epsom Derby, Epsom, southern England, Saturday June 2, 2012 the first official day of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations. Britain is marking Queen Elizabeth II's 60 years on the throne with a four-day holiday weekend of ceremony, symbolism and street parties.  (AP Photo/Ben Stansall, Pool) Image: Prince Philip and the Queen during the monarch’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012. Pic: AP Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, with her husband Prince Philip, in an open topped car as they leave an event, in Paris, on May 16, 1972. The Queen is on a four day official visit to France. (AP Photo) Image: During a visit to Paris in 1972. Pic: AP

Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark was born on the island of Corfu in 1921, but had a difficult childhood.

He was only 18 months old when his family were forced to flee their home, after a military coup meant it was no longer safe to stay in Greece.

The family were effectively homeless but eventually settled in Paris, where they rented a house from a relative. But when Philip was eight years old his mother was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

Historian Robert Lacey told Sky News: “His mother was then tragically confined to what was called in those days an ‘asylum for the mentally disturbed’. It was even more tragic because Philip was not told what had happened to his mother, she just vanished from his life.”

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Prince Philip and the Queen’s marriage

With his parents separated, he moved around boarding schools in Britain, eventually settling at Gordonstoun in Scotland.

Many argued it was his school days that would shape Philip into the man he became, with its emphasis on the great outdoors and team work.

While his military career is at times forgotten or overlooked, it was eventful.

When the Second World War broke out, Philip was first sent to the Indian Ocean and then to the Mediterranean, where he served on HMS Valiant.

rice Philip in Winnipeg, Canada, July 21, 1967. (AP Photo) Image: Prince Philip’s life changed forever when his wife became Queen in 1953. Pic: AP

He was mentioned in dispatches for operating the ship’s searchlight during the Battle of Cape Matapan against the Italians.

In 1942 he was promoted to lieutenant aged just 21. He was stationed on a ship in the Bay of Tokyo on the day the Japanese surrendered.

His marriage would really place him at the centre of national life. It was before the war started, while he was training with the Navy, that he would meet his future wife.

During a royal visit he was asked to escort King George VI and his wife and two daughters, including Princess Elizabeth.

Queen Elizabeth II is seen while kneeling with her husband Prince Philip, the Duke of Edingburgh, at  St. Pauls's Cathedral, Parish Church of the City of London, during her Silver Jubilee celebrations on June7, 1977. (AP-PHOTO/POOL) Image: The Duke was partly credited with helping to modernise the monarchy. Pic: AP

The couple stayed in touch during the war by writing letters. While Philip in subsequent years was seen as a loyal and supportive husband, early on some were uncertain about their relationship and didn’t believe he was the best match for the princess.

In 1947 they got engaged, and married in the November, cheered on by huge crowds as the nation celebrated.

When his wife became Queen following the death of her father, Prince Philip’s life would change forever. He was expected to give up his naval career, and as a male consort it was unclear exactly what his role should be.

But he shaped his own path, becoming a keen advocate for British business and promoting UK industry around the world.

He was also committed to environmental issues. Incredibly, over the decades he supported 800 different charities, but many would argue his Duke of Edinburgh’s award scheme was one of his greatest achievements.

Peter Westgarth, the head of the scheme, said: “Three hundred thousand young people are doing this award at any one time and what they’re getting is this life-changing experience.

“The Duke’s relationship with young people was actually quite a surprising thing, the way in which he engaged with young people when he met with them was extraordinary to see.”

Princess Elizabeth and  Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh make a charming picture as they wave to the crowds from the balcony of Buckingham Palace in London on November 20,1947, their wedding day.  (AP Photo) Image: Prince Philip’s family described him as a man everyone felt they could turn to. Pic: AP

The Queen may have been head of state but it was widely acknowledged that Prince Philip was head of the family.

His children and grandchildren described him as a man everyone felt they could turn to.

His daughter Princess Anne said: “Lots of members of the family would always find him a good sounding board. But it was always done very quietly and he would never talk to anyone else about his conversations.”

He was also a constant figure of support for his wife. It was Philip who was partly credited with helping to modernise the monarchy and make the family more accessible, for example by encouraging his wife to conduct walkabouts on visits both in the UK and abroad.

On the balcony of Buckingham Palace, London on April 21, 1986, Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip (right) are joined by one of  their sons Prince Andrew and his fianc?e Sarah Fergusson on the occasion of the Queen's 60th birthday celebration. (AP Photo/Peter Kemp) Image: The Queen may have been head of state but it was acknowledged Philip was head of the family. Pic: AP Members of the British Royal Family, including Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, The Prince and Princess of Wales, Princess William and Harry (center), watch a fly past to mark the Queen's official birthday, from the balcony of Buckingham Palace, Saturday, June 16,1990. Others are unidentified. (AP Photo) Image: The Royal Family watching a fly-past in 1990. Pic: AP

The 1990s were difficult times for the couple as they saw their children getting divorced and had to deal with the backlash after the death of Princess Diana.

They were widely criticised for staying in Scotland with their grandsons William and Harry, and not returning to London. When a woman in the crowd said, “Look after the boys ma’am”, Prince Philip appeared to snap back: “That’s what we have been doing”.

It has been said that Prince William was reluctant to walk behind his mother’s coffin, but it was the Duke of Edinburgh who encouraged him to do so, saying he would walk alongside him.

President Jimmy Carter, right, poses with Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, May 7, 1977, at Buckingham Palace prior to the State Dinner for Carter and six other heads of state. (AP Photo/OBPA) Image: Prince Philip was the world’s longest-serving consort. Pic: AP Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, U.S. President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and Prince Philip in Buckingham Palace, London, ahead of a state banquet on Tuesday May 24, 2011. President Barack Obama immersed himself in the grandeur of Britain's royal family Tuesday, as Queen Elizabeth II welcomed him to Buckingham Palace for the first day of a state visit. (AP Photo/Chris Jackson, Pool) Image: With Barack and Michelle Obama in 2011. Pic: AP

He did not always have the best relationship with the press, not helped by his infamous public gaffes.

In July 2015 he swore at a photographer at a Battle of Britain event – just one of several moments that made the headlines.

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Images from Prince Philip’s life

His former private secretary, Miles Hunt-Davis, recalled another occasion: “We went to a very high-tech electronics factory in Edinburgh.

“There above the door in the passage where we were walking was this fuse box which literally had wires hanging out of it. He looked up at it and said, ‘It must have been put in by an Indian’ and walked on. Now that was obviously a joke.”

FILE - In a July 6, 2010 file photo, Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh, is greeted during his visit to the British Garden at Hanover Square in New York. Prince Philip celebrated his 90th birthday Friday, June 10, 2011 in apparent good health and good humor but announced plans to cut back his officials duties.   (AP Photo/Henny Ray Abrams, Pool, File) Image: The Duke was said to have a great sense of humour. Pic: AP

Those who knew him best will forever remember him for his sense of fun. He was said to have a great sense of humour and at garden parties was often seen making crowds of people laugh.

And who could forget Prince Philip bobbing along to the music during the Diamond Jubilee river pageant. The day after he was in hospital being treated for a bladder infection.

His friend Martin Palmer said the Duke was reluctant to admit he was slowing down.

“I think it hit him quite hard that he was actually getting older. But he always joked about dying.

“I don’t think he had a fear of dying. I think he had a fear of letting people down,” he said.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh return to Buckingham Palace in a carriage, after attending the annual Trooping the Colour Ceremony in London, Saturday, June 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth) Image: He served his country, was dedicated to his family and his Queen. Pic: AP Britain's Prince Philip waits for the bridal procession following the wedding of Princess Eugenie of York and Jack Brooksbank in St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, near London, England, Friday, Oct. 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, Pool) Image: The Queen said he had been her ‘strength and stay over all these years’. Pic: AP

Prince Philip was the world’s longest-serving consort and for decades an ever present figure at the centre of national life.

He was a man who served his country, was dedicated to his family and his Queen.

His wife, during their Golden Wedding anniversary speech, paid her own tribute to him at the London Guildhall in 1997.

“He is someone who doesn’t take easily to compliments, but he has, quite simply, been my strength and stay over all these years, and I owe him a greater debt than he would ever claim, or we shall ever know,” she said.