On Nov. 20, 1997, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. In a speech at a lunch honoring the occasion, Queen Elizabeth said, “[Prince Philip] is someone who doesn't take easily to compliments, but he has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years.”
Fans of Netflix’s The Crown know that the Prince is also not afraid to speak up when he isn’t pleased about something, whether it’s having to bow to his wife at her coronation or his children not taking his surname. According to reports, one of the topics the second season of the royal hit drama will focus on is Prince Philip’s fascinating past.
We spoke to Carolyn Harris, who teaches history at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies and has been examining royals for 10 years, to learn more about the Prince. Here’s a primer on everything you need to know about him.
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, at Buckingham Palace in December 1958.
1. HE HAD A ROUGH CHILDHOOD.
Born on June 10, 1921, to Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and Princess Alice of Battenberg, Prince Philip’s early life was full of turmoil. “Unlike Queen Elizabeth, whose family was very stable and united, Prince Philip as an infant had to flee Greece with his parents and four sisters,” says Harris, whose latest book, Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting, comes out April 8. When Philip was nine years old, his mother, who had schizophrenia, was committed to a mental institution in Switzerland and his father took off with a mistress. Their only son was sent to boarding school in England and “was shuffled from relative to relative during holidays,” says Harris.
2. QUEEN ELIZABETH IS HIS THIRD COUSIN.
Five years her senior, Prince Philip met Queen Elizabeth in 1939 when she was just 13. “He gave her a tour of the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, and she was impressed with him from the start,” says Harris. They became pen pals, and seven years later, Philip asked King George VI for his daughter’s hand in marriage. They married when Elizabeth was 21, after waiting a year at the King’s request.
3. PHILIP HAD TO DEFINE HIS OWN ROLE.
As depicted in The Crown, the former Navy man struggled with filling his time after his wife started her reign in 1952. “Philip did not have many role models—there weren’t many queens then—so he had to carve out his own role,” says Harris. Along with undertaking patronages for more than 800 different charities, Philip took the lead in managing the queen’s personal properties and assumed a leadership role in the family, including deciding how their children, Prince Charles, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward and Princess Anne, were educated.
4. HE'S FORWARD-THINKING.
In The Crown, Prince Philip is in favor of his wife’s coronation being televised in 1953. “He’s interested in technology and modernizing the monarchy,” says Harris. “People around the world were able to engage with the coronation, and it did wonders for the TV industry. Many people bought their first TV just to watch it.” And Prince Philip still favors technology advancement today: In February, he toured Vantage Power, which designs hybrid bus engines, and reminded them that he drove one of the first electric cars in the 1960s.
5. HE HAS A BAD HABIT OF PUTTING HIS FOOT IN HIS MOUTH.
While Queen Elizabeth is expected to be above politics and is careful with what she says, Prince Philip has been outspoken through the years. “He’s spoken frankly that the purpose of monarchy is to serve the people, not the other way around,” says Harris. He’s also known for making jokes that are sometimes offensive. In , for example, he told an African king he liked his “hat.” (It was a crown.) “When he was younger, the things he said were more controversial,” says Harris. “Now that he’s in his 90s, people have a more indulgent attitude toward Prince Philip.” When he met activist Malala Yousafzai in 2013 to discuss the importance of education, he quipped that in Britain, “People want children to go to school to get them out of the house.” Yousafzai giggled.
6. HE WAS INVOLVED IN ONE VERY BIG SCANDAL.
After Princess Diana died in a car crash in August 1997, Egyptian business magnate Mohamed Fayed, whose son Dodi Fayed was involved romantically with Diana and was also killed in the crash, claimed that Prince Philip ordered Diana’s death. “There have been extensive investigations concerning the death of Diana, and those allegations of foul play have never been substantiated,” says Harris.
7. HIS LOVE STORY WITH THE QUEEN IS REAL.
Although Prince Philip has allegedly strayed from his marriage throughout the years, it seems the rumors are unfounded. “Prince Philip can be flirtatious, but all the women have denied affairs,” Harris points out. The royal duo, who celebrates their 70th anniversary in November, are believed to still take afternoon tea together every day. As Prince Philip said nearly 20 years ago during a toast to his wife at their Golden Wedding Anniversary, "I think the main lesson we have learned is that tolerance is the one essential ingredient in any happy marriage... You can take it from me, the Queen has the quality of tolerance in abundance."
*This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the