Heritage

What Prince Philip Is Really Like as a Grandfather

His grandchildren are devoted to him, and he's been called the "rock" of the family.
IMAGE GETTY IMAGES / PHIL WALTER
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When Matt Smith was first preparing to play Prince Philip in The Crown, he ran into Prince William at a charity polo match and asked if he had any advice on playing his grandfather. William replied: “Just one word—legend!”

As acting advice goes, William's response is perhaps not the most useful, but it does seem to perfectly sum up the way the younger royals view the patriarch of their family—and with good reason.

While the Queen is in the driver's seat when it comes to royal life, she has always supported her husband as a leader in their family's personal matters. The Duke of Edinburgh has never been what you might describe as a sensitive modern man—he is brusque and practical—but he is by all accounts fiercely loyal and loving, and has endeavored to teach his children and grandchildren about strength, dedication, confidence, and endurance.


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Princess Beatrice, Princess Eugenie, and their grandfather Prince Philip watch the races from the balcony of the Royal Box on Derby Day in 2012.

"I think Grandpa is incredible," Princess Eugenie said of the 97-year-old Philip in the documentary Our Queen at Ninety. "He really is strong and consistent. He's been there for all these years, and I think he's the rock, you know, for all of us."

Philip is a dependable presence in his grandchildren's lives, as they are never far from the next big Windsor get-together. The royals have always been keen on family celebrations like Christmas at Sandringham, Easter at Windsor Castle, and summer vacations at Balmoral, as well as uniquely royal events such as Trooping the Colour, Buckingham Palace garden parties, the Windsor Horse Show, the Garter Ceremony, and Royal Ascot. They family gets together many times a year as a big mixed group, which clearly helps to foster their sense of belonging.

The Duke has also forged strong individual connections with each of his children's children. Philip loves spending time outside, and he has passed on his enthusiasm for the great outdoors, guiding each of them in pursuits like fly fishing, hiking, and barbecuing in the Scottish Highlands.

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The Duke is also a big fan of carriage racing, a passion which is shared by one of his younger grandchildren, Lady Louise Windsor. Meanwhile, he inspired his oldest two grandchildren, Peter Phillips and Zara Tindall, to follow in his footsteps and attend his old school Gordonstoun.


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Lady Louise Windsor carriage driving.

Philip played a central role in Prince William and Prince Harry's lives after the death of their mother in 1997. At the time of Diana’s fatal accident, William, Harry, and their father were staying with the Queen and Prince Philip at Balmoral in the Scottish Highlands. In the days and weeks that followed, it was decided the best thing for the two boys was for them to stay tucked away privately on the sprawling estate, protected from both the 24/7 newspaper coverage and public scrutiny. During this difficult time, Philip took his two young grandsons William, then 15 and Harry, then 12 under his wing.

In her book The Diana Chronicles, author Tina Brown wrote, “A member of the Balmoral staff noted that Prince Philip, who had effectively lost his own mother at the age of ten when she was committed for three years to an asylum in Switzerland, was brilliantly effective with his grandsons, offering them gruff tenderness and outdoor activities like stalking and hiking to tire them out.”

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Later, when it came to Diana’s funeral, there was a discussion of whether William and Harry should walk in the cortege alongside their father Prince Charles and maternal uncle Charles Spencer. It was reported later that William didn’t want to do it, but it was the influence of his grandfather that changed his mind.

Believing that if William didn’t walk in the procession, it would be something the young prince would later regret, Philip said to his grandson, “If I walk, will you walk with me?” William’s trust in his grandfather was so complete that he agreed.


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Prince Philip, Prince William, Charles Spencer, Prince Harry, and Prince Charles walking behind Princess Diana's funeral cortege.

After William returned to school at Eton, he was a regular visitor to nearby Windsor Castle, where his grandparents spend their weekends. He would spend time not just with his grandmother (from whom he was learning about the constitutional matters he would one day need deal with himself), but his grandfather too, for tea and a chat.

Later, when William was new at St. Andrew’s University, he reportedly felt homesick and unsure of himself and contemplated leaving school. However, he chatted things through with his grandfather and ended up remaining at the university, though he changed the focus of his course of study.

As an adult, William has paid tribute to his grandfather in many ways. Philip was raised by his uncle Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, and William showed his respect twice over when he not only gave his first son Prince George the middle name Louis, but then named his second son Louis as well. And when William visited the Middle East in 2018, he further honored his grandfather by visiting the grave of Philip's mother, Princess Alice of Battenburg.

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The Duke of Edinburgh is equally close to Prince Harry, and they are uniquely bonded in military matters. They have both seen active wartime duty, as Philip served in the Royal Navy during WWII and Harry undertook two tours in Afghanistan.

And in the years before Philip’s retirement, he was clearly showing Harry the ropes when it came to paying tribute to those who have lost their lives in service to their country, and it was a poignant sight when every year Harry accompanied his grandfather on engagements around Remembrance Sunday.

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Princes William and Harry with the Queen and Prince Philip on Remembrance Sunday in 2009.

Philip made a special effort to support his grandson’s personal endeavors, meeting Harry’s Walking With the Wounded team at Buckingham Palace in 2013, and taking a tour of his Sentebale Diana tribute garden with the prince himself at the RHS Chelsea Flower show in 2015.

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It’s clear that the pair make each other laugh as they’ve been seen cracking each other up at more than one royal event over the years, and it’s even thought that Philip had his hip operation when he did in 2018 so that he would be fit to attend the wedding of Harry and his new granddaughter-in-law Meghan Markle.

This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.

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