Earlier this year, we released a primer on Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. We explored the basic facts that make Prince Philip the sharp prince consort we’ve come to know today.
And as we await the premiere of The Crown's second season, we dig even deeper to get to know the man who walks behind the British crown.
He was the first royal to be interviewed on television.
Don't get us wrong. Other royals had made their television debut in the past, but Prince Philip was the first member of the royal family to be interviewed for television. He appeared on a show called Panorama, which was hosted by Richard Dimbleby during its heyday. The pair discussed the Commonwealth Technical Training Week and Prince Philip’s appearance helped boost his public approval. At that time, the show was reported to have attracted an average of eight to 10 million viewers.
His sister, Princess Cecilie of Greece and Denmark, died in a tragic plane crash while pregnant.
In the first season of The Crown, Group Captain Peter Townsend taught Prince Philip to fly. In one of the episodes, Matt Smith’s Prince Philip revealed that his sister had died in a plane crash. The real story is more heartbreaking than it lets on. A pregnant Princess Cecilie of Greece and Denmark, known to her family as ‘Cecile,’ and her husband Georg Donatus, Hereditary Grand Duke of Hesse, perished when their plane from Frankfurt crashed. Ironically, Princess Cecile had never trusted air travel and reportedly always wore black during a flight in fear of accidents. In contrast, her husband remained keen on flying, much like his brother-in-law, Prince Philip. A heavy fog descended upon their aircraft and the pilot flew blindly, leading to their demise. The couple, accompanied by their two small children, never made it to London for a family wedding. Their youngest child, Johanna, survived on account of being left home. She was adopted by her uncle, Prince Louis, and his new wife, but died two years later from meningitis.
The people of the island nation of Vanuatu worshipped him as a deity.
There is a legend in the tribe of Yaohnanen that a descendant of their ancestral mountain god left to seek and marry a woman of great power. The men of this South Pacific island came to hear about Prince Philip and his marriage to Her Majesty and once believed that he was that descendant. It was called the Prince Philip Movement.
The tribe also hoped he would one day come home to the island. The villagers prayed to the prince for the growth of their crops and the health of their people. The village chief Jack Malia told Reuters, “If he comes one day the people will not be poor, there will be no sickness, no debt and the garden will be growing well.” The villagers have kept several photos of the prince, one from Philip himself, which the villagers responded to by sending him a traditional club for killing pigs.
According to his daughter, Princess Anne, he was a fun dad.
While he's been known to be brusque and persuasive, his only daughter disclosed that the Duke spent time with her and her siblings as children, reading them bedtime stories and chasing them around the palace. She reveals in an ITV1 documentary called Philip at 90 that both her parents made time for them during bedtime and even put on their own plays. "Bedtime stories are things that children probably don’t get so much nowadays but were very important in my day," Anne adds.
He convinced Prince William and Prince Harry to walk behind Princess Diana’s coffin during her funeral.
Naturally, the younger boys were apprehensive of walking behind their mother’s coffin, as the death had come as a shock to them all. The night before the funeral, during a family supper, Prince Philip faced his grandchildren and offered to walk alongside them, should they agree to walk, reveals senior Royal Household member Malcolm Ross. BBC reports that Prince Philip specifically told Prince William, “If you don’t walk, I think you’ll regret it later. If I walk, will you walk with me?” Now we know who to credit for that iconic shot of the princes walking behind their mother's coffin.
He’s an avid conservationist and heads the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
An eloquent advocate for wildlife and rainforest preservation, Prince Philip served as the first president of the U.K. chapter of this renowned foundation for exactly 20 years. After that stint, he took on an even greater position as president of WWF-International for 15 years and now serves as its President Emeritus. He addresses the issue of the dwindling state of rainforests in South East Asia, acknowledging that there is still time to protect and manage this area with the cooperation of governments and aid from partners.