LONDON – Over the course of Prince Philip’s 99 years, he has been portrayed as the modernizer, the frustrated consort of the monarch and later as the occasionally moody old man who spoke up, made some memorable gaffs and promoted Britain both at home and in the local area World.
More recently, Philip has been in the news because of his illness rather than his accomplishments – and a fictional, exaggerated version of him has been introduced to millions of Netflix viewers on The Crown.
But how much is the public’s perception of him based on reality?
When Philip married then Princess Elizabeth in 1947, the couple likely assumed it would be decades before she took over the crown. In 1952, Elizabeth’s father, King George VI, died at the age of 56 and became queen at the age of 25.
In “The Crown” Philip is portrayed as he struggles with his new role and defends himself against the restrictions of royal life. This was likely to be the case early in the queen’s reign, though he settled in his position over the years, according to Clive Irving, author of “The Last Queen: How Queen Elizabeth II Saved the Monarchy.”
Irving cites Philip’s 1956 tour of the Commonwealth of Nations as evidence of his need to have some air to breathe.
“It’s understandable that as a hot-blooded young buck he didn’t like it once he went into orbit the terrible royal court and all the flunkies told him what to do,” he said. “It is not surprising that he blew his pile and was on the boat for six months. He wanted to escape the horrific court atmosphere in which he felt restricted.”
Over time, however, Philip was able to make the job his own. In addition to accompanying the Queen on her trips abroad and being the patron of hundreds of organizations, he founded awards for design and industry, initiated an interfaith dialogue and was the first President of the World Wildlife Fund-UK.
He later said that his main task was to support his wife in her role as monarch.
Philip’s arrival in the British royal family coincided with the admission of television, a medium he was keen to embrace. He is said to have been involved in the decision to televise the Queen’s coronation in 1953 and was the first member of the royal family to give a television interview in 1961 promoting the benefits of technical skills and training.
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In 1969 he appeared on “Meet the Press” and defended the monarchy when asked about it as a system of government.
“We only randomly choose the father’s son. Somebody has to do the + job, why not so? “, He said.
Famous for her tight lips, the queen rarely conducts interviews or even gives a glimpse into her thoughts. However, Philip said a lot to keep the royal watchers busy. Over the course of his nearly 10 decades, he has become known for comments that offend on many occasions, particularly on the subject of race.
In 1999 Philip asked the British politician John Taylor: “And what exotic part of the world are you from?” Taylor, whose parents were from Jamaica, replied that he was from Birmingham, one of the largest cities in England.
One of Philip’s most famous quotes was made in China in 1986 when he told a British student, “If you stay here longer, you will go home with slit eyes.”
Other comments have been brutally honest, like one he made in 1967 when asked if he would like to go to Moscow to ease tension in the Cold War.
“I would love to go to Russia – even though the bastards murdered half of my family,” he replied. Philip is related to the Romanovs who ruled Russia until Nicholas II and his family were executed by the Bolsheviks in 1918.
Philip also notoriously lost patience while performing royal duties, telling a photographer during a photo session in 2015 to “just take the picture” on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.
Philip is often referred to as an “outsider” when he married Elizabeth in 1947. While not a member of the traditional British aristocracy or nobility, he was certainly familiar with the way the royals were born into a royal family. He and Elizabeth were also Queen Victoria’s cousins and great-great-grandchildren.
Philip was born in Corfu, Greece, where his uncle was the king. Philip’s family fled when he was a baby after his uncle was forced to abdicate. His family first went to Paris and then Philip lived with his grandmother at Kensington Palace without his parents. Although the family no longer had their royal positions, they had their titles. Philip renounced his when he married Elizabeth.
He attended British schools and then joined the Royal Navy. Despite his royal parentage as a minor king, there was no plan for him to live a life in service to the crown. He would have to feed himself.
According to Irving, “there was a lot of hesitation in court and at the palace as to whether he was the right match”.
Looking back on how he supported the queen throughout her marriage, members of the royal family say the opposite is true.
“To find someone like him, she couldn’t have chosen a better one,” said his daughter-in-law Sophie, the Countess of Wessex, 2016 at ITV is half the battle, isn’t it? “