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PRINCE PHILIP, 1st DUKE OF EDINBURGH
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LEFT: Prince Philip, 1st Duke of Edinburgh
formerly Prince Philip of Greece & Denmark,
later Philip Mountbatten

 

Admiral of the Fleet HRH The Prince Philip, 1st Duke of Edinburgh, 1st Earl of Merioneth & 1st Baron Greenwich, formerly HRH Prince Philip of Greece & Denmark, later Philip Mountbatten, KG, KT, OM, ONZ, GCVO, GBE, AK, QSO, GCL, CC, CMM, CD, PC, PC(Can.), ADC(P), FRS was born on 10th June 1921 at Villa 'Mon Repos', Corfu, Greece, the only son and fifth child of Prince Andrew of Greece & Denmark (1882-1944) and Princess Andrew of Greece & Denmark, formerly Princess Alice of Battenberg, later Mother Superior Alice-Elizabeth of the Christian Sisterhood of Martha and Mary (1885-1969). 


As a result of his dynastic ancestry, Philip was until his death, the oldest living great-great grandchild (and descendant) of Queen Victoria (1819(1837-1901) and was related to the Royal Houses of Greece, Denmark and Russia - being a grandson of King George I of the Hellenes (1845-1913), great-grandson of King Christian IX of Denmark (1818-1906), and great-great grandson of Tsar Nicholas I of Russia (1796-1855).  Through his mother, who was a great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria (1819(1837-1901), Philip was in the line of succession to the British Throne in his own right.

Prince Philip in childhood


A young Prince Philip of Greece & Denmark
(the future Prince Philip, 1st Duke of Edinburgh)

 

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Prince Philip with his parents - 

Prince & Princess Andrew of Greece & Denmark
 

Philip was christened a few days after is birth according to the rites of the Greek Orthodox Church at St. George's Church in the Palaio Frourio (Old Fortress) in Corfu.  His god-mother was Queen Olga of Greece, formerly Grand Duchess Olga Constantinovna of Russia (1851-1926) who married in 1867 - King George I of the Hellenes, formerly Prince William of Denmark (Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg) (1845-1913). Philip's other god-parent was unusually 'Corfu City Council', and was represented at the christening by Alexander S. Kokotos, The Mayor of Corfu and Stylianos I. Maniarizis, The Chairman of the City Council.  Despite being born on the kitchen table, Philip's mother said of the birth to her family back in Darmstadt - "he is a splendid healthy child. Thank God.  I am very well too.  It was an uncomplicated delivery and I am enjoying the fresh air on the terrace."

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Prince Philip with his mother
Princess Andrew of Greece & Denmark
(formerly Princess Alice of Battenberg)

 

Prince Philip  of Greece & Denmark (wearing traditional Greek costume) aged 9yrs ​

During World War I, the Greek Government had a policy of political neutrality but by 1917 this policy became untenable.  Following the abdication of King Constantine I of the Hellenes (1868-1923) on 11th June 1917, the Greek Royal Family went into exile.  On 19th December 1920, The King was restored to his Throne and Prince Andrew and his family returned to Greece, residing at the Villa 'Mon Repos' in Corfu.  After the defeat of the Greek Army in the Greco-Turkish War, a Revolutionary Committee seized power and forced The King into exile once again on 27th September 1922 and Prince Andrew was subsequently arrested and court-martialled for disobeying orders during the Battle of Sakarya.  Following a 'show trial', he and his family were banished from Greece.  Fearing their safety, the British Government sent HMS Calypso where Prince Andrew and his family which included their 18 month old son - Prince Philip (1921-2021) in a cot made of an orange box, were taken to Brindisi, Italy.

The family subsequently made their home (with limited possessions) in Paris, France.

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Prince Philip (aged 9yrs)
in traditional Greek costume

 

Whilst in Paris, Philip was educated at at the MacJannet School for Young Americans - known as 'The Elms' in St. Cloud.  Donald MacJannet (1894-1986) described Philip as - "rugged, boisterous - but always remarkably polite.  He was full of energy and always got on with the other children."  Prince Andrew had stated that he wanted his son to be educated in England and Philip was subsequently sent to Cheam Preparatory School, Cheam, Surrey in 1928, where Philip's uncle (Mountbatten's elder brother) - Sir George Mountbatten, 2nd Marquess of Milford Haven, formerly Prince George of Battenberg (1892-1938) had been sent.   During this time, Philip stayed with his uncle George at his home Lynden Manor, Bray, Berkshire and with his grandmother - Victoria, The Dowager Marchioness of Milford Haven, formerly Princess Victoria of Hesse & By the Rhine (1863-1950) at Kensington Palace, London.  Philip's father was now living in Monte Carlo with his mistress, his mother had been placed in an asylum in Switzerland having being diagnosed with schizophrenia and all four of his sisters had married various German Princes which must have made Philip feel somewhat on his own, stateless, homeless and perhaps unsure of his own future. In 1933, Philip was sent to Salem Castle School in Baden, Germany.  The School had been established in 1920 by Kurt Hahn (1886-1974), under the sponsorship of Maximilian, Margrave of Baden (1867-1929), whose son Bethold, Margrave of Baden (1906-1963) married in 1931 Philip's sister - Princess Theodora of Greece & Denmark (1906-1969).  However, the turbulent anti-Jewish political situation in Nazi Germany forced Hahn (who was Jewish and had been arrested for speaking out against the Nazi Goverment) to leave Germany and he came to Scotland, where he founded Gordonstoun School, Elgin, Moray, Scotland in 1934, which was based on the principals of developing strong leadership in its pupils which he had devised at Salem Castle School.

 
Kurt Hahn -
Prince Philip's educational mentor

 

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Hereditary Grand Duchess
Cecilie of Hesse & By the Rhine
(formerly Princess Cecilie
of Greece & Denmark -
Philip's favourite sister),
who was tragically killed
with members of her family
in an aircraft accident
in Ostend, Belgium
in November 1937

 

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The Nazi German funeral in Darmstadt in November 1937
of members of the Royal Family of Hesse & By the Rhine
including Prince Philip's sister
(Princess Cecilie of Greece & Denmark)

who were killed in an aircraft accident in Ostend, Belgium.
Prince Philip is second from the right.  Mountbatten is in the row
behind wearing a Naval 
bicorn hat
 

On 16th November 1937, Philip's sister - Princess Cecilie (who was eight months pregnant) and her husband - Hereditary Grand Duke Georg Donatus 'Don', Hereditary Grand Duke of Hesse (1906-1937), were killed in an aircraft crash, with several members of their family and household near Ostend, Belgium who were all flying to England for the wedding of Prince Louis, The Prince of Hesse & By the Rhine (1908-1968) to The Hon. Margaret 'Peg' Geddes (1913-1997).  The funeral - which was held on 23rd November 1937 at Rosenhöhe Park, Darmstadt, Hesse was a public display of Nazi German dominance, and Philip (aged 16yrs) walked in the procession alongside his brothers-in-laws, who wore Nazi German uniforms.  Mountbatten represented King George VI (1895(1936-1952) and his brother George, 2nd Marquess of Milford Haven, formerly Prince George of Battenberg (1892-1938) represented Queen Mary (1867-1953).  It was at the funeral, Philip's parents met for the first time in six years and his mother later resumed contact with her family.   Prince Louis' wedding (which was originally scheduled to be held on 23rd October 1937) had been delayed due to the death of Grand Duke Ernest Louis 'Ernie' of Hesse & By the Rhine (1868-1937) and subsequently took place privately on 17th November 1937 at St Peter's Church, Eaton Square, London - Mountbatten was Prince Louis' best man.  

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Gordonstoun School, Elgin, Moray, Scotland

 

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Gordonstoun was the making of the young Philip - he excelled there.  A born athlete, his sporting prowess soon won him the captaincy of both the hockey and cricket teams, while his natural leadership skills made him an excellent choice for 'Guardian of the School' (head boy).  Among his favourite extra-curricular activities were the exciting if rather perilous sailing expeditions that the school organised around the coasts of Scotland and Norway which suited his quest for adventure and the thrill of the sea.  Gordonstoun brought out Philip's individual spirit and transformed him into a self-reliant, strong self-disciplined student which prepared him for the rest of his life.

 LEFT: A school sport photograph of
Philip whilst at Gordonstoun School,
Elgin, Moray, Scotland
(Philip is standing back row, first on the right)

 

 

Following Philip's graduation, in his final report the school's founding headmaster Kurt Hahn (1886-1974) wrote about Philip - "Prince Philip's leadership qualities are most noticeable, though marred at times by impatience and intolerance... His best is outstanding; his second best is not good enough. Prince Philip will make his mark in any profession where he will have to prove himself in a full trial of strength."  Hahn was also to write later - "Philip's most marked trait was his undefeatable spirit...  His laughter was heard everywhere...  He showed lively intelligence. Once he had made a task his own, he showed meticulous attention to detail and pride of workmanship."  

Philip in costume for a performance of "Macbeth" at Gordonstoun in 1935

 
Prince Philip in costume
for a performance
of Shakespeare's "Macbeth"
at Gordonstoun in 1935