Corfu, 9 April 2021
My wife and I express our emotion and sadness about the death of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
HRH The Prince Philip was the longest serving consort, a commanding personality in British life and a tower of strength to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. He helped to steer the Royal Family so that it remains an institution indisputably vital to Great Britain.
The Duke of Edinburgh was born Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark on 10 June 1921 (28 May 1921 by the Julian calendar) to Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and Princess Alice of Battenberg on the Mediterranean island of Corfu in the Greek royal family’s villa, ‘Mon Repos’. King George I of Greece left this villa to Prince Philip’s parents on his death in 1913. The first ever photograph taken of Prince Philip, showing him in his mother’s arms at the villa at Mon Repos, is kept in the Collection of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh.
Queen Victoria’s oldest surviving great-great-grandchild, Prince Philip was sixth in line to the Greek throne at birth. He was the fifth child of Princess Alice, 36. Her doctor thought it more expedient for her to give birth on the Mon Repos villa dining room table rather than in her bed, Ian Lloyd reveals. Philip’s father Prince Andrew was the son of King George I of Greece. When George was assassinated in 1913, Prince Andrew’s brother Constantine (Philip’s uncle) became king.
Although born in Greece, Prince Philip’s family was exiled from the country when he was an infant after his uncle, King Constantine, was forced to abdicate after the loss of the Greco-Turkish War of 1919–1922. Philip’s father, who was serving in the army at the time, was accused of treason and banished, fleeing to Paris with his family. Philip’s mother converted to the Greek Orthodox Church but suffered delusions, thinking she was in a relationship with Jesus.
The first time Elizabeth, then 8, and Philip, 13, saw each other was at the wedding of her uncle, the Duke of Kent, to Philip’s cousin Princess Marina of Greece, on 29 November 1934. Philip signed himself with the Greek letter ‘Φ’ (Ph). The first Christmas card that Prince Philip ever sent to the then Princess Elizabeth, now Queen Elizabeth II and his wife of 74 years, he sent from Athens in 1939. During the Second World War he served with distinction in the Mediterranean and Pacific Fleets. In January 1941 Philip joined the battleship HMS Valiant, helping convoy troops to bolster the British Expeditionary Force in Greece. After the war, Philip was granted permission by George VI to marry Elizabeth. Before the official announcement of their engagement in July 1947, he was obliged to abandon his Greek and Danish titles and styles, become a naturalised British subject, and adopt his maternal grandparents’ surname Mountbatten. Just before the wedding, he was granted the title His Royal Highness and created Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich by King George VI. On his wedding day, 20 November 1947, Philip wore his naval uniform with the stars of the Order of the Garter and the Greek Order of the Redeemer.
The passing of HRH The Prince Philip marks the end of a period of chivalry and patriotism. He will be greatly missed by his family, the nation and all of us in Corfu. Let us hope that he may be a beacon of orientation for a changing world in the times of growing globalisation.
Count Spiro Flamburiari
Chairman, Corfu Heritage Foundation
[Ian Lloyd, The Duke: 100 Chapters in the Life of Prince Philip. Cheltenham, UK: The History Press, 2021]