World in mourning following death of Prince Philip

The world is mourning the death of Prince Philip, the longest-serving consort in British history. He was 99.

The Duke of Edinburgh passed away “peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle”, the royal family announced in a statement.

“It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen has announced the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh,” the palace announced on Twitter, as the flag at Buckingham Palace was lowered to half-mast as the clock struck midday in London.

His death follows a recent four week hospital stay, his longest ever stint in hospital, and a heart operation, before being discharged to return home on March 16.

Born on the Greek island of Corfu on June 10, 1921 with Greek and Danish royal titles, Prince Philip was also the great-great-grandson of Queen Victoria.

EARLY YEARS

When he was 18-months-old, his uncle King Constantine of Greece, was forced to abdicate and along with his parents, Prince Andrew of Denmark and Princess Alice of Battenberg and his four sisters, Philip fled the country, initially settling in France.

His mother was eventually committed to a psychiatric institution in Switzerland, while his father relocated to the south of France and maintained limited contact with the rest of the family.

Philip attended the MacJannet American School in Paris before he was sent to the United Kingdom to study at the Cheam School and live with his maternal grandmother, while all four of his sisters married German aristocrats – some of whom were Nazis.

Philip relocated to a school in Germany during the 1930s, and then moved Gordonstoun School in Scotland, founded by Jewish headmaster Kurt Hahn after the rise of the Nazi party. In November 1937, he suffered the devastating loss of his sister Princess Cecile, who was eight months pregnant with her third child, in a plane crash during a flight from Germany to London to attend a wedding. Also killed in the crash, after the plane hit a factory chimney in Belgium, was Cecile’s husband, and their sons aged six and four.

THE QUEEN AND PRINCE PHILIP'S ROYAL LOVE STORY

After graduating in 1939, he attended the Royal Naval College – and in July of that year, the 18-year-old met his third cousin – his future wife and the future Queen of England – 13-year-old Princess Elizabeth.

The pair kept in touch during World War II, when Philip served in the British navy.

On July 10, 1947, they announced their engagement, with Philip abandoning his Greek and Danish royal titles and taking the surname Mountbatten from his mother’s family.

They were married at Westminster Abbey, in a ceremony broadcast throughout the world by radio, on November 20, 1947. On the morning of the wedding, Philip became the Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich.

In her book, Prince Philip, royal biographer Ingrid Seward revealed that Prince Philip had included a secret engraving on Elizabeth’s wedding ring.

“She never takes it off and inside the ring is an inscription.” Seward revealed.

“No one knows what it says, other than the engraver, the Queen and her husband.”

The couple’s first child, Prince Charles, was born 1948, followed by Princess Anne in 1950, Prince Andrew in 1960 and Prince Edward in 1964.

The couple celebrated their platinum wedding anniversary in November 2017. Their marriage is the longest of any British monarch.

In a moving and unusually personal speech marking the couple’s golden wedding anniversary in 1997, Queen Elizabeth described her husband as her ‘strength and stay’.

A LIFE OF DUTY

Prince Philip sacrificed his career in the navy to support his wife after she was became Queen less than five years into their marriage.

“I thought I was going to have a career in the navy, but it became obvious there was no hope. … There was no choice,” he said, according to one biography.

While largely avoiding personal scandal, Philip was a controversial figure at times, known for making statements during public appearances that caused offence.

In a 1986 visit to China, he reportedly told students from Edinburgh University: “If you stay here much long, you’ll all be slitty-eyed.”

Philip retired from public duties in 2017 at the age of 96, following a two-night hospitalisation for an infection. He then had a hip operation in 2018.

In January 2019, he emerged unscathed after his vehicle was involved in a traffic accident that injured two people near the monarch’s Sandringham estate in eastern England.

Philip spent four nights at King Edward Hospital in December 2019, where he was treated for what was described as a “pre-existing condition” and was discharged on Christmas Eve that year.

In February he was admitted to King Edward VII’s private hospital in Marylebone after feeling “unwell”.

Buckingham Palace initially said it was just a “precautionary measure” but it ended up being his longest-ever hospital stay.

The Duke was treated for an infection and was transferred to a specialist cardiac unit at the state-run St Bartholomew’s Hospital for heart procedure before returning to King Edward VII.

He was eventually discharged from hospital on March 16.

NEW GENERATION OF ROYALS

The Duke – often dubbed the “protector” of the monarchy – also lost his temper at times over family matters.

Tabloids claimed that he never welcomed his former daughter-in-law, the late Princess Diana, when she said “I do” to his son Charles in 1981. Despite their fractured relationship, Prince Philip and her son, Prince William, were incredibly close.

“Diana had grown to dislike Prince Philip intensely – and he her – but Prince William was devoted to the old man,” according to biographer Ingrid Seward.

So when Diana died in a car crash in 1997, “William wanted his grandfather at his side in what was certain to prove the most harrowing public engagement the young man had had to endure.”

Philip also reportedly reacted with disbelief when the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, decided to quit as frontline royals last year, and was left “deeply hurt” by the move.

Sources said at the time he wasn’t pleased “about the idea that Meg and Harry need a break from royal duties”.

“This is a man who has dragged himself off his sick bed and even though nearly 100 years old is committed to serving the monarchy,” they said.

Despite being hospitalised, a royal expert said Prince Philip was likely to have known about Meghan and Prince Harry’s tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey and would have had “fruity words” to say about.

The Times’ royal correspondent Roya Nikkhah said the Queen was still speaking to her husband about family matters during his time in hospital, adding that he “would have known a lot of what was going on”.

“We hear from people close to The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh that she still discusses family matters with him and still sees him as the head of the family, behind the scenes,” she said.

“The character that Prince Philip is, I don’t think for a second that he won’t have been reading the papers in the hospital.”

While both the Queen and Philip reduced their public engagements in recent years, their son and heir, Prince Charles, has taken an increasingly leading role alongside Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, and his wife, Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge.

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