At the age of ninety five, the outspoken Duke of Edinburgh has been at the heart of the British Royal Family for the last seventy years, standing at the Queen’s side as her consort and her life partner. Although he has often been embroiled in scandal and his family has had every facet of their lives scrutinised by the press, the Prince has nevertheless managed to hold the family together throughout their reign, and has ensured a line of succession spanning across three generations.
However, the course of history could have been very different for Prince Philip. Born in Greece into both the Danish and Greek Royal Families as the grandson of Queen Victoria, he spent his early years on the run, fleeing Greece as a baby aboard a British naval vessel during the Greco-Turkish war. His family then saw itself scattered across Europe, with his sisters marrying into the German Royal Family while he was adopted by Lord Mountbatten and raised and educated in Britain. Having been a promising naval Lieutenant during World War Two, he considered a career in the navy before marrying Queen Elizabeth in 1947. When the Queen was coronated in 1952, he had to give up this idea. Until his retirement, however, he continued his honorific duties in the military as Colonel-in-Chief of numerous regiments and, as of 2011, Lord High Admiral of the United Kingdom.
Faced with the prospect of having to find a new role for himself outside of the military, he dedicated his life to charitable work, choosing to create, support and represent over 800 charitable organisations during his life. The most notable of which is his work in conservation with the WWF, of which he was president for fifteen years from 1981 – 1996. He has also maintained a keen interest in education, having been the Chancellor of the Universities of Cambridge, Edinburgh and Salford.
Despite this, he has often received harsh criticism from the press. His impromptu remarks and sense of humour have often seen him labelled as sexist and racist. His supporters argue, however, that his comments were often taken out of context and twisted by the press to portray him negatively.
The British monarchy’s relevance has become a popular question in the twenty-first century, with many viewing it as obsolete. But those who question the work ethic of the Royals need only look at Prince Philip’s life to realise that the Royal Family is a family of hard workers. At the age of ninety five, Prince Philip is retiring from his official duties to take some well-deserved rest and to reflect on the influential role he has played in supporting so many charitable foundations during his life.