Prince Philip at Field of Remembrance service
Prince Philip

Prince Philip: 10 Facts About The Duke Of Edinburgh

From his foreign royal heritage to his presence at the Japanese surrender during WW2, here are some facts about the Duke of Edinburgh.

Prince Philip at Field of Remembrance service

The Duke of Edinburgh, the longest-serving consort to a monarch in British history, has died at the age of 99 this month, passing away "peacefully", according to Buckingham Palace.

From his foreign royal heritage to his presence at the Japanese surrender during the Second World War, here are some facts about Prince Philip.

1. He wasn't always destined for service in the Royal Navy

The Duke was most famous militarily for his exploits as an active member of the Royal Navy, even serving throughout the Second World War, but he has in the past hinted that the career may not have been his first choice.

The Duke of Edinburgh joined the Royal Navy in 1939, although admitted his uncle, Lord Mountbatten, played a part in that choice, with Philip also considering joining the Royal Air Force.

The Duke said in 1970 that he would have "without a doubt" joined the RAF had he made the decision alone. Later, however, in 1995, he recalled: "I think, left to my own devices I think I probably would've signed up for the Navy," during an interview with Richard Astbury.

2. The Duke of Edinburgh actively served in the Navy for more than a decade, seeing action during the Second World War

While Prince Philip held a number of honorary military titles during his lifetime, he also had a distinguished active service career, even seeing action during the Second World War.

Following Italy's invasion of Greece in October 1940, Philip was transferred to HMS Valiant, a battleship equipped with radar and anti-aircraft guns, in the Mediterranean in January 1941.

He would later be involved in some high-profile battles and even recalled one experience on Valiant when "the whole ship bent" after a series of bombs hit the vessel.

Duke of Edinburgh Prince Philip is saluted on board HMS Magpie in Malta in 1952 DATE UNKNOWN used on 140121 CREDIT ROyal Navy.jpg
Prince Philip is saluted on board HMS Magpie in Malta (Picture: Royal Navy).

3. He witnessed the surrender of the Japanese during the conflict

In 1944, Philip was posted to HMS Whelp, then a brand-new destroyer, which was headed for the Pacific and action against the Japanese.

The Japanese surrender was signed on the American ship, which Prince Philip saw take place with his own eyes.

"You could see what was going on with a pair of binoculars," he said in 1995, describing the end of the war as "a great relief".

"Then they beat retreat, which you could hear going on," he continued.

"From there we went on to Hong Kong and the most extraordinary sensation when we sailed, we suddenly realised that we didn't have to darken ship anymore.

"We actually stopped in the South China Sea and 'piped hands to bathe'."

4. Prince Philip is not natively British and spent time as a Royal in exile

He was born Prince Philippos of Greece and Denmark to Prince Andrew of Greece and Princess Alice of Battenberg in the family home, Mon Repos, on Corfu.

He was the youngest of five children.

The future Duke of Edinburgh was born into political instability and, on the orders of King George V, was evacuated along with his family from Greece by the Royal Navy cruiser, HMS Calypso, aged just one.

The family was first taken to Brindisi in Italy, before settling in Paris.

Like the Queen, Philip was a great-great-grandchild of Queen Victoria.

Young Prince Philip aged five in September 1926 CREDIT MIRRORPIX ALAMY
Young Prince Philip aged five in 1926 (Picture: ALAMY).

5. The Duke largely excelled as a cadet training for his time in service

Going on to join the Royal Navy, he followed in the footsteps of some of his ancestors by serving at sea, including his grandfather, Prince Louis, who was Admiral of the Fleet and First Sea Lord.

When he took his entrance exam for the Navy, Philip passed 16th out of 34 successful candidates.

However, in the interview portion of his entrance assessment, Philip stood out, scoring 380 out of 400 marks.

Graduating as the best cadet in his class from Dartmouth's Royal Naval College, Philip was appointed a midshipman in January 1940.

6. He often wondered what a longer active military career would have been like 

Lord Lewin, who himself was First Sea Lord, suggested the Duke of Edinburgh would have become Navy chief, had he continued active service.

During his time in the British military, Prince Philip was promoted to Lieutenant Commander, before ending his active naval career in July 1951.

In 1952, the Queen promoted him to Commander, prior to awarding him honorary five-star ranks across the tri-services the following year.

Philip's grandfather, Prince Louis, was Admiral of the Fleet and First Sea Lord, but how far up the naval ranks would the Duke of Edinburgh have progressed had he not ended his active service aged 30?

Prince Philip admitted to wondering how far his military career could have progressed, had fate not intervened.

Prince Philip meeting Royal Marines cadets during his final public engagement 020817 CREDIT MOD 2
Prince Philip meeting Royal Marines cadets during his final public engagement (Picture: MOD).

7. His marriage to the Queen was seen by some at the time as controversial

It was as an officer cadet at the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth he first met the young Princess Elizabeth, when he was tasked with escorting her on a visit.

Soon, they began to exchange letters.

During his military service, his relationship with Princess Elizabeth would deepen, and in the summer of 1946, Philip asked King George VI for his daughter's hand.

Within London society, it was a controversial choice. The heir to the throne was marrying an exiled Greek prince.

In February 1947, Philip abandoned his Greek and Danish royal titles, took the surname Mountbatten from his mother's family, and became a British subject.

He was known as Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, with no mention of him being Prince of Greece.

He became the longest-serving Royal Consort in British history and showed remarkable stamina through to his old age.

8. In his later years, the Duke took on as many, or more, royal duties as those in the family who were significantly younger

In 2016, he carried out official meetings and visits on 110 days of the year, remaining patron or president of about 800 organisations and taking an active interest in his Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme.

He announced his retirement from public duties in 2017, at the age of 96.

The Palace said in a statement that it was the Duke's decision, taken with the support of the Queen.

The statement read: "His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh has decided that he will no longer carry out public engagements from the autumn of this year.

"In taking this decision, the Duke has the full support of the Queen. Prince Philip will attend previously scheduled engagements between now and August, both individually and accompanying the Queen."  

Queen and Prince Philip holding hands while leaving St Paul's Cathedral
Prince Philip became the longest-serving Royal Consort in British history (Picture: MOD).

9. He was the first-ever British Royal to give an interview on TV

Appearing in a Panorama programme broadcast on 29 May 1961, Prince Philip became the first member of the Royal Family to give an interview on television.

Richard Dimbleby interviewed him, talking about the Commonwealth Technical Training Week and the Prince encouraged the training of skilled workers for the modern labour force.

Although uncontroversial in topic, it was one of the public's first glimpses into the working life of the Duke rather than solely through public ceremonial occasions.

10. He gave up his active military duties to serve the monarchy

The husband of one of the most famous women in the world, he is defined by his relationship to Queen Elizabeth II and gave up a promising naval career to support his wife in her royal role.

Philip ended his active naval career in July 1951 with King George VI's health declining.

Queen Elizabeth II took the throne the following February, with the Duke of Edinburgh being promoted to the rank of commander in the Royal Navy in June 1952.

Then in 1953, he was given honorary five-star appointments in all three services, being made an Admiral of the Fleet, British Army Field Marshal and Royal Air Force Marshal.

In 2011, he was made Lord High Admiral, the office of titular head of the Navy, succeeding the Queen in the role.

Writing to biographer Tim Heald in 1990, the Duke of Edinburgh admitted: "There has never been an 'if only', except perhaps that I regret not having been able to continue a career in the Navy."  

Cover image: MOD.