L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Friday, June 10, 2016

Young Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark - the Duke of Edinburgh on his ninety-fifth birthday

Photographed in traditional Greek Evzone costume by Emile Markovitch, 1930.

Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Head of the Commonwealth, was born Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark on 10 June 1921. Today is his ninety-fifth birthday.

With his mother, 1921.
Circa 1922.

His mother, the former Princess Alice of Battenberg, was a great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Born at Windsor Castle, she was found to be profoundly deaf but learned to speak and lip-read in at least four languages. His father was Prince Andrew, fourth son of King George I of the Hellenes. The Greek royal family was anything but Greek; the King was born into the Danish royal family - the reason the dynasty is referred to as "of Greece and Denmark" - and at the time of Philip's birth the family was closely linked through marriage and descent to the royal families of Great Britain, Russia, Prussia, the Grand Duchy of Hesse and, of course, Denmark. His parents had married in 1903 and Philip had four considerably older sisters: Margarita, Theodora, Cécile, and Sophie.

With his parents and sisters, circa 1922.
July 1922.
Same as above.

The current Greek monarchy had only been established in 1863 and had often been at war, both internal and external. The were frequently at odds with their own often openly antagonistic government, and had fought a series of wars with their Balkan neighbors. And in 1917 at the height of World War I, the opposition of the government to the Royal Family's stance of neutrality eventually led to Philip's uncle, King Constantine I, being forced to abdicate. Most of the family would go into exile in Switzerland. As it turned out, they were recalled three years later, but at the time of Philip's birth in 1921, once more at war with the Turks, the régime was again faltering. In September of the following year King Constantine was forced to abdicate a second time, and three months later the eighteen-month-old prince and his immediate family left Greece aboard a British naval vessel. They settled in the Paris suburb of Saint-Cloud in a house lent to them by a wealthy relative, Princess George of Greece, née Princess Marie Bonaparte.

Circa 1925-26.
Same as above.

By the end of the decade, Princess Andrew had gradually succumbed to mental illness, suffering hyper-religious and sexual delusions, which was eventually diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenia. She would be institutionalized for some time and then spend several years living an itinerant existence in central Europe, incognito; her own mother was the only family member with whom she retained contact. From the summer of 1932 until the spring of 1937, Philip neither saw nor received any word from his mother, not even a birthday card. She would finally begin to reconnect with her family in 1937, when her son was fifteen.

Photograph by Emile Markovitch, 1927.
Same as above.
With his parents and sisters - left to right: Margarita, Cécile, Sophie, and Theodora - 1928.

In the meantime, in the space of eight months in 1930-31 when he was only ten years old, all four of his sisters married into German princely and grand ducal families. (Without the presence of their mother.) And, his parent's marriage having crumbled under the weight of their enforced retirement and, later, the Princess' illness, Philip's father fairly abandoned the family, going to live aimlessly on the French Riviera in a series of apartments and hotel rooms with a series of mistresses.

Circa late 1920s.
With his second cousin King Michael of Romania, 1928.

Prince Philip had first been educated at the MacJannet American school in Paris, but in 1928 when he was seven, he was sent to England to attend Cheam School. Then, in 1933, he was sent to the progressive Schule Schloss Salem in Germany, which was supported by the family of his sister Theodora's husband, Berthold, Margrave of Baden. That same year, the school's Jewish founder was forced to flee Nazi Germany but founded Gordonstoun school in Scotland in the following year; after two terms at Salem, Philip would move to Gordonstoun, where he would graduate in 1939.

Photographed in Evzone costume by Emile Markovitch, 1930.
Same as above.
At Cheam School, 1933.
The Cheam School cricket team, 1934. Prince Philip is at top right.

During his school days, from the age of seven to the age of eighteen, the young prince was effectively an orphan and homeless. When on school holiday or at times like Christmas, he was shuttled between relatives in England and Germany, often staying with his maternal grandmother, the Dowager Marchioness of Milford Haven, and her sons, George Mountbatten, 2nd Marquess of Milford Haven and Lord Louis Mountbatten. In the space left for one's address in visitors’ books, he would write “of no fixed abode”.

Circa 1934-36.
Dressed in costume for a Gordonstoun production of Macbeth, 1935.
Circa mid to late 1930s.
Dressed in costume for a play, circa 1936.

He would later say matter-of-factly, “It’s simply what happened. The family broke up. My mother was ill, my sisters were married, my father was in the south of France. I just had to get on with it. You do. One does.” And when an interviewer had asked what language his family had spoken at home, he replied, “What do you mean, at home?”

Sitting on the roof of Gordonstoun School, circa 1938.
At Gordonstoun, 1939.
Same as above.
Circa late 1930s.

In 1939 he joined the Royal Navy, the Second World War began, he met his future wife for the first time - she was both a third cousin through Queen Victoria, and second cousin once removed through King Christian IX of Denmark; she was thirteen years old to his eighteen - and his future was set. Eight years later, in 1947, the two were married; their sixty-ninth anniversary is on the twentieth of this November.

Circa early 1940s.


  1. HAPPY 95th BIRTHDAY...Your Royal Highness...

  2. Thank you so much for posting this. It is so touching and sad. I had no idea Prince Philip's childhood was so harsh. I hope that he had a very happy 95th birthday.

  3. We see so many images of the Queen through the years, but these are the first I remember seeing of Philip. Also had no idea of his childhood.

  4. I didn't know any of this -fascinating! And such interesting photos - a nice looking young man to be sure.

  5. Fascinating. I knew about the Danish routes of the 19th Century Greek monarchy, but I never before read the details of Philip's family. Very sad. One has to give him high marks for resiliance. And he was a very handsome, young man. You can see what attracted the Queen. I had read once that for many years after their marriage she gave Philip's sisters and their families a cool reception, referring to them as "the Germans" (understandable given his childhood and World War II) but by the '60s relations had improved.

  6. He was so brave and handsome. Now he has great black circles around his eyes. My husband is eighty and has the same. My husband has cancer. Could Prince Philip?

    1. I'm so sorry about your husband, Sally. All the best to you both. : )

  7. What a great perspective in life. A true inspiration of getting it on and impeccable perseverance. Only a few in his circumstances can endure and carry on what the Duke of Edinburgh went thru early in his life.