Like other members of the British Royal Family, Prince Philip’s reputation is now defined by his portrayal in The Crown: a stern father, a reluctant consort, a man’s man who struggled to play second fiddle to his wife. It could be worse.
The Queen’s husband has died two months short of his 100th birthday, and his death inevitably invites comparisons between the world he was born into and the one he has left behind. He was born a prince on the island of Corfu, in the line of succession to both the Greek and Danish thrones, but his uncle, King Constantine I of Greece, abdicated when Philip was just a year old, and the family had to escape to France. (The baby Philip was famously carried away from his home in a fruit box.) His four elder sisters all married German princes, and he saw them only sporadically as he was raised at boarding schools. His mother was committed to a mental institution when he was 9, and later joined a religious order.
The First World War had already created an awkward distance between the British royals and their German cousins: George V renounced all his German titles in 1917, and the Saxe-Coburg-Gothas became the Windsors. The outbreak of hostilities against Nazi Germany two decades later prompted another schism in the royal families of Europe. The Queen’s uncle, the former Edward VIII, was known to be sympathetic to the Nazis, and so was dispatched to the Bahamas for the duration of the war. Philip had been educated in Germany until the Jewish founder of his school fled the Nazis, moved to Scotland, and set up a new boarding school called Gordonstoun. Philip followed him there, and when the call came, the prince served in the British navy.