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His Royal Highness the Prince Philip of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich, was born on 10th June 1921 as Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark at the villa “Mon Repos”, the summer retreat of the Greek royal family, on the island of Corfu. His parents were Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and Princess Alice of Battenberg, known as Princess Andrew.

Prince Philip of Greece started school in France but came to England to attend Cheam Prepatory in 1928. He left at 12 to spend one year at Salem School in Southern Germany. Afterwards, he attended Gordonstoun School in Morayshire. Philip became Head of the School and Captain of Hockey and Cricket. He also partook in sailing expeditions around the coasts of Scotland and Norway.

Philip left Gordonstoun in 1938 to join the Royal Navy. He completed his initial training at RNC Darthmouth's. In 1940 he joined the battleship HMS Ramillies in Columbo as a midshipman and spent six months in the Indian Ocean. In January 1941, he joined the battleship HMS Valiant in Alexandria. On 21st March 1941 he took part in the battle of Matapan (in Greek waters) against the Italian fleet. For his work in control of the searchlights Prince Philip was mentioned in despatches. He was later awarded the Greek War Cross of Valour.

Qualified to Sub-Lieutenant and appointed to the destroyer HMS Wallace based in Roseyth, Prince Philip was promoted to Lieutenant on 16th July 1942 and in October appointed to the First Lieutenant of HMS Wallace. The Prince was later appointed First Lieutenant of new destroyer HMS Whelp, which was present in Tokyo Bay when the Japanese signed the surrender.

Ahead of his engagement to HRH Princess Elizabeth of the United Kingdom, oldest daughter of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth and heiress presumptive to the Throne, it was thought that his title of HRH Prince of Greece and Denmark was inappropriate for various reasons, including the fact that the Greek sovereigns had always been mingling in politics, something not very well seen in Britain. It was decided that Prince Philip would renounce his titles and become a British subject. It was thus to be decided which name he would take, since his surnames would be German, something that could simply not happen in the fresh post-war years.

Prince Philip’s mother, Princess Alice, was the daughter of Prince Louis of Battenberg and Princess Victoria of Hesse, granddaughter of Queen Victoria; her brother was Lord Louis Mountbatten, which had been largely responsible for Prince Philip’s education and military career. The Battenberg family, known for their good looks, had been openly embraced by Queen Victoria. She allowed her youngest daughter, Princess Beatrice, to marry Prince Heinrich of Battenberg (they were the parents of Princess Victoria Eugenia of Battenberg, who became Queen of Spain), and her granddaughter, Princess Victoria of Hesse, (daughter of Queen Victoria’s second daughter, Princess Alice), married Prince Louis of Battenberg in 1884.

Prince Louis, who had become a naturalised British subject in 1868, joined the Royal Navy and rose to become Admiral of the Fleet and then First Sea Lord in 1914. But with the beginning of the First World War, German antipathy grew increasingly torrent and Prince Louis had no other choice but to renounce all his German royal titles and change the family name from Battenberg to the British translation of Mountbatten (Berg is the German translation for mountain). The former Prince Louis was created Marquess of Milford Haven by King George V.

When Prince Philip renounced his Greek royal title to become a British subject, the College of Arms was consulted and the name Mountbatten was recommended, apparently after a suggestion from Lord Louis, the uncle of Prince Philip. The former Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark thus took his mother's maternal surname (in February 1947) and from henceforth was Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten RN.

Philip was created His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich on the eve of his wedding to Princess Elizabeth and was also created a Knight of the Order of the Garter, by King George VI. He married the heiress presumptive to the British throne on the 20th November 1047. They were parents of four children: Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward. The Duke of Edinburgh continued his naval career, but from July 1951 took up no more active naval appointments owing to Princess Elizabeth's increased Royal responsibilities.

During a Commonwealth tour in February 1952, while in Kenya, the Duke of Edinburgh had the task of informing his wife that she had become Queen of the United Kingdom, as a result of the death of her father, King George VI. With the King’s death and his wife’s accession to the throne, Philip's naval career virtually came to an end. But to this day, Philip remains very close to every single branch of the Armed Forces. In 1952 he was appointed Admiral of the Sea Cadet Corps, Colonel-in-Chief of the Army Cadet Force and Air Commodore-in-Chief of the Air Training Corps. The following year, in January 1953, ahead of the Coronation, he was promoted to Admiral of the Fleet and appointed Field Marshall of the Army and Marshall of the Royal Air Force. He is also Captain-General of the Royal Marines and Colonel-in-Chief of a number of British and overseas regiments.

In 1957, Queen Elizabeth II created her husband Prince of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and henceforth his official title is HRH the Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Prince Philip has his own personal Standard. The first three quarters show his lineage: Denmark (lions and hearts); Greece (white cross on blue); Mountbatten (2 black 'pales' on white). The fourth quarter contains the arms of the City of Edinburgh and represents his title. The Prince is also Knight of the Order of the Thistle and Grand Master and First or Principal Knight of the Order of the British Empire, founded in the twentieth century to reward the work and service of members of the general public.

His Royal Highness is very involved in a number of organisations, being patron or president of over 800. Among those he is most famous for is the World Wildlife Fund, for which he had joined since their very beginning. And the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, launched in 1956, is aimed at young people between the ages of 15 and 25. More than 4 million people from over 60 countries have taken part since the inception.

The Queen's Gallery at Buckingham Palace, the London showcase for exhibitions of art from the Royal Collection, was built at the suggestion of the Duke of Edinburgh. The gallery was converted from the bomb-damaged Private Chapel and opened to the public in July 1962. It is currently being refurbished ready for reopening in May 2002. His Royal Highness played a key role in the restoration of Windsor Castle after the great fire of 1992. He served as Chairman of the general Restoration Committee, one of the two committees supervising the rebuilding of the damaged rooms and he design some of the refurbishments.

Prince Philip, although at times deemed as too gruff and too rude (mainly a result of some unwise comments of his, in sharp contrast with the Queen’s immaculate public performance), as shown himself to be utterly devoted to the Royal Family’s service for Britain. The Prince remains one of the most active members of the Royal Family nevertheless being in a somehow uncomfortable position of the “husband of the Queen”, which certainly has not been easy to handle. As he stands next to his wife as she the Queen celebrates 50 years on the British throne, his service to the nation must not be forgotten.

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