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What You Didn’t Know About Prince Philip’s Military Career

Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth are both second and third cousins. Depending on which branch of the family tree you trace. The two followed in the footsteps of many other royals who married their relatives. Their romance first sparked when the future queen toured the British Naval College with her parents and sister. Philip was a cadet at the college, in the early days of his military career.

In this video, we’re going to look at Prince Philip’s military career. And how it informed his life as husband to Queen Elizabeth. Be sure to watch to the end of the video to learn how he made his mark on his own funeral. And remember to like and subscribe to the Facts Verse channel below so you don’t miss any of our upcoming videos.

Because of their family connections, Prince Philip and the future queen of England met several times during their childhood. Before any romance started to take form. The romance sparked in 1939, when Elizabeth toured the British Naval College with her parents and her sister Margaret. She was just 13 years old while Philip was 18.

An outbreak of chickenpox and mumps led to the service at the chapel canceled. And it up to the girls’ cousin Philip, who was a cadet at the college, to keep them entertained. The princesses’ governess, Marion Crawford, recalled that he looked more like a Viking than the legendary gods of his Greek heritage.

The future queen quite impressed by how high he could jump but she’s more smitten with him than he was with her. Philip went off to fight in World War II but by the time he returned from deployment. He was ready to make a commitment. He and Elizabeth wed in a 1947 ceremony that broadcast on the BBC and listened to by 200 million people around the world.

While their romance seemed like a real-life fairy tale, with the princess meeting her prince charming, it had its ups and downs. For example, shortly after their wedding, Prince Philip and his new bride argued over Elizabeth’s last name.

Philip had to renounce his birth name, Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark. And when they married and he took his maternal grandparents’ name, Mountbatten. Having a familiar-sounding name was important in the aftermath of World War II. Many of Philip’s relatives were German and three of his sisters had even settled in Germany and married Nazis. They understandably not invited to the wedding.

He wanted Elizabeth to take the name as well but the princess wouldn’t have it. She liked her name, Windsor, and said she was going to keep it in 1952. This upset Prince Philip, who thought that he’s the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his own children.

The argument continued for eight years before the two came to an agreement. In 1960, Queen Elizabeth announced that any of her descendants who did not go by the title Prince or Princess would bear the name Mountbatten-Windsor. This ensured some of Prince Philips children and grandchildren would carry on his name.

A number of years before Prince Philip died, he expressed his desire that his funeral not be a state funeral and instead that it reference his military service. If the COVID-19 lockdown hadn’t made some of those plans impossible. And his funeral service would have included representatives from each of Prince Philip’s military regiments.

He acquired many honorary titles during his wife’s reign, including five-star Admiral of the Fleet and Lord High Admiral. Some of those helped by his connection to the throne but that doesn’t lessen how his naval service during World War II was carried out with distinction.

Prince Philip involved with the Battle of Crete. The Battle of Cape Matapan (for which he received special mention in dispatches and later a Greek War Cross), the Invasion of Sicily. And the signing of the Japanese surrender

During the Invasion of Sicily, Prince Philip, who was a first lieutenant at the time, saved the crew of his ship. As the HMS Wallace neared the island, it drew heavy bombardment. It was less than five minutes after the bomber had departed and based on previous experiences. The crew had about 20 minutes to come up with something before the next attack. Prince Philip came up with a plan to assemble and launch a wooden raft with smoke floats. And that would create smoke and flames when they hit the water. When the bomber returned, it attacked the distant raft instead of the HMS Wallace, leaving it to continue toward Sicily.

Prince Philip’s quick thinking saved the lives of many crew members that night. While there may have a few survivors, the ship would certainly have sunk.

He joined the Royal Navy in 1939, before war declared. Like anyone else, he started as a midshipman, the lowest rank of officer in the Navy. Excelling in his training and Dartmouth Naval College, he graduated top of his class. In further training that followed, he got the highest marks in four out of five parts of his exam and left as a Sub-Lieutenant in 1940.

He initially pulled from two or three ships when they transferred to operations in the Mediterranean but joined the thick of the action after Italy invaded Greece. In 1941, during the Battle of Matapan in Greece, the young officer mentioned in dispatches for his skill at picking out Italian cruisers lurking in the darkness when he on searchlight duty on HMS Valiant. Five enemy ships were sunk that night and by 1942, Prince Philip one of the youngest lieutenants in the Navy.

The Prince sailed from Britain to the Pacific on HMS Whelp to be in attendance at the official surrender of the Japanese on the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay in early September 1945. This only two weeks after the two atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In spite of his royal lineage, Prince Philip expected no special treatment and played down his service and contributions to the war effort.

The Navy in his blood and if it wasn’t for the unavoidable fact of married to the future Queen of England. And he might have spent the rest of his life in its service. Prince Philip remained on active service until 1952, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Commander. At that point, the ailing health of King George VI made it clear that his life was about to change. When the announcement finally came that the king had died, Prince Philip and Princess Elizabeth were on safari in Kenya. When he heard the news, the Prince reportedly looked like a ton of bricks had landed on him.

At the Queen’s Coronation at Westminster Abbey in 1953, the Duke of Edinburgh (which was Prince Philips official title) swore to be his wife’s “liege man of life and limb”. And which meant he could not continue his active service any longer. He continued to make his mark on Britain and the world, however, through many other efforts.

In 1956, the Duke launched the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award which was a youth awards program inspiring teenagers to challenge themselves both physically and mentally. It encouraged them to build their confidence through non-academic activities. In 1961, the Duke showed his interest in youth apprenticeships. It is by becoming the first member of the Royal Family to be interviewed on television.

Prince Philip involved with philanthropic causes throughout his life. And including a stint as president of the World Wildlife Fund in the 1980s and 90s. He didn’t slow down until well into his 90s. And when Buckingham Palace announced he was stepping down from public duties in May 2017. His final solo royal engagement was an event with Royal Marines. A fitting end to his lifelong support of the military.

With his health starting to deteriorate over the last several years, Prince Philip wanted to plan his own funeral. He wanted it to be a reflection of his military service. And his record as a patron for the World Wildlife Foundation. The COVID-19 pandemic made this easier as the lockdown measures meant foreign dignitaries couldn’t travel in from around the world. And people couldn’t line the streets around Westminster Abbey the way they would under normal circumstances. In fact, the Royal Family’s website asked people not to pay their respects in person or gather in groups to mourn.

One possible reason Prince Philip wanted his funeral to a more intimate affair is the amount of time he spent in the spotlight throughout his life. As a comparison, when the Queen Mother Elizabeth died, her body rested in Westminster Hall for thousands of people to pay their respects. She was the last royal consort to have died and Prince Philip likely didn’t want this same type of spectacle.

That “no fuss” attitude was a thread throughout Prince Philip’s life. He tried to instil that same attitude in his children, telling them “Never cry when hurt”. And that they shouldn’t ever make a fuss.

When Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip toured Australia in 1954. They driven in a Land Rover that had a modified rear tub that let them stand and wave to the crowds. Prince Philip’s coffin was transported in another Land Rover that he helped modify. He worked in collaboration with Land Rover to adapt a Defender TD5 130 chassis cab. And to include an open-top rear section that could hold a coffin and special rubber grips to keep it from sliding. He even chose the vehicle’s color, dark bronze green.

That color is the same as many military Land Rovers. Indicating that Prince Philip carried his military service with him to his final days.

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