Life

13 Things You Might Not Have Known About Prince Philip

He is literally worshipped by a cargo cult in the South West Pacific.
April 9, 2021, 3:48pm
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Photo: TC / Alamy Stock Photo

This morning, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, died in his sleep. The oldest prince of all time had a few brushes with death in recent years; there was the 2008 chest infection, the 2011 heart surgery, the 2012 bladder infection, the 2013 abdomen operation and another infection in 2017. Then, in mid-March, he finished up his longest ever hospital stay, after a heart procedure and yet another infection.

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To mark the passing of the Queen’s husband, here are a few facts you might not have known about the late prince (unless you’re the kind of freak who watches The Crown, in which case I’m sorry for a number of reasons).

1. HE WAS BORN ON A KITCHEN TABLE

Unbelievably wealthy people love a fake “humble beginnings” story. The fact that Philip was born on a kitchen table on the island of Corfu makes it sound like he came from rustic origins, but it’s actually more likely down to the fact he was born a century ago and so was alive before the invention of modern life.

Originally a Prince of Greece and Denmark, his family fled the country when the Greek royal family was ousted in 1922, and he was smuggled over to France in a fruit crate. Adorable. However, he didn’t identify as being Greek and preferred to think of himself as Scandinavian. Nonetheless, he was bullied at school by being called “Phillip the Greek”.

2. HE MET THE QUEEN AS A CHILD

Philip met The Queen for the first time at a wedding when she was eight and he was 13, and by the time she was 13 and he was 18 they had begun “corresponding” by letter. Gross! The pair were pen pals for seven years before he asked her father for her hand in marriage. The Queen’s Father was not hugely into him, but gave his permission for the pair to marry when the Queen turned 21. They were married at Westminster Abbey in 1947.

3. HE DIDN’T HAVE ANY CASH WHEN HE MARRIED THE QUEEN

Technically, Philip was a broke boi when he married Liz, with a bank balance of roughly 15 cents. This might seem like an uncharacteristically forgiving move from the Royal Family, but it’s important to remember that Philip was still of royal blood, even if his parents hadn’t given him any of his inheritance yet.

It’s also important to remember that aristocracy doesn’t often marry outside of the royal circles or bloodline, and in classic monarchist fashion Liz and Philip were both great-great-grandchildren of Queen Victoria, making them third cousins. Essentially, they knew he was from “good stock”, or whatever it is posh people like to say when discussing someone’s suitability for marriage.

4. PHILIP GAVE UP HIS TITLE TO MARRY THE QUEEN 

Philip had to renounce his own royalty as a Prince of Greece and Denmark. He was eventually was given the title of an English prince, but crucially was not ever king. In fact, he’s only a prince because the Queen did him a favour later on in their marriage because she loved him so much. Philip’s official title was merely “consort to the Queen”, which is a huge feminist vibe if you’re an idiot and think royalty can be progressive in any way. 

5. HE THOUGHT HE WAS UNDERPAID

To make sure he looked his best while attending state banquets and touring foreign countries, PP was given a humble annual salary of £359,000, sourced from the tax of his wife’s loyal subjects. He was of course also famously attuned to the plight of normal people while working hard at his tiring – and, frankly, compared to some of his peers! – underpaid job, sharing this heart-warming insight into a recession-gripped 1981 Britain:  “A few years ago, everybody was saying we must have more leisure, everyone's working too much. Now that everybody's got more leisure time they are complaining they are unemployed. People don’t seem to make up their minds what they want.”

What are those commoners like, eh?!

6. HIS SISTERS WERE NAZIS

My personal favourite fact is one that royalists simply love to lose their minds trying to defend. Yes, it’s the Nazi sisters! Three of Philip’s four sisters married German princes who were also fully-fledged members of the Nazi party. One of these sisters died in a plane crash in 1937, forcing Philip to attend her swastika-draped funeral. Sadly his remaining sisters were not allowed to attend his wedding to the Queen in 1947, because by that point it was bad optics for English people to publicly be seen with Nazis.

7. HE SERVED ON A SHIP WITH A FUNNY NAME

I wasn’t planning to talk about his involvement in World War II, because it’s boring and obvious due to his age, but towards the end of the Second World War Prince Philip served in the Pacific on a ship called HMS Whelp, which I think we can all agree is hilarious (yes, I’m choosing to pretend it was welp, because it sounds the same out loud).

8. HE INFORMED THE QUEEN THAT SHE HAD BECOME THE QUEEN 

Philip was the first person to tell Liz that her dad had died and that she was now the Queen of England. They were on a cute Commonwealth Tour in Kenya when the news arrived, just hanging out like any other couple in love – taking walks, photographing the animals and being waited on hand and foot by their colonial subjects.

9. HE WAS A PROLIFIC PATRON

Prince Philip was Patron or President of no less than 814 organisations. The man simply loved to patronise, baby!

10. HE WAS LITERALLY WORSHIPPED

The people of Tanna, one of the islands in Vanuatu – a former colony in the South West Pacific – worship the Duke of Edinburgh as a god. Upon seeing pictures of him with the Queen, the islanders decided he fitted a myth about the son of a mountain spirit with pale skin venturing across the seas looking for a powerful woman to marry. They now celebrate his birthday every year with feasts.

12. HE HAD A GIFT FOR BEING OFFENSIVE

Referred to fondly as the “Prince of Gaffes” for his expertise in “dontopedalogy” (“the science of opening your mouth and putting your foot in it” – a term coined by the funny man himself), Philip was really the GOAT of royal offensiveness. Here is a by no means exhaustive list of 95 of his biggest clangers to celebrate the 95 years he spent in public life before stepping down from his duties in 2017. Can you even imagine the hilarious “politically incorrect” things he said in private!

13. HE GOT HIS FINAL WISH

In 2000, he joked that he had “no desire whatsoever” to see his 100th birthday, telling The Daily Telegraph: “I can't imagine anything worse. Bits of me are falling off already.”