What Prince Philip gave up for a life of service to the Queen

Ellen Manning
·4-min read
31st July 1947:  Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, husband of Princess Elizabeth resumes his attendance at the Royal Naval Officers' School at Kingsmoor in Hawthorn, Wiltshire.  (Photo by PNA Rota/Getty Images)
Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, husband of Princess Elizabeth resumes his attendance at the Royal Naval Officers' School at Kingsmoor in Hawthorn, Wiltshire, in 1947. (PNA Rota/Getty Images)

Prince Philip has died aged 99.

He was the longest-serving British consort and dedicated more than half a century to supporting the Queen.

When an 18-year-old Philip started writing to his 13-year-old second cousin once removed, Princess Elizabeth, in 1939, little did he know what he would have to sacrifice for a life of service.

Watch: Prince Philip Funeral: Royal Procession Behind Duke's Coffin

Born into the Greek and Danish royal families, Philip attended Gordonstoun School in Scotland and the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth.

He joined the British Royal Navy in 1939 at the age of 18 and went on to serve with the Mediterranean and Pacific fleets in the Second World War.

Read more: What happens next after Prince Philip's death?

CORSHAM, ROYAUME-UNI - 31 JUILLET: Le Lieutenant Mountbatten instructeur de la Marine Royale britannique le 31 juillet 1947 a Corsham, Royaume-Uni.  (Photo by Keystone-France\Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
Before he was a working royal he was Lietenant Mountbatten. Here in 1947 in Corsham. (Keystone-France\Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, prior to his marriage to Princess Elizabeth, working at his desk after returning to his Royal Navy duties at the Petty Officers Training Centre in Corsham, Wiltshire, August 1st 1947. (Photo by Douglas Miller/Keystone/Getty Images)
Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, prior to his marriage to Princess Elizabeth, working at his desk after returning to his Royal Navy duties at the Petty Officers Training Centre in Corsham in 1947. (Douglas Miller/Keystone/Getty Images)

Read more: Prince Philip: The story of a devoted husband to his beloved 'Lilibet' Queen

His first sacrifice came when Philip was granted permission by King George VI to marry Elizabeth.

Before the official announcement of their engagement in July 1947, Philip abandoned his Greek and Danish royal titles as a member of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksberg and adopted the surname Mountbatten.

The sudden death of George VI meant Elizabeth became monarch in 1952, forcing another sacrifice for her husband sooner than either of them may have predicted.

When Elizabeth became Queen, Philip left active military service having reached the rank of Commander, effectively giving up a promising naval career that could have seen him become First Sea Lord.

The Duke of Edinburgh and Captain John Edwin Home McBeath DSO, DSC, RN (left), pose with Queen Elizabeth II and the officers of HMS Chequers, during the Boxing Day visit to the destroyer that the Duke is currently serving on. The Duke would go on to Command HMS Chequers   (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
The Duke of Edinburgh and Captain John Edwin Home McBeath DSO, DSC, RN (left), pose with Queen Elizabeth II and the officers of HMS Chequers, during the Boxing Day 1949 visit to the destroyer that the Duke was serving on. The Duke would go on to Command HMS Chequers. (PA Images via Getty Images)
circa 1960:  The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip at a Trooping of the Colour ceremony.  (Photo by Three Lions/Getty Images)
The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip at a Trooping of the Colour ceremony in 1960. (Three Lions/Getty Images)

Some have speculated that he had hoped to spend longer as a military man before settling into life at the Queen's side, becoming - in his own words - "the world’s most experienced plaque unveiler".

Speaking on the couple's 70th anniversary, Buckingham Palace commentator Richard Fitzwilliam said: “Philip would have far preferred a naval career than to be in a supporting role.”

The sacrifice of his own ambitions to serve the Queen and his country was highlighted in popular Netflix series The Crown.

<<during an official visit to The Royal Dockyard Chapel>> on April 29, 2014 in Pembroke Dock, United Kingdom.
Philip on a solo engagement to Pembroke Dock, in April 2014. (PA Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 18: (NO PUBLICATION IN UK MEDIA FOR 28 DAYS)  Queen Elizabeth ll and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh are joined by their children, Prince Charles, Prince of Wales (L),  Prince Andrew, Duke of York, Princess Anne, the Princess Royal and Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex at a dinner hosted by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall at Clarence House to mark the Diamond Wedding Anniversary of the Queen and Duke on November 18, 2007 in London, England  (Photo by Pool/Anwar Hussein Collection/WireImage)
Philip and the Queen with their children Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward in November 2007 on the occasion of their diamond wedding anniversary. (Anwar Hussein Collection/WireImage)

Series creator Peter Morgan is quoted as saying: “Philip, I think, had made the mental calculation that he would enjoy 20 years of married life before this dreadful crown business would happen.”

“He was forced to give up his career and become, as it were, her consort. And that led to all sorts of tensions, both within himself and within the marriage.”

Since then, Philip's life was spent by his wife's side.

In 2009 he became the longest-serving British consort, a title previously held by George III's consort Queen Charlotte.

TOPSHOT - Members of the Royal Family (L-R) Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, Vice Admiral Timothy Laurence, Britain's Princess Beatrice of York, Britain's Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (with Princess Charlotte and Prince George), and Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, stand on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to watch a fly-past of aircraft by the Royal Air Force, in London on June 17, 2017.
The ceremony of Trooping the Colour is believed to have first been performed during the reign of King Charles II. In 1748, it was decided that the parade would be used to mark the official birthday of the Sovereign. More than 600 guardsmen and cavalry make up the parade, a celebration of the Sovereign's official birthday, although the Queen's actual birthday is on 21 April. / AFP PHOTO / Chris J Ratcliffe        (Photo credit should read CHRIS J RATCLIFFE/AFP via Getty Images)
The duke at Trooping the Colour in 2017 before he retired from royal duties. (Chris J Ratcliffe/AFP)
Britain's Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, in his role as Captain General, Royal Marines, attends a Parade to mark the finale of the 1664 Global Challenge on the Buckingham Palace Forecourt in central London on August 2, 2017. - Prince Philip, the 96-year-old husband of Queen Elizabeth II, conducted his final solo public engagement on August 2, 2017, overseeing a military parade in the pouring rain before retiring from a lifetime of service. The Duke of Edinburgh, wearing a raincoat and bowler hat, met members of the Royal Marines and veterans -- many younger than him -- before taking the salute in the forecourt of Buckingham Palace. (Photo by Yui Mok / POOL / AFP)        (Photo credit should read YUI MOK/AFP via Getty Images)
Philip after his final solo public engagement on 2 August, 2017, overseeing a military parade in the pouring rain before retiring from a lifetime of service. (Yui Mok/AFP)

Up until his retirement from public duties in the summer of 2017, at the age of 96, Philip had dedicated decades to supporting the Queen on charitable arrangements.

As well as founding The Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme in 1956, he was patron or president of some 800 organisations and on his retirement had undertaken 22,191 solo engagements and given 5,493 speeches in almost seven decades.

His devotion to his wife was evident in his retirement too, and he moved from Wood Farm, his Sandringham home, to Windsor Castle when the coronavirus pandemic hit. 

They spent many months together, likely the longest time since the early days of their marriage, as they shielded to avoid the risk of COVID-19. 

He even added a bonus engagement to his list, appearing at Windsor Castle for a transfer ceremony of the role of Colonel-in-Chief of The Rifles, in July 2020.

Watch: Minute's Silence Observed for Prince Philip Outside Windsor Castle