Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, has died at age 99. A statement from the royal family, issued April 9, 2021, read: “It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen has announced the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle.”
Before the royal’s death, he was admitted to a private hospital in London on Feb. 16 over what the palace called at the time “a precautionary measure.” CNN later reported that Philip had been treated for “an infection” and was being monitored for “a preexisting heart condition.” He was released from care after one month, reported the BBC, offering the following statement to his caregivers: “His Royal Highness wishes to thank all the medical staff who looked after him… and everyone who has sent their good wishes.”
Less than one month later, the royal’s death came just ahead his 100th birthday. Here’s what to know about Prince Philip’s life and legacy.
Prince Philip had health scares in the past
Before being hospitalized in February 2021, Prince Philip had multiple health issues throughout his life. In December 2011, the royal was treated for a blocked coronary artery, per The Guardian. And in June 2012, Queen Elizabeth II’s husband was admitted to the hospital to treat a bladder infection. Prince Philip also had “exploratory surgery on his abdomen” in June 2013, The Guardian noted. And in 2018, the royal had hip replacement surgery. Prince Philip was also hospitalized in December 2019, and a photo of him leaving the hospital became a meme.
Despite the ups and downs of his health, though, Prince Philip didn’t officially retire from public service until 2017. Post-retirement, the royal still attended various events over the years. However, Prince Philip no longer drives after a car crash that happened in January 2019, ABC News reported. Per the outlet, he was unhurt but was “forced to give up driving.”
Prince Philip was a war hero
Prince Philip served in the Royal Navy during World War II, and his was no cushy assignment. At just 21-years-old, the young first lieutenant was aboard the HMS Wallace when the ship fell under attack from German forces. Philip’s shipmate, Harry Hargreaves, explained to The Guardian how Philip leapt to heroic action in that moment, which was smack in the middle of the Allied invasion of Sicily.
In the middle of the night, a bomber had tried to hit the HMS Wallace, but missed, and was circling back around for what Hargreaves recalled was an “inevitable” hit. If that happened, the ship would surely have been destroyed.
As “second in command,” Philip took quick action after conversing with the ship’s captain, ordering his shipmates to throw a wooden raft into the water, using “smoke floats” to create the illusion that the ship had already been damaged. With the diversion in place, the ship’s captain then “steamed away from the raft for a good five minutes and then he ordered the engines stopped.” They waited for the next hit, but it never game. The idea worked or as Hargreaves put it: “Prince Philip saved our lives that night.”
Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II were third cousins
The royal family is no stranger to marriages among distant family members, and Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip were no exception. The couple had a great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, in common.
The couple met at a family wedding, per Independent, but they were guests on opposite sides of the aisle. Elizabeth’s uncle, Prince George, Duke of Kent, was marrying Princess Marina, who was Philip’s cousin. But even though the two were family, Elizabeth’s parents reportedly didn’t approve of the match, at least not at first. “Despite Philip’s British background and his fine war record, George VI was deeply worried about how British opinion, particularly its left wing, would take to a Greek Prince as the husband of the heiress presumptive,” Time reported in 1957. “There was also something about his daughter’s brash young man with his loud, boisterous laugh and his blunt, seagoing manners that irritated the gentle king.”
But Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip went on to be married for more than 70 years, with him supporting her in her royal duties every step of the way until his April 2021 death.
Prince Philip was no stranger to controversy
A quick Google search for the royal will reveal headlines like “25 Things Prince Philip Said That Will Make You Full-Body Cringe” and “The priceless racism of the Duke of Edinburgh.” Some of these cringe-worthy quotes include Prince Philip saying “You are a woman, aren’t you?” to a Kenyan woman in 1984, per the BBC, as well as saying that “British women can’t cook” in 1966.
The royal also shared some racist comments about people of Asian descent, which were especially concerning in light of the rise in anti-Asian violence ushered in by the pandemic. “If it has four legs and it is not a chair, if it has two wings and flies but is not an aeroplane, and if it swims and it is not a submarine, the Cantonese will eat it,” Prince Philip said in 1986 at a World Wildlife Fund meeting, per The Guardian. That same year, the royal told a group of U.K. students visiting China, “If you stay here much longer, you’ll all be slitty-eyed.” Yikes.
There was reportedly tension between Prince Philip and Prince Charles
The father-son royal duo didn’t always see eye-to-eye, at least if you believe the gossip from royal-watchers. Per Express, various experts weighed in on the strained relationship in the 2020 documentary The Queen and Charles: Mother and Son.
Apparently, it was Prince Philip’s idea for Prince Charles to go to Scottish boarding school Gordonstoun. Of course, attending an elite school isn’t unusual for a member of the royal family, but if Charles didn’t want to go, it could have sparked tension between the father and son. And based on the reports, things only got worse from there.
“Prince Philip was almost a bully to him and criticized him,” royal commentator Angela Levin said in the documentary, according to Express. “It was his view a boy or a young man likes rugby, and football, and cricket, they weren’t interested in nature and butterflies and talking to flowers… He did think Charles was a bit of a wimp.”
There’s also the fact that Prince Philip reportedly told Prince Charles that he could eventually rekindle his love with Camilla Parker Bowles, now the Duchess of Cornwall, if his marriage to Princess Diana didn’t “work out,” per E!. Bowles is happily married to Prince Charles now, but Prince Philip’s reported comments couldn’t have been easy for Princess Diana to hear. (Plus, Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth didn’t attend Prince Charles’ and Bowles’ wedding, though they did attend a prayer service afterward.)
Prince Philip may have been closer to Prince William than to Prince Harry
Prince Philip married into the monarchy, supporting his wife, Queen Elizabeth II, until his death. So it’s not a shock that there was some tension between Prince Philip and Prince Harry after the latter decided to “step back” as a member of the royal family.
“Philip simply cannot understand how Harry has behaved the way he has done. His grandson’s behavior is completely alien to him, so not unnaturally, the relationship has suffered,” Ingrid Seward, author of Prince Philip Revealed, said to Vanity Fair in October 2020.
Prince Philip and Prince William, meanwhile, seemed to have bonded after Princess Diana’s death. Prince Philip’s mother, Princess Alice, was sent to a sanatarium and later became a nun, so he was able to bond with his grandsons over his own tragic childhood. But Prince Harry’s decision to relinquish his royal duties likely caused tension between the two.
Still, Prince Harry and Prince Philip didn’t seem to have been on bad terms. Express reported that Prince Philip attended physical therapy so that he could attend Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s 2018 wedding without using a cane after his hip surgery.
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