Prince Philip, who is the longest-serving consort to a British monarch and also the oldest-ever male member of the royal family, will celebrate his 95th birthday on Friday. For the past 68 years, he has never celebrated his birthday with fanfare and this year too it will be no different. According to the 94-year-old royal’s wishes, there will be no grand celebration for his milestone birthday.
Philip after his wedding to the then Princess Elizabeth in November 1947, has always preferred to remain in the background and provide unflinching support to his wife. He has always been the queen’s pillar of strength since the time he pledged to love and honor his bride. Born to Prince Andrew of Greece and Princess Alice of Battenberg, he is a descendant of Queen Victoria, and the queen’s third cousin.
After a troubled childhood, and being a prince without any kingdom to call his own, Philip emerged a strong, ambitious and formidable character. His good looks, combined with his status as a dashing young naval officer, set many hearts racing. However, it was in 1939 when Elizabeth was 13 that the couple met and fell in love.
They were in regular touch with each other through letters. During World War II when Philip served with the British navy in the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean, he and Elizabeth also exchanged a series of love letters. The Duke of Edinburgh became one of the youngest first lieutenants in the Royal Navy, when he was 21.
When he was on leave from work, he frequently visited London to meet Lilibet, as Elizabeth was popularly called by her family and friends. The monarch’s governess, Marion Crawford, recalled how he would roar through the forecourt of Buckingham Palace in an MG sports car. The couple started dating officially when the queen was 19.
In spite of his background in the Royal Navy, and his contribution during World War II, he had no home or fortune and hence was an unlikely choice for the young Elizabeth. In April 1947, her father King George relented and gave his blessing for a royal wedding. Philip then wrote a letter to the Queen Mother, stating that he was lucky to get Elizabeth as his future wife.
“Cherish Lilibet? I wonder if that word is enough to express what is in me,” he wrote in another letter to the Queen Mother. Meanwhile, the queen likes her husband’s sense of humor, whereas his sharp tongue many-a-times got him into trouble. It’s Philips and Elizabeth’s ability to laugh together that is one of the main secrets behind their long-lasting marriage.
He is the solid rock of his family and shares a very close bond with his grandsons Princes William and Harry. In 1997, after Princess Diana’s death, William was not too sure of walking behind his mother’s coffin. It was during that extreme moment of grief that Philips reassured him and offered to accompany the bereaved youngster in the most difficult journey of his life.
Talking about his grandparents’ strong bond, William said during a recent documentary about the Queen's life that he always wanted to know the secret behind their marriage. “I'd love to know their secret. I think it’s fantastic and I've regularly asked them both how they've managed it, because they are the most lovely couple,” he said.
William hoped that he and his wife Kate Middleton would also share the same future. Philip will attend Trooping of the Color ceremony on Saturday, which is the official summer birthday parade for the monarch. He is expected to be, once again in the background, supporting her in her every step.
The greatest achievement of Philips reportedly is the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, which he launched in 1956. It was established to provide youngsters with an opportunity for personal and professional discovery. The scheme became one of the most successful youth programs in the world, with more than six million young men and women gaining the award.