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HISTORY

The turbulent and tragic life of Prince Philip’s family

Not everything was hunky-dory on Prince Philip’s life. He had to leave his home country and stick to a very strict early years.

To think that Philip’s life was easy from birth is a misconception, the reality is that from a very young age he did not know what it was like to have a home. His childhood is summarized in exile, moving constantly and scandals in his family.

Philip was born on the Greek Island of Corfu on June 10, 1921. He was the son of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and Princess Alice of Battenberg, so just like his wife-to-be Queen Elizabeth, he was the child of the younger son of a reigning European monarch.

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Only a year after Philip’s birth, in 1922, his uncle, King Constantine I of Greece, was forced to abdicate after the Greco-Turkish War. Philip’s father was accused of treason and was exiled, causing his entire family to move to France.

He arrived in France inside of a fruit box.

In order to protect her youngest child, his mother hid him in a cradle made from a fruit crate. They arrived at a house lent to them by their aunt, Princess Marie Bonaparte.

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Those were very difficult years for the family, until in 1928 he moved to the United Kingdom, where he would grow up next to his uncle Louis Mountbatten, later adopting his surname and applying for British nationality.

A life full of scandals

Philip was the youngest brother and the only male. He had four older sisters; Margarita, Theodora, Cecilie and Sophie, all married into the German royalty affiliated with the Third Reich.

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It is believed that Philip’s father left France and his family to live in a small apartment in Monte Carlo with his mistress, so at the age of 10, Philip was left completely alone.

His mother ended up in a psychiatric institution.

In 1931, Princess Alice suffered a nervous breakdown and was committed to a sanatorium in Switzerland, where she was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

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Upon her release, Alice returned to Greece, became a nun, and devoted herself to charity work, temporarily away from her daughters and son, who needed her most.

During World War II she helped thousands of Jewish refugees. It would take 36 years for Prince Philip and his mother to meet again, in 1967, when he invited her to live at Buckingham Palace when Elizabeth was already Queen. Princess Alice died two years later.

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During his mother’s crisis, his maternal grandmother, the Dowager Marchioness of Milford Haven, took care of Philip until her death years later. He late was in charge of his uncle Lord Milford Haven and his wife Nadeida, both peculiar and eccentric people who, when they got tired of taking care of him, sent him to Cheam School, the oldest English elementary school in the United Kingdom, founded by Charles I in 1645.

At the age of 12, he was sent by his sisters to Gordonstoun boarding school, in Scotland, where he received disciplinary treatment. He never received a single visit from his family during his five years there. He spent his vacations at the homes of relatives or classmates. It was the same school Philip chose for Prince Charles years later.

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Cecilie died in a plane crash

Philip’s affection for his sister Cecilie was very special, and at the age of 16, he learned that she had died in a plane crash. Cecilie was on her way to London for her brother-in-law’s wedding, accompanied by her children and mother-in-law. The aircraft crashed into a factory chimney and lost a wing and one of the engines.

Philip traveled to the German city of Darmstadt and walked behind his sister’s railway.

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Reunion with his father

After losing his favorite sister, Philip returned to Greece for the first time to witness the restoration of the monarchy and to attend the wedding of his cousin who was also heir to the throne, Paul I of Greece.

There he would meet his father and give him two pieces of advice, ‘Stay in England, it is the safest place for people like us, and marry a wealthy woman because you will never have a penny’.

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Took his father’s advice

Philip joined the Royal Navy and enrolled at the Royal Naval College. When he was 18 years old, he met 13-year-old Princess Elizabeth, who was his third cousin. Seven years later, in 1974, they announced their engagement.

When the wedding day arrived, his family wasn’t there. His father passed away in 1944, his mother was in Greece sheltering Jewish refugees during WWII and his sisters were married to officials of the German National Socialist party. So, not one of his sisters received an invitation to the wedding.

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The queen gave him a fortune, but she also gave him something that Philip never had, a family, and only death separated him from her.

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