Vale Prince Philip
Vale Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
When, in 2015, the then Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, nominated Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, for an Australian knighthood it created outrage mainly amongst the media and politicians which the people generally joined in. You see, most people at the time knew little about the enormous work that Prince Philip had achieved in Australia nor did they know of his love for this country which he had first visited in 1940 as a midshipman on the battleship Ramilles. He took up his shore leave and went into the bush and worked as a jackaroo so he could learn about the essence of the country. He was back in 1945 and I can recall older members talking about bumping into him in Sydney, just walking along George Street and elsewhere.
Of course, the main visit most people remember was following his marriage when he accompanied the Queen in 1954 during the first visit to Australia of a reigning monarch.
In all, he visited Australia on over 20 occasions, from when he was in the British Navy right up until his last visit with the Queen in 2011. Perhaps most memorably he opened the Melbourne Olympics in 1956, the Commonwealth Games in Perth in 1962 and
the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane in 1982.
When I was a young boy I can remember adults talking negatively about Prince Philip in that he came from an impoverished and exiled royal family and that his sisters were married to princelings who had had close Nazi connections. He had been born Prince Philippos of Greece and Denmark on the Greek island of Corfu actually on the family dining room table and, when the Greek monarchy fell, it is said was smuggled out in an orange box.
Although the Prince of Greece, he had no Greek blood in him. His grandfather, a Danish Prince, had been invited to assume the Greek throne. His formal dynastic name was Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg. His mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg, was both Queen Victoria’s great-granddaughter and a second cousin to Emperor Nicholas II of Russia.
In exile, his parents split up and he was shunted off to live with relatives eventually ending up in Britain under the care of Lord Louis Mountbatten. When later questioned about his disjointed childhood, he commented “You are where you are in life so get on with it.”
With his carer, Lord Louis, being a naval man, and having a great interest in the sea himself, he went to the Naval College at Dartmouth after which, with the United Kingdom at war, he tried to join up to fight but, as a Greek citizen, was refused entry and it was not until 1940 when Greece entered the conflict as a British ally, that he was able to serve as he did with bravery and distinction on a series of battleships, rising to second in command, and mentioned in dispatches for his valour.
Whilst at Dartmouth his uncle arranged for him to escort the young daughters of the King during a visit and a pen-pal type friendship thereafter commenced between himself and Princess Elizabeth. This was not unusual because, together with his uncle, they were relations of the Royal family all having descended from Queen Victoria.
Princess Elizabeth was a young lady of 19 when the war ended and, particularly given the king’s ill-health, there was talk of marriage to Prince Philip. However, before that could happen it was necessary for to become a British subject of the King. In so doing it was necessary for him to abandon his Greek citizenship along with his right to the throne. His dynastic name of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg was changed to that of his uncle, Mountbatten which, in itself, had been changed in 1917 from the princely name of Battenberg.
The fact that he had to do so, I don’t think really bothered him, after all, he and his family were barred from entering Greece and, along with his family, he was essentially stateless. However, what did upset him was the fact that, even under the Anglicised name of Mountbatten, his children, as children of the monarch, were to be named ‘Windsor’. There was a declaration changing this in 1960 so that future generations would be named ‘Mountbatten-Windsor’
Prior to the accession of Elizabeth to the throne, there is was a more normal marriage. Philip continued with his naval career and Elizabeth became, if not an actual housewife, a wife. However, when Elizabeth became Queen, this all changed and Philip found his position to be very difficult. The palace courtiers also found it difficult because they really didn’t know what to do with him. It was the first time there had been a male consort since the marriage of Queen Victoria to Prince Albert in 1840, and Albert, likewise, found his position to be intolerable. Elizabeth, however, was very understanding and made certain that Philip was the master at home.
Following the coronation, when things began to settle down, Philip started to create a position for himself outside the palace environment. In 1956, he established the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme to train young people to be self-reliant and to become leaders within their communities learning values of responsibility and perseverance together with other skills. Over the years some 8 million young people around the world have participated in the scheme with 775,000 in Australia alone
Above all, Prince Philip was a Navy man with a lifelong commitment to the military. In Australia he held the honorary military positions of Admiral of the Fleet of the Royal Australian Navy, Field Marshal of the Australian Army, Marshal of the Royal Australian Air Force, Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and Colonel-in-Chief of the Australian Army Cadets. He was a Companion of the Order of Australia (Military Division) and, in 2015 became a Knight of the Order of Australia (General Division).
He was also patron of more than 800 organisations, with around 50 organisations here in Australia. He played an active role in many, particularly those engaged with the environment, industry, sport and education.
With so many young Australians receiving leadership training and with hundreds of people engaged in organisations enjoying his patronage as well as so many having the honour of being presented to him, as I had been on several occasions , I, personally, find it strange that when the then Prime Minister, the Hon. Tony Abbott, nominated him to receive a knighthood within the order of Australia, few came forward to rebut the media and political attacks on the Duke as undeserving. After all, was he not one of the most deserving of all in this country to receive such an honour?
Of course, he did give offence to some with his frankness and his wit, but he didn’t seek to ridicule anyone or be unpleasant in any way. He was a Navy man and told it as he saw it. He didn’t suffer fools gladly and had no hesitation in showing it, but never in a nasty way although some were upset by his directness.
In this edition of our Liberty newsletter dedicated to his memory, we have included a number of anecdotes involving The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
To quote from the message by our Prime Minister, the Hon. Scott Morrison MP:
But above all, today, we think of our Queen. While your strength and stay, Your Majesty, may now have passed, Jenny and I pray that you will find great comfort in your faith and your family at this time. But we also, Your Majesty, say to you as a Commonwealth, let us also now be your strength and stay, as you continue to endure, as you continue to serve so loyally and so faithfully, as you have done over so many generations. She has been there for us over such a long time. Let us be there now for you, Your Majesty, and allow us to send our love to you on this, I am sure, one of your most sad of days. I am sure her Prince would join me in saying: God save our gracious Queen. Long live our noble Queen. God save our Queen.
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