FILE - In this file photo dated Wednesday, May 14, 2014, Britain’s Prince Charles talks with Canadian author and Oxford University professor Margaret MacMillan, right, during a reception for Canadians living and working in the UK at St James’s Palace in London. Prince Philip who died Friday April 9, 2021, aged 99, lived through a tumultuous century of war and upheavals, but he helped forge a period of stability for the British monarchy under his wife, Queen Elizabeth II. Historian Margaret MacMillan says “Philip’s life bookends that great moment of transition at the end of the First World War” and another major moment of transition today.(AP Photo/Matt Dunham, FILE)

FILE - In this file photo dated Wednesday, May 14, 2014, Britain’s Prince Charles talks with Canadian author and Oxford University professor Margaret MacMillan, right, during a reception for Canadians living and working in the UK at St James’s Palace in London. Prince Philip who died Friday April 9, 2021, aged 99, lived through a tumultuous century of war and upheavals, but he helped forge a period of stability for the British monarchy under his wife, Queen Elizabeth II. Historian Margaret MacMillan says “Philip’s life bookends that great moment of transition at the end of the First World War” and another major moment of transition today.(AP Photo/Matt Dunham, FILE)

Prince Philip shaped, and was shaped by, a century of tumult

He helped anchor the monarchy with his wife, Queen Elizabeth II, but died last week at 99

Born into an age of revolutions in the wake of a pandemic, Prince Philip lived through a tumultuous century and worked to make the British monarchy a rock of stability in changing times.

He bore witness to — and participated in — many of the century’s upheavals: World War II, the dismantling of the British Empire and the rise and fall of nations during and after the Cold War.

He helped anchor the monarchy with his wife, Queen Elizabeth II, but died last week at 99 with the United Kingdom still unsettled by its exit from the European Union, and in a world of growing nationalism and extremes.

“His life started in a moment of crisis, ended in a moment of crisis, and, of course, saw a great deal of crisis throughout that long life,” said Margaret MacMillan, professor emeritus of international history at Oxford University.

Philip was born in Corfu as a prince of Greece and Denmark. When he was a toddler, his family had to flee Greece after a coup. Monarchies across Europe were being toppled as societies faced upheaval in the aftermath of World War I and the deadly influenza pandemic that followed.

His grandfather, King George of Greece, had been assassinated eight years before Philip’s birth, and his royal Romanov relatives in Russia were slain after the czar’s abdication and the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917.

“It was a time when a lot of what had seemed like very stable institutions and countries were simply disappearing,” MacMillan said. “There was a lot of fear that what had happened in Russia was going to spread around the world.”

Historian Ed Owens said Philip’s early years “are key to informing how he sees monarchy for the rest of his life.”

He said Philip saw monarchy “as something that isn’t necessarily permanent, that must be kept popular.”

Raised by relatives in Britain, Philip joined the Royal Navy and saw action in World War II on battleships in the Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean and the Pacific. European royalty found itself divided by the war: Two of Philip’s sisters had German husbands who served on the Nazi side.

He had a ringside seat for the end of the conflict. Philip’s ship was in Tokyo Bay for the formal Japanese surrender aboard USS Missouri on Sept. 2, 1945, and he watched the ceremony through binoculars.

In 1947, Philip married Britain’s Princess Elizabeth, who as the elder daughter of King George VI was destined to be queen.

British historian Simon Schama said that coming from “a Europe where nothing seemed stable,” Philip embraced the solidity offered by Britain’s monarchy and its role as neutral pillar of public life, above the political fray.

“When he found his way into British life … he wasn’t just embracing a royal family, he was embracing an institution, that of constitutional monarchy,” Schama told the BBC.

READ MORE: ‘He has been my strength all these years,’ Queen said about Prince Philip

When Elizabeth became queen at age 25 in 1952, Philip gave up his naval career and dedicated himself to supporting her.

Britain, though victorious in the war, was an indebted and declining power whose colonies were breaking free. Philip helped create the Commonwealth group of nations, with the queen at its head, to try to bind Britain and its former colonies together on a more equal footing.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said in a tribute that Philip sought to bring the “camaraderie and comradeship” he had experienced as a wartime sailor into relations between countries, “so that they would reap the dividends of collaboration in peacetime too.”

The royal couple covered 40,000 miles touring the Commonwealth in 1953, the first of many trips to the organization’s now 54 member nations.

“His Royal Highness had a farsighted understanding of the potential of Commonwealth connection, and his approaches to bringing people together from a wide range of backgrounds to develop leadership skills were regarded as innovative and brave,” Scotland said.

In Britain, Philip helped steer the monarchy through decades of declining social deference into a mass-media world where people demand intimacy from their icons.

He was instrumental in ensuring the queen’s coronation was televised. Many British families bought TV sets just for the occasion, and it became the country’s first mass television spectacle.

“Very early on, he saw the … positive benefits of mass media as a way of enhancing the monarchy’s public image,” Owens said.

“There’s been a lot of talk about Philip as quite a sort of old-fashioned presence, certainly at the end of his life. But actually, from the moment he becomes a British royal in 1947, he’s a real modernizing force.”

Philip was also an early environmentalist and a champion of technology. Prime Minister Boris Johnson noted Monday that Philip was “one of the first people in this country to use a mobile phone.” In his late 90s, he was making Zoom calls on a laptop, according to his grandson, Prince Harry.

The decades brought family troubles, played out in public: the divorces of three of Philip and the queen’s four children; the death of Princess Diana in 1997; Prince Andrew’s friendship with Jeffrey Epstein, an American financier who died in a New York prison in 2019 while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges; and the self-exile of Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, amid allegations of racism both from the media and within the royal household.

Yet almost 70 years after Elizabeth became queen, she is a beloved figure — the only monarch most Britons have known — and republicanism is favoured by a small minority in the country. The monarchy appears to be safe.

But with Britain facing an uneasy new relationship with its European neighbours, Scottish nationalists pushing for an independence vote and Brexit shaking the peace process in Northern Ireland, the future of both crown and country is uncertain. The queen is 94, and some day will be succeeded by her son, Prince Charles, a far less-popular royal.

“There’s the issue of the royal family — what’s its future? Then there’s the issue of Britain — what’s its future?” MacMillan said. “I think there’s now a big question about the future of the international order. Are we seeing a period of transition?

“Philip’s life bookends that great moment of transition at the end of the First World War and, perhaps, a really big moment of transition in the aftermath of the Cold War.”

___

Associated Press Writer Danica Kirka contributed.

Jill Lawless, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Royal family

Just Posted

North Okanagan business Hytec Kohler set up a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Spallumcheen plant Friday, May 14. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
More than half of eligible adults in Interior Health vaccinated

Over 365,000 vaccine doses have been administered throughout the Interior Health region

Doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine are seen being prepared on Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in Decatur, Ga. Hundreds of children, ages 12 to 15, received the Pfizer vaccine at the DeKalb Pediatric Center, just days after it was approved for use within their age group. (AP Photo/Ron Harris)
One death, 60 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

The death is connected to the outbreak at Spring Valley long-term care in Kelowna

The first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine dose in Canada is prepared at The Michener Institute in Toronto on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
One death, 39 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

There are 484 active cases of the virus in the region currently

Kelly Servinski, of the Tutti Hotel in Clinton, climbs above the river. (Photo credit: http://www.sterlinglorence.com/)
Gravel is the new gold: Cyclist bumps new biking trend

There’s gravel in them thar hills around Clinton

Amy Newman follows the route of the Cariboo Waggon Road — now Highway 97 — through Clinton. (Photo credit: New Pathways to Gold Society)
Grant received for Cariboo Waggon Road restoration project north of Clinton

New Pathways to Gold hopes to start work this summer on restoring sections of historic road

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

Former UFV Cascades wrestling coach Arjan Singh Bhullar is now the ONE heavyweight champion after defeating Brandon Vera via TKO in round two on Saturday in Singapore. (ONE Championship)
Former UFV wrestling coach wins MMA championship

Arjan Singh Bhullar captures ONE heavyweight title, first Indian origin fighter to achieve honour

Astra Zeneca vaccine waits for injection in a Feb. 3, 2021 file photo. A Langley man has become the second B.C. resident to suffer a blood clot following an injection. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
B.C. man required emergency surgery after AstraZeneca vaccination

Shaun Mulldoon suffered ‘massive blood clot’ after jab

Chilliwack’s Kile Brown, performing as drag queen Hailey Adler, dances and lip syncs in front of hundreds of people during the inaugural Chilliwack Pride Barbecue at the Neighbourhood Learning Centre on Aug. 24, 2019. Monday, May 17 is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of May 16 to 22

International Day Against Homophobia, Talk Like Yoda Day, Sea Monkey Day all coming up this week

Bradley Priestap in an undated photo provided to the media some time in 2012 by the London Police Service.
Serial sex-offender acquitted of duct tape possession in B.C. provincial court

Ontario sex offender on long-term supervision order was found with one of many ‘rape kit’ items

Rich Coleman, who was responsible for the gaming file off and on from 2001 to 2013, was recalled after his initial testimony to the Cullen Commission last month. (Screenshot)
Coleman questioned over $460K transaction at River Rock during B.C. casinos inquiry

The longtime former Langley MLA was asked about 2011 interview on BC Almanac program

Steven Shearer, <em>Untitled. </em>(Dennis Ha/Courtesy of Steven Shearer)
Vancouver photographer’s billboards taken down after complaints about being ‘disturbing’

‘Context is everything’ when it comes to understanding these images, says visual art professor Catherine Heard

Trina Hunt's remains were found in the Hope area on March 29. Her family is asking the public to think back to the weekend prior to when she went missing. (Photo courtesy of IHIT.)
Cousin of missing woman found in Hope says she won’t have closure until death is solved

Trina Hunt’s family urges Hope residents to check dashcam, photos to help find her killer

Most Read