Prince Philip: The remarkable life of the longest-serving royal consort in British history

Watch an obituary for Prince Philip by ITV News Royal Editor Chris Ship

The remarkable life of the longest-serving royal consort in British history began on the Greek island of Corfu in 1921.

The future Duke of Edinburgh was born into a fixed royal lineage, though the date of his arrival was a little less certain.

A family photo with Prince Philip's mother and father. Credit: PA

While his birth certificate recorded the date as 28 May, it's now considered to be 10 June. (The local recording came in an era before Greece moved from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar).

Prince Philippos was the fifth child and only son of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and the Windsor-born Princess Alice of Battenberg, the great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria.

Prince Philip in Gordonstoun in 1939. Credit: PA

The British links helped save the Greek royals after an overthrow of power at the end of the Greco-Turkish war in 1922 saw his father banished from Greece as punishment.

Prince Andrew's cousin, King George V, supplied a warship to take the family to France with toddler Philip famously spending much of the trip in a fruit crate adapted into a makeshift crib.

Prince Philip and the Queen's engagement photo. Credit: PA

Life on the sea would come again for the young royal, but first his education took him from Paris to England, at the age of seven, where he enrolled at a Surrey prep school while living with his maternal grandmother, Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine, and then his uncle, George, 2nd Marquess of Milford Haven.

His separation from his immediate family widened as all four of his sisters married German noblemen and his father, Prince Andrew, moved to Monte Carlo having become estranged from Princess Alice. She had been placed temporarily in an asylum after being diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Crowds wait overnight to witness the royal wedding. Credit: PA

The young prince briefly moved to private school in Germany but soon followed the school’s influential headmaster Kurt Hahn to Scotland. The Jewish Hahn had fled the Nazis and set up the now-famous independent school Gordonstoun in Moray.

While Philip delighted in these school days built around physical tests and sport, the period was blackened by family tragedy in 1937 as his heavily pregnant sister Cecile died in a plane crash in Belgium, along with her husband and two sons.

His strength and strong work ethic through otherwise nomadic, sad and isolated experiences of his youth bred an independent, self-reliant leader who appeared destined for high rank in the Royal Navy, which Philip joined as a cadet in 1939.

Prince Philip playing polo in 1952. Credit: PA

One of his first duties at the Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth was to entertain his future wife on the tennis courts when he was given the responsibility to chaperone Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret during a royal visit.

The dashing prince, who at 18 was five years older than Elizabeth, left a lasting impression and within a few years he was spending mid-war Christmases with his smitten princess and the Royal Family at Windsor.

He would have entertained them with remarkable tales of conflict, having served on battleship HMS Valiant where he earned credit for his operation of the ship's searchlights during the Battle of Cape Matapan in 1941.

Prince Philip with his mother in 1960. Credit: PA

Philip went on to gain promotion to first lieutenant, serving on the destroyer HMS Wallace, and was in Tokyo Bay when the Japanese surrendered to finally end the Second World War.

Within a year of his return to post-war Britain, Philip had asked King George VI for his eldest daughter's hand in marriage and on 20 November 1947 the wedding took place to much fanfare at Westminster Abbey.

Philip's father had died three years before, but his mother was able to attend. His sisters, however, were absent having married men who took on significant roles in the Nazi regime.

Prince Philip dancing with the Queen in 1967. Credit: PA

The popular union saw Philip renounce his Greek title in order to become a British citizen, whereupon he became His Royal Highness and Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich.

He also took his extended family's Mountbatten name as his own. But it was the Windsor name that the couple's children and extended family would take, much to the prince's reported private disappointment.

Charles was born in 1948 and Anne followed in 1950, the same year that Philip - after an enjoyable posting to Malta - was given the HMS Magpie as his own command.

Prince Philip and the Queen with their children Charles and Anne. Credit: PA

A decorated naval career beckoned only for events to deny him as his father-in-law's untimely death from a heart blood clot in 1952 thrust him and Elizabeth into public roles they had hoped were decades away.

It was Philip who broke the news of George VI's death to his young wife in Kenya, during their Commonwealth tour.

While Elizabeth became Queen, Philip remained Prince with no constitutional position but precedence after Her Majesty on all occasions.

Prince Philip with Charles. Credit: PA

At the coronation, which he had insisted should be televised, he took the following oath: "I, Philip, do become your liege man of life and limb, and of earthly worship and faith and truth I will bear unto you, to live and die against all manner of folks. So help me God."

His undying commitment was bittersweet given he would never actively serve in the Navy again.

"It was naturally disappointing because I'd just been promoted to commander - in fact the most interesting part of a naval career was just starting," he recalled years later.

Prince Philip, the Queen and their four children. Credit: PA

"But then equally if I stopped and thought about it, being married to the Queen, it seemed to me my first duty was to serve her the best way I could."

Philip's early interpretation of his role was to modernise the royals only to face stiff opposition within the Palace.

But his most lasting achievement was not far away, with the launch of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award in 1956, initially for 1,000 boys.

With the help of his former headmaster Hahn, he announced: "The main purpose of this scheme is to help boys to find activities which will give them pleasure and satisfaction for the rest of their lives."

The Queen and Prince Philip celebrate their silver wedding anniversary in Balmoral. Credit: PA

Several million young people across 144 nations have since earned what is the world's leading youth achievement award - and one that its founder continued to hand out into his final years.

Philip's public roles also saw him inherit the King's role in 1952 as patron of the Industrial Society - later to become the Work Foundation.

He then became the first president of the World Wide Fund for Nature in 1961, a role briefly questioned when a photograph of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip posing with a dead tiger in the Indian region of Jaipur emerged the same year.

Prince Philip flying a Boeing 757. Credit: PA

The Duke always maintained his lifelong passion for hunting did not conflict with his passion to protect endangered species and prevent deforestation, campaigns his grandsons William and Harry would adopt decades later.

With the births of Prince Andrew and Prince Edward in 1960 and 1964, Prince Philip became a father-of-four and in 1967 invited his ill mother to live with the family, where she remained until her death at Buckingham Palace in 1969.

Alongside his public duties, Philip maintained an active sporting life, from cricket and polo to carriage driving and sailing, while also indulging in passions for helicopter flying and, on one occasion, getting behind the controls of Concorde.

Prince Philip laughs with Princess Anne. Credit: PA

In later years he settled into the role of senior statesman as the family welcomed their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Retrospectively published letters showed he had been a close support to Princess Diana in spite of distressing unfounded allegations from Mohamed Al Fayed, her final partner Dodi's father, that the Prince had ordered her death in 1997. The conspiracy theory was dismissed by the coroner.

Philip's reputation as a blunt speaker - either in private or within earshot of the press - generated brief unwelcome controversies over the years, from a notorious "slitty eyes" comment during a state visit to China to questioning Aborigines in Australia whether they still threw spears at one another.

Prince Philip steps onto a boat in 1990. Credit: PA

However, the hot flare of headlines was rarely backed up by complaints from those directly involved in the exchanges and across the years the royal earned wide praise for his attempts to put those he met at ease with humour.

His commitment to his responsibilities was also unstinting. In the family only Princess Anne carried out more royal duties than her father, who attended more public engagements in his 90s than many of the younger royals.

Prince Philip in Naval gear in 2007. Credit: PA

His retirement from those duties at the age of 96 in the summer of 2017 ended a seven-decade stretch of more than 22,000 solo engagements, during which he delivered around 5,500 speeches.

The prince kept his humour to the end, replying to one guest who told him "I'm sorry to hear you're standing down" with the quick retort, "Well I can't stand up much longer."

Prince Philip with a bottle of alcohol as he and the Queen met the Pope. Credit: PA

As a president or member of more than 780 organisations, he self-deprecatingly described himself as "the world’s most experienced plaque unveiler".

But to the Queen, at whose side he remained for more than 70 years, his influence was never more evident than in her rare public tribute to him in 1997 at their golden wedding anniversary dinner.

"He is someone who doesn't take easily to compliments," Her Majesty said. "But he has quite simply been my strength and stay all these years."

Prince Philip's reply saw him reveal the "main lesson" from the success of the enduring marriage at the heart of the second Elizabethan era.

"Tolerance is the one essential ingredient," he told the audience, adding: "The Queen has the quality of tolerance in abundance."