From Buckingham Palace to a ‘cubby hole’ in Wiltshire – Prince Philip’s love affair with the Royal Navy

Before marrying the Queen, Prince Philip had a distinguished Naval career which sparked a lifelong love of the sea.

The Duke of Edinburgh joined the Royal Navy at the age of 18 and, almost 80 years later, his last official solo public event before retirement was with the Royal Marines - including many from 40 Commando in Taunton.

Prince Philip was Captain General of the Corps for more than 60 years, maintaining his links to the senior service throughout his life.

At points his love of the Royal Navy even saw him swap the comforts of a palace for less-than-perfect conditions in parts of the West Country.

His dedication to the military began in 1939 when, at the age of 18, the Duke went to Britannia Royal Naval Collage at Dartmouth where he met his future wife for the first time.

Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip playing croquet when they first met. Credit: Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth

In the months leading up to their marriage he was stationed at HMS Royal Arthur in Corsham in Wiltshire where conditions were basic.

Historian Julian Caroso said: "He was up to Buckingham Palace in his sports car, bombing up the road, living in luxury, and then he would come back here and he'd have a little cubby-hole and all he had was a pendant of his old ship and a picture of Princess Elizabeth on his bedside table. It was a complete contrast.

"When he used to teach the Petty Officers he would be in a great coat because they never had any heating, candle light because 1946/47 winter was desperately cold but they didn't have any heating so a complete contrast.

"But he stuck to it and I think that made him the man he was, you know, which was fantastic."

Lord Alan West, First Sea Lord, said: "What comes over when one is talking to him - and I am a sailor myself - is that he loves the sea and how much he loved the Navy.

"He really pulled his weight there. I have no doubt at all that if he hadn't married Her Majesty, that he would have risen to the very top of the Navy because he had that sort of skill.

"But of course, when he fell in love with Her Majesty, inevitably he was going to marry her, and when she became Queen, it meant he couldn't continue his Naval career which was a huge blow to him. But he's a man of immense sense of duty and he's done amazingly in his role as the partner of Her Majesty."

Prince Philip meeting Royal Marines at Buckingham Palace.

The Duke's naval career may have come to an end in 1952 but his military connections remained an important part of his life, as did the region where his military life began.

His many visits to the forces here in the West Country spanned decades from troop inspections in Devonport in the 1950s right up to 2016 when he opened a barracks in his name at MOD Lyneham in Wiltshire.

Sir Jonathan Band, First Sea Lord, said: "The Duke of Edinburgh was a naval officer through and through, he thought like one, behaved like one, his whole sense of duty and responsibility was absolutely classic of the service and he was one of his generation.

"He enjoyed being with us, teasing us a bit. He was a stickler for what was right and wrong - drill and flags - and always enjoyed finding things he could correct you on but always done with a nice touch."

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