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

(Pixabay photo)
Morning Start: Scotland’s national animal is the unicorn

Your morning start for Friday, May 14, 2021

Phil Hotzon gets surprised with a brand new e-bike after family and friends raise money to replace his broken one (Amandalina Letterio/Capital News).
Friends and family rally to replace Kelowna man’s broken electric tricycle

After crashing his e-bike into Mill Creek, loved ones raised fundraised and replaced it

Young Federico “Fred” Lenzi. (Raymond Lenzi/Contributed)
Italian moved to Okanagan with hope; he ended up being sent to a WWII internment camp

Raymond Lenzi shares his grandfather’s story ahead of Canada’s planned formal apology to Italian-Canadians

City of West Kelowna. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press Media file)
City of West Kelowna sued over developer fees

Ironclad Developments alleges they didn’t get a chance to provide feedback on the fees

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

Prince Rupert was one of the first B.C. communities targeted for mass vaccination after a steep rise in infections. Grey area marks community-wide vaccine distribution. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. tracks big drop in COVID-19 infections after vaccination

Prince Rupert, Indigenous communities show improvement

B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth debates the province’s latest measure to control crime, March 10, 2021. The legislation allows police to impound vehicles used to transport weapons and further restricts sale of vehicle and body armour. (B.C. legislature video)
B.C. seeks ways to ’name and shame’ gangsters, minister says

Mike Farnworth appeals to family members to talk to police

KCR Migrant Support Worker, Javier, had an exciting day escorting his son Ian with him during ‘Take your Child to Work Day’!
KCR: Volunteering is being part of a whole

KCR Community Resources shares stories of its volunteers in a weekly column

Jonathan Prest had to climb way up to the top of a dead red cedar tree to rescue a terrified cat, but he made it up and down successfully. (Facebook photos)
Tree cutter rescues cat stuck 100 feet up a dead and dried-out cedar

Jonathan Prest put himself in extreme peril to get a terrified cat out of a dangerous situation

The Greater Victoria School District continues to face backlash over its wording and approach to Indigenous learners in its 2021-2022 budget talks. (Black Press Media file photo)
School district’s approach to Indigenous learners leaves Victoria teachers ‘disgusted’

Backlash grows over ‘pattern of colonial thinking permeating the leadership’

Joyce and John Henderson were among 25 British Columbians named 2021 BC Achievement Community Award winners by the BC Achievement Foundation. (Martha Wickett-Salmon Arm Observer)
Salmon Arm couple recognized for their decades of contributions to community

Joyce and John Henderson receive provincial achievement award

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Then-minister Rich Coleman, escorted by Victoria Police, makes his way to the east wing amid a protest blocking the legislature entrances before the throne speech in Victoria, B.C., Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. money laundering inquiry testimony ends today with reappearance of Rich Coleman

Responsible for the gaming file off and on from 2001 to 2013, Coleman been recalled after his initial testimony to the Cullen Commission last month

Colin Dowler rests in hospital recuperating from wounds suffered from a grizzly bear attack north of Campbell River. He was able to end the struggle by stabbing the bear in the neck with a knife like the one he is holding. Photo submitted
‘Bad-ass dude that took on a grizzly bear’ doesn’t let 2019 B.C. attack bring him down

Campbell River’s Colin Dowler gets on with his life as his rehabilitation continues

Most Read