Royal of the day: Prince Philip

02:05, Apr 09 2014
Prince Philip
ROYALLY AMUSING: He may technically be a prince, but Philip is our undisputed King of one-liners.

In the lead up to the Royal Tour of New Zealand, we look back at the salacious, noble and sometimes tragic lives of Britain's lesser-known royals. Today, we explore the life of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh...

They say behind every powerful woman is a meek man, but Prince Philip - husband of Queen Elizabeth II - is by no means a shrinking violet.

Now 92, the prince was born in Greece on June 10, 1921 to Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and Princess Alice of Battenberg.

When Greece was overthrown a year a year later, and Prince Andrew sentenced to death, the family, including the baby prince and his four older sisters, had to be evacuated by the Royal Navy. Philip was famously carried to safety in a cot made from a fruit box.

The family attempted to settle in Paris, but Philip's mother suffered a nervous breakdown following the trauma of the exile and the royal couple separated.

Philip was sent to boarding schools in England and Germany, but moved to Scotland following the rise of the Nazi party. He was head of the cricket and hockey teams, and became head boy.


After graduation, Philip attended the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, in 1939. He went on to serve in the Navy during World War II.

Philip met Princess Elizabeth in 1939 when she toured the Royal Naval College with her parents. Philip had been asked to escort Elizabeth and her sister, Margaret.  

Elizabeth, then 13, developed a crush on the young cadet, and a romance blossomed, as the pair exchanged letters over the next seven years.

In 1947, Philip asked King George for permission to marry his daughter. The king agreed, as long as the engagement was postponed until Elizabeth's 21st birthday.

To impress his father-in-law-to-be, Philip dropped his Greek and Danish titles, adopted the surname Mountbatten and became a British subject.

The engagement was finally announced on July 9, 1947 and the couple wed in Westminster Abbey on November 20 that year.

The ceremony was broadcast by the BBC and was a much-needed reason to celebrate for a nation recovering from war. His three surviving sisters, who had remained in Germany and married princes - some with Nazi connections - were not invited to the wedding.

Philip is known for speaking his mind, and has described himself as a "cantankerous old sod".

His frank comments have been received with glee, and for his 90th birthday, British media put together a list of his 90 most memorable gaffes. Here are some of our favourites from the Independent:

- "Deaf? If you're near there, no wonder you are deaf." Said to a group of deaf children standing near a Caribbean steel drum band in 2000.

- "Ghastly." Prince Philip's opinion of Beijing, during a 1986 tour of China. 

- "Get me a beer. I don't care what kind it is, just get me a beer!" On being offered the finest Italian wines by PM Giuliano Amato at a dinner in Rome in 2000. 

-  "I would like to go to Russia very much - although the bastards murdered half my family." In 1967, asked if he would like to visit the Soviet Union. 

- "Oh no, I might catch some ghastly disease." On a visit to Australia in 1992, when asked if he wanted to stroke a koala bear.