Happy 95 th Birthday to you Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth, Baron Greenwich and Knight of the Order of Australia Australia (thanks Tony Abbott).
Yes… many happy returns to the man who has stood by (actually one step behind) the Queen in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, in formal regalia and in a tartan kilt as her consort for coming up to 69 years.
Philip has indeed had a remarkable life. He was born on the Greek island of Corfu on June 10, 1921 – the fifth child and only son of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and Princess Alice of Battenberg. His four older sisters were Cecilie, Sophie, Margarita and Theodora.
In September 1922, Philip’s uncle, King Constantine I of Greece, was forced to abdicate the throne and in December of that same year, a revolutionary court banished his father Prince Andrew from Greece for life. So Philip’s family went to Paris. Sadly, Philip’s mother Alice was eventually committed to a psychiatric institution while his father relocated to the south of France and saw little of his children. I once watched a documentary on Philip’s mother Alice “The Other Queen Mother” and it was fascinating, absolutely fascinating.
Philip’s schooling was literally all over the place. He attended school in France, Germany and Scotland’s famously tough Gordonstoun School. Philip then attended the Royal Naval College, where he excelled , going onto serve in the British Navy.
History has it In 1939, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother toured the Royal Naval College and Philip was assigned to escort their two young daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret. Her nanny, Marion “Crawfie” Crawford, in her book, The Little Princesses: The Story of the Queen’s Childhood by Her Nanny, Marion Crawford remarked that Elizabeth “never took her eyes off him,” though he “didn’t pay her any special attention.” The two started corresponding through letters while Philip was in the Navy. “Lilibet took pride in writing to a man who was fighting for our country,” wrote Crawford. “She never looked at anyone else,” Elizabeth’s cousin, Margaret Rhodes, told Vanity Fair.
In the summer of 1946, Philip asked King George for Elizabeth’s hand in marriage and the engagement was announced to the public on July 10, 1947. They were married on November 20, 1947, at Westminster Abbey, in a ceremony broadcast throughout the world by radio. King George died on February 6, 1952, leaving Elizabeth as his heir.
And so began a lifetime of official duties and appearances with the monarch throughout the world. He launched the Duke of Edinburgh Awards in the mid-1950s and has continued to enjoy his passions of polo carriage racing, flying airplanes, oil painting and art collecting.
Philip is known for some famously awkward comments. In honor of his 90th birthday, in 2011 the Daily Mirror cheekily published a list of “90 classic gaffes” such as the one he shared with the General Dental Council in 1960: “Dontopedalogy is the science of opening your mouth and putting your foot in it, which I’ve practised for many years.” There have been a few more since. But the one thing he has not stumbled on is his relationship with his wife.
Of her husband, Queen Elizabeth II has said: “He is someone who doesn’t take easily to compliments. But he has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years, and I and his whole family, in this and many other countries, owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim or we shall ever know.”
My wrap is a nod to Philip’s “strength and stay” I figured the royal couple looked happiest at Balmoral Castle in Scotland- so I have a tweedy, let’s go fly fishing patterned paper along with some suitably tartan and sporran (aka tassel) like embellishments. I am a little nervous about the exact tartan ribbon I chose because truly there is a detailed science and protocol to it all which was a bit much to take in and clearly I have no Scottish heritage and thus no tartan nous.
According to Tartans Authority those who have no tartan of their own can wear the Black Watch (The Universal or Government Tartan) or the Hunting Stewart, but not the Royal Stewart without the express authority of the Queen. Thankfully, it’s all a bit less strict than it used to be. The one tartan which absolutely categorically cannot be worn by anyone unless the Queen’s permission has been granted is the Balmoral tartan. I am sure Prince Philip would have a few choice words to say if I got it all wrong. Happy Birthday Prince Philip.