While the world knew of Prince Philip as perhaps the longest living companion of a British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, few knew that he gave up a perfectly good military career with considerable chances of rising to the top of British Admiralty if he was allowed to continue in the Royal Navy, where he was a Lt. Commander, when his wife, Princess Elizabeth inherited the British Crown in her 20’s, in 1952.
From then on, he stood dutifully by her side, which he initially resented, since he missed the Navy where he had earned a mention-in-dispatches for gallantry in World War II. But he was almost always in a military uniform, displaying a string of titles and ranks including that of a Field Marshal, that kept him in touch with the military men.
Born a Greek prince, though he preferred his Danish links, he was abandoned by his father – overthrown in a political uprising in Greece – and so Philip’s troubled childhood, led his uncle ‘Dickie’ (Lord Mountbatten) to take him under his wings who had him admitted to Gordonstoun, an austere boarding school in Scotland.
Despite resistance from her snobbish relatives, Princess Elizabeth insisted she’d only marry Prince Philip .
It was a rough place, where the boys were known by their surname and had to have cold baths in freezing temperatures. But since he had nowhere and no one to go to, he stuck it out, eventually becoming head boy there. His tough training helped him at the Naval Academy at Dartmouth, where he passed out at the top of his class. And it was here that he first met Princess Elizabeth when he asked to escort her around the institution. For Elizabeth, apparently, it was love at first sight, but she had to wait till the War was over to marry, ‘the only man I could ever love’, as she is known to have said.
Prince Philip, the military man
So despite resistance from her snobbish relatives, Princess Elizabeth insisted she’d only marry him. But few people know that he had carved a reputation for himself as a Lt Cdr Philip in the Royal Navy with his idea of ‘Hahnism’, (named after Kurt Hahn, the founder of his school Gordonstoun). It had caught the British army’s imagination, “about the importance of remnants on the nuclear battlefield”.
In essence, ‘Hahnism’ doesn’t de-humanize an individual, (like the US ‘Gung-hoism’) but builds their character in a discreetly controlled environment, by encouraging individual initiative and team spirit. This results in ‘mature personalities who are mentally alert, physically tough, resilient and are determined to make the most of themselves, and are happy to work within an accepted discipline’, noted Richard Simpkin in his ‘Thoughts on 21st-century warfare’.
While the world knew of Prince Philip as perhaps the longest living companion of a British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, few knew that he gave up a perfectly good military career with considerable chances of rising to the top of British Admiralty if he was allowed to continue in the Royal Navy.
His eldest son, Prince Charles, simply couldn’t live up to his image, both at school in Gordonstoun –where he insisted all his sons should go, despite their mother the Queen wanting them to go to the more famous Eton, which he felt was for ‘Toffs’ – and later on when Charles did service with the Royal Navy, like his brother Andrew. Within the family, Prince Philip was a domineering personality, even though he agreed to walk a step behind his wife, the Queen, in public, who called him her ‘strength and stay’. And like her, he accepted a life of duty and tradition.
Duty and tradition
Prince Philip, a.k.a the Duke of Edinburgh, had also initiated the globally popular ‘Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards’. A scheme essentially for teenagers, it gave every person a chance to win an award – bronze, silver and even a gold badge – by fulfilling laid down standards of outdoor, physical and social activities. But in Britain, like much of the West, that’s obsessed with political correctness, he often drew the ire of the press for his incorrect remarks.
No wonder that the considerable media attention – at his passing away at 99, and two months short of a 100- had led to some complaints by BBC’s viewers, about the coverage his death was given in the place of normal programming. Perhaps, British television viewers are unfamiliar with the very Indian obsession of TV channels breaking the flow of painstakingly put programs, with breaking news!