|Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Image credit: Reuters|
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, was born on June 10, 1921. He was the youngest child and only son of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and of Princess Alice of Battenberg Prince Andrew was a son of King George I of Greece, while Princess Alice was a daughter of Louis II, Grand Duke of Hesse-Darmstadt and Princess Alice, second daughter and third child of Queen Victoria of England.
The life of Prince Philip, who turns 92, was so full of hardships and tragedies. Born to a family, that, by royal standards, was on the brink of poverty, Prince Philip endured a homeless existence until he married Princess Elizabeth, who later on ascended the British throne as Elizabeth II. His life was so full of struggle, of an aimless search for a true home, and the determination to remain steadfast despite the changes of time and his uneasy relationship with the press, who always criticized, it not mocked him, for his straight-forward attitude and acerbic frankness.
One housekeeper once remarked that Prince Philip’s family “were as poor as a church mice.” Agnes Blower, who served the Prince’s family, said this when she first allowed a reporter to inspect her photograph album in 1962.
Preparations for the birth of Prince Philip were modest enough. The local doctor was summoned to attend the delivery. He soon decided that Alice’s bedroom was suitable for the birth, bodily carried her downstairs, and put her on the large diningroom table. Apparently, Alice’s high state of anxiety, doubles intensified by Andrew having recently left on active service, rendered the table more suitable than a bed-though the medical reasons for this decision was not entirely clear.
Assisted by Nurse Roose, and with her two elder daughters, age 16 and 15, available to help, Alice gave birth to a healthy, well-formed boy, with tiny wisps of very fair hair. This successful delivery was certainly the first, and the very probably last, time that a future consort to the British monarch has been born on a diningroom table. At the very least, it offers us an interesting contrast with the more luxurious circumstances of the births of Philip’s own children.
The birth of the boy brought joy to Prince Andrew and as something of a relief to the Greek royal family in which female progeny had recently heavily outnumbered male offspring. Not only did Andrew now have a son and an heir, but Philip immediately became sixth in line of succession to the Greek throne.
Since the Julian calendar was still in force in Greece, the actual date of Prince Philip’s birth, as stated, was May 28, 1921. Only when Greece adopted the Gregorian calendar two years later was the date amended –put forward 13 days—to June 10, which has ever since been Prince Philip’s official birthday.
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