Prince Philipp and his wife, Queen Elizabeth II, at Windsor Castle in November 2020. -

George Rogers

  • The Duke of Edinburgh passed away this Friday at the age of 99.

  • Husband of Queen Elisabeth II, Prince Philipp will have crossed the second half of the 20th century and part of the 21st by his side.

  • For Philippe Chassaigne, specialist in the British monarchy, “he was a character who is, in the photo, always a few steps behind the queen.

    But who was still there ”.

He would pass the symbolic centenary milestone in just two months.

Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II of England, died this Friday morning at the age of 99, at Windsor Castle.

The Duke of Edinburgh, whose angry and blundering side we knew, will have crossed the second half of the twentieth century and part of the twenty-first alongside the monarch, with whom he married in 1947.

But what did he represent to the British people?

According to Philippe Chassaigne, specialist in the British monarchy and professor of contemporary history at the University of Bordeaux-Montaigne, with the disappearance of Prince Philip, it is a page in the history of Great Britain that is turning.

What did Prince Philip represent to the British people?

He was a character who is, in the photo, always a few steps behind the queen.

But who was still there.

A very familiar figure, which was not without causing some controversy, but now more consensual.

A character whose life is closely linked to that of Elizabeth II, since their marriage in 1947. I think that in the days to come, the testimonies of sympathy and condolences of the subjects to the Queen will be numerous.

Prince Philip may therefore have been the subject of controversy.

But he was also, throughout his reign, the main support of the queen ...

Elisabeth II loses one of her pillars.

She is the queen, sure, but she does not forget that she is a woman.

Philip was like his rock.

Because if she is the rallying point of an entire Nation, Philip was her rallying point.

All the big decisions, even the most recent - how to deal with, say, the interview with Meghan and Harry?

- she took them in consultation with her husband.

Did Prince Philip suffer from the "supporting role" he played for a large part of his life?

It's a role he struggled to take on at first, as he had to give up everything.

Has his nationality: he was prince of Greece and Denmark, he became a British subject.

To his religion: orthodox, he converted to Anglicanism.

To his career as a sailor, too.

Between their marriage in 1947 and the accession to the throne of Elizabeth in 1952, Philip continued his maritime career, and it was the princess who joined him where he was posted, notably in Malta.

But then, having become her husband, her functions were reduced to purely formal functions.

We also know that he was upset not to be able to give his name to his children: they bear Windsor's name and not his, Mountbatten.

Hence the tensions within the couple ...

Yes, which at the time were made public by the American press.

The British press was then more reserved than it is today.

We know in particular the episode of the six months during which he went on a "trip" on the yacht


[in 1956]

He has been lent links, especially with an American actress.

These tensions ended in a kind of

modus vivendi


Philip eventually accepted his role and the couple's reconciliation was seen with the birth of their third child, Prince Andrew, in 1960. The previous birth, that of Princess Anne, had taken place in 1950. So during a decade, there were no children, which may have been a sign of tensions.

Moreover, we will only really know the reality when we have access to the Queen's diary.

Which is not about to happen ...

Our file on Queen Elisabeth II

Will the death of Prince Philip, as often in the history of the British monarchy, bring the people together?

Philip was quite a notable media figure.

The precedent, if we want to make a comparison, is the death of the queen mother, Elisabeth, in 2002. At the time, we saw the British form a body around their sovereign.

However, we were five years after the disappearance of Princess Diana, and the monarchy was suffering from a real lack of popularity.

Today, this is absolutely not the case.

Elisabeth II is more popular than she has ever been since her accession to the throne.

There is no crack to be resoldered, so I think there will be a communion with the sadness of the queen, without ulterior motive.

What funeral can we imagine given the health crisis?

Very difficult to say.

There are plans for the funerals of each member of the royal family.

For the death of Elizabeth II, it is “Operation London Bridge”.

So things are planned for Prince Philip.

No matter what will be organized, it will be adapted to the health context.

But an event in a small committee seems very unlikely to me, because it is not a character of average dimension who disappears.

And I find it hard to imagine Boris Johnson not trying to profit, in terms of popularity, from a funeral.

Because Prince Philip was a few weeks away from his hundredth birthday, and it's a page of Britain's past that is turning.


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