Prince Philip has just passed away at two months of his hundredth birthday.

He was hospitalized on February 16 following a heart problem.

In this special episode of the Europe 1 Studio podcast "At the heart of History", Jean des Cars retraces the unique life of the husband of Queen Elizabeth II.

The news was announced on the official Twitter account of the royal family: Prince Philip died "peacefully this (Friday) morning at Windsor Castle".

In this special episode of the Europe 1 Studio podcast "At the heart of history", Jean des Cars looks back on the journey of this man with a strong temperament, who spent his life in the shadow of his wife: Queen Elizabeth II .   

We are in London, November 20, 1947. It is 11:15 am, a coach leaves Buckingham Palace.

Inside, King George VI, in one of the uniforms he has worn throughout the war, and his eldest daughter, Crown Princess Elizabeth, in an ivory satin gown.

Because of the rationing of the fabrics, her cousins ​​and her friends offered their own coupons for the designer Norman Hartnell to realize this wonder, a long embroidered veil held by a tiara of diamonds completes the outfit of the bride.

Arrived at Westminster Abbey, the women are in long dresses and hats, the men in dress or uniform, despite the restrictions of the immediate aftermath of the war.

The bride earns her place in front of the altar on the arm of her father, deeply moved.

Her future husband, Philip, awaits her at the foot of the altar, a superb lieutenant in the Royal Navy.

The ceremony is historic: it is the first time since 1816 that the marriage of a Crown Princess of England has been celebrated in the abbey.

It is also the first princely wedding of the post-war period.

The future groom buried his life as a boy the night before at the Dorchester Hotel with his officer friends.

Everything had been organized by his uncle Lord Mountbatten, Dickie for the family.

The evening was very joyful, photos testify.

Late that night, Philip returned to Kensington Palace where he is staying in the apartments of his grandmother, the Marchioness of Milford-Haven.

This title had been given to the eldest of the Mountbatten by King George V. 

Philip came home very late (or very early, it depends!) He slept little.

He woke up at 7 a.m.

He has put on his uniform and wears, for the first time, his insignia of knight of the Order of the Garter awarded to him by the king.

His sword is that of his late grandfather, Prince Louis Mountbatten.

This heavy smoker takes a cigarette out of its case and then gives it up: he has promised Elizabeth not to smoke on her wedding day.

Instead, he has a gin-tonic with his first cousin and witness Milford-Haven before reaching Westminster Abbey at eleven a.m.

He is not at all nervous, he is in a good mood and relaxed.

He is going to marry the Crown Princess of the British Crown and he is very happy about it.

But who is Philip Mountbatten?

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A prince with a tormented childhood

From the start, her life was not easy.

He was born on June 10, 1921 in Corfu, on the kitchen table of the family villa “Mon Repos” where the Greek royal family had taken refuge after a new coup d'état in Athens.

His father is Prince André of Greece, brother of King Constantine 1st.

They belong to the Danish dynasty.

Their father, George I of Greece, had succeeded the country's first ruler, Otho I, a Bavarian who had failed in his leadership of this new independent state.

His mother is Princess Alice of Battenberg, a branch of the Grand Ducal House of Hesse-Darmstadt.

It is the King of England George V who will send a British warship to save the Greek royal family.

This one does not have great means.

She rules one of the poorest countries in Europe and the Greek throne is also one of the most unstable. 

After being evacuated from Corfu, Philip's family, very penniless, finds refuge in Paris, or more exactly in Saint-Cloud, in a villa loaned by one of Prince André's brothers, Prince George.

The latter is the richest of the family.

He, in fact, married Marie Bonaparte, heir to the fortune of the founder of the Société des Bains de Mer de Monaco.

On this land, in Saint-Cloud, there are other houses, including that of Prince George.

Paris, at that time, was filled with royal cousins ​​from Russia and Greece, both driven from their countries by revolutions.

Prince Philip evolves in a cosmopolitan universe: Greek father, German mother.

Through his father he is descended from the Danish dynasty and the Romanovs and through his mother from Queen Victoria.

In Saint-Cloud, he was brought up in an extremely feminine universe: there is his mother, his four elder sisters, a Greek maid of honor, a French governess, an English nurse, an Italian butler and a French cook. .

It is undoubtedly in revolt against this omnipresent matriarchy that Philip grows up, becoming a rather aggressive and rough little boy.

His photos of a child show a very handsome boy, proud and independent, but also extremely polite thanks to his French governess. 

Her parents are a broken couple.

Prince André is a delightful, outgoing man with a great sense of humor that Philip will inherit.

He adores his father when he is around but it rarely happens.

Her mother, Princess Alice, has been totally deaf since childhood but she can read the lips of her interlocutors in several languages, German, English, Greek and French.

Philip's relationship with her is not as affectionate as with his father.

When he was 10, his mother fell into a deep depression.

She will be treated in Vienna, Berlin then in a Swiss clinic.

She will undergo a real ordeal, treated by electroshock but that, of course, her little boy ignores.

All he can feel is abandonment, because in 1931, little Philip's life is turned upside down.

Her sisters are all married to German princes.

Sophie to Prince Christopher of Hesse, Margarita to Prince of Hohenlohe, Dolla to Margrave of Baden and Cécile to Prince George Donatus of Hesse. 

His father, André, abandons Saint-Cloud to settle with his mistress in the south of France.

Philip was sent to boarding school in England at the very aristocratic school in Cheam.

After Cheam, he returned to Germany with his sister Dolla and her husband in their castle in Salem.

He spent two terms in the school founded by Kurt Hahn inside the castle itself.

But when Hitler came to power in 1933, Hahn was arrested because he was Jewish and therefore could not run a school.

Thanks to the intervention of high-ranking English friends, he was released and exfiltrated to Scotland by plane.

He will found the College of Gordonstoun there, where Philip will be a boarder from the opening, in 1934. He loved this educational experience so much that he later wanted to share it with his sons.

We know that Prince Charles will be much less enthusiastic than his father and will hate Gordonstoun. 

Although a member of a prestigious and large family, Philip feels very lonely among his comrades.

Unlike these, he never knows where he will be able to spend his next vacation.

He loves his third sister Cécile and her husband Georges de Hesse very much.

He will spend most of his vacation at their castle in Wolfsgarten, Darmstadt.

Alas, the couple moved in a plane crash in 1937, on their way to a wedding of cousins ​​in London.

Now, Philip will typically spend his vacation with his maternal grandmother, the Dowager Marchioness of Milford-Haven, at Kensington Palace.

She dreads a little the extravagances of her grandson.

His cousins ​​remember that he would sometimes run like a madman up the stairs, then turn to them and stick his tongue out at his grandmother.

He also happened to spend his holidays with his mother's older brother, George, Marquess of Milford-Haven.

But he died of cancer in 1938. Now, to take charge of Philip in England, there is only his grandmother and his mother's second brother, Lord Louis Mountbatten.

He is delighted that his nephew decides to take the exams to be admitted to the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth.

He is perhaps no stranger to this choice.

Another sailor in the family!

Indeed, Dickie's father and Philip's grandfather was Lord of the Admiralty in 1914. But he had to give up his office very quickly because his name was still Battenberg, a name that sounded too German.

It was not until 1917 that King George V changed the name of the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha dynasty to Windsor and that the Battenbergs settled in Great Britain became Mountbatten, an exact translation of their Germanic surname.

Philip meets Princess Elizabeth

Philip was a cadet at Dartmouth Naval College when he learned that the royal family would come in full force to visit his school on July 22, 1939. It is likely that Dickie Mountbatten organized this visit.

On this day, he accompanies King George VI, the Queen and Princesses Elizabeth, 13, and Margaret, 9.

If Mountbatten had in the idea that the meeting of his nephew Philip and the very young heiress to the Crown could be the prelude to a future marriage, one could say that he had flair!

The visit will last two days.

Philip will be with the royal family almost all the time: lunch, tennis, tea, dinner.

Princess Elizabeth is obviously very impressed with this blond, sporty, charming boy and she does not take her eyes off him.

At the end of the visit, when the royal ship leaves Dartmouth, several small boats escort it in its wake.

The last to follow is Philip's.

George VI notices this and says: “Heaven!

What madness" !

At the same time, Elizabeth, nicknamed Lilibeth, screwed to her binoculars, cannot take her eyes off this boat and the sailor who pilots it.

She fell in love.


For her, it will be Philip and no one else ... 

For him, however, it is something else.

For the first time, he had the opportunity to be in contact with the royal family of which it must be remembered that he is a cousin.

For this young man literally abandoned by his two parents, it is a kind of recognition and legitimacy that has been given to him.

No doubt he has yet to fall in love with his cousin.

In contrast, Lilibeth's admiration for Philip did not escape Lord Mountbatten.

He will take care of reminding his nephew.

But the months that will follow will hardly lend themselves to this: the Second World War is on the verge of breaking out ...

Philip's war

Philip is mobilized in 1940. He will have several assignments, the first in the Indian Ocean.

From Ceylon, his ship escorts the fleet transporting the Australian contingents which reach the Mediterranean.

In January 1941, he was assigned to Alexandria and took part in a victorious naval battle in the south of the Peloponnese against the Italian Navy.

In May, his ship, HMS Valiant, miraculously escaped a German attack.

The youngest lieutenant in the Royal Navy, he was then assigned to the destroyer HMS Wallace responsible for protecting the British coasts, from the Thames estuary to Scotland. 

Still, he does have permissions.

And in September 1942, he was in Windsor where the two daughters of King George VI had been consigned since the start of the war.

Lilibeth is now 15 and they had long conversations.

For Christmas 1943 and New Years 1944, Philip returned to Windsor where it seems we had a lot of fun and dancing.

In 1944, the year when Elizabeth will celebrate her eighteenth birthday, Dickie Mountbatten and his cousin King George of Greece propose to George VI to consider a marriage between Philip and Elizabeth.

The British sovereign refuses, judging his daughter much too young, and then the war is not over!

But he does tell his mother, Queen Mary, widow of George V, who says, “I love Philip.

He is intelligent.

He has a real sense of humor.

He has good judgment ”.

On May 8, 1945, he was a long way from Elizabeth during the victory celebration, when the royal family appeared on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, in the company of Winston Churchill, which was unprecedented, Philip was aboard the destroyer HMS Whelp in the Far East.

On September 2, he escorted the US aircraft carrier USS Missouri into Tokyo Bay for the signing of Japan's surrender.

Elizabeth and Philip's wedding

Philip was 25 when he finally returned to the United Kingdom on March 20, 1946. He became an experienced officer.

He fought a very good war, and he's handsome.

During his stops in Australia and the Pacific, he collected women's successes.

Nothing serious ... Nevertheless, these distant adventures in the company of his friend Mike Parker, with whom he made the whole war and who will become his private secretary, did not escape the entourage of King George VI.

One of them will say: “Philip, like his uncle Mountbatten, is a cold being, they are two German Battenbergs.

He's a dominant male, not a romantic ”.

And the advisers will take the opportunity to question his ability to be faithful to his future wife ... 

It is certain that the young man does not like to confide.

He always kicked in touch when journalists or biographers asked him about the beginnings of his romance with Elizabeth.

There remains an enigma.

He is smart, practical and knowledgeable.

But when he's upset, he can literally explode.

He has an impatient character.

He can be rude, even cruel, but he can also be warm and charming when meeting people in difficulty.

He can be very courteous but also arrogant, even rude, especially with politicians.

We can say that it is the consequence of his childhood.

Abandoned by his parents who lived on their own, it may be worse than being an orphan.

We know that he had loved his father very much.

He died on December 3, 1944 in Monte-Carlo.

France and the Principality were occupied.

Philip was far away at sea. He was unable to attend her funeral.

As soon as he is demobilized, he goes to Monaco with his friend Mike Parker.

Her father's mistress gave her her meager inheritance: trunks filled with old clothes, a pair of hairbrushes, but above all a signet ring that will never leave her left little finger.

As for her mother, she returned to Athens after a plebiscite restored the monarchy.

She founded a religious order.

During the war, she had courageously helped Jews escape the Gestapo.

When the possibility of a marriage between the Crown Princess and Prince Philip of Greece is raised and this union becomes plausible, it is little to say that the very aristocratic and conservative bodyguard of King George VI has difficulty l 'accept.

Philip has a too atypical profile, he did not go to the right schools, he is not civilized enough and able to keep his “self control” in all circumstances.

Fortunately, the king will not take this into account.

But Philip will know it and will always have a great distrust of the people of the Court.

In the summer of 1946, he was invited to Balmoral.

Nothing will be known of his marriage proposal or of Elizabeth's acceptance.

It is and will remain their secret. 

King George VI and his wife are reassured by Philip's personality.

They ask their eldest daughter one last sacrifice: to wait another year to go with them on an official trip to South Africa.

This journey is politically important but also necessary for the king.

Indeed, George VI is in very bad health, exhausted by the management of the war.

He needs rest and sun.

The long boat trip will allow it.

The family quartet, so united that it nicknamed itself "Us four" ("We four") left the English coast on February 1, 1947. They will return at the end of April, just after Elizabeth's birthday.

On her 21st birthday, April 21, she gave a foundational speech in Cape Town and on the BBC: she pledged to devote her life, whether long or short, to serving the Commonwealth,

Meanwhile, Philip changes his identity.

We have to find a pronounceable surname for him, that of the Royal House of Denmark being Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg is impossible for the British.

We therefore choose the surname of his mother, Mountbatten.

On March 18, Prince Philip simply becomes Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten.

The engagement is announced on July 10, 1947 and the wedding takes place on the following November 20, as I told you at the beginning of this story.

On the guest list, there are some notable exclusions, those of the three sisters of Philip due to too visible commitments of their spouses on the side of the Third Reich, as well as the former King Edward VIII, Elizabeth's uncle, and his wife the Duchess of Windsor.

But the rest of European Gotha is present.

The very successful party is the first of this magnitude since the war.

The newlyweds are going on their honeymoon.

They go first to Broadlands, owned by Dickie Mountbatten and his wife, then to Scotland, to Birkhall, in Balmoral Park.

The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh

From now on, Philip, to whom his father-in-law has given many titles, will only wear one: he will be the Duke of Edinburgh.

The couple seem very happy.

She and he complement each other admirably, he with his fancy and his foucades, she with his gentleness, his reserve, his perseverance.

He brings her his strong personality, she balances it.

They first live in Buckingham Palace where their first child, the heir, Prince Charles, was born on November 14, 1948. The following year, they moved to Clarence House.

For Philip, it's a big moment.

This is his first real home, the one where he can finally feel at home since the sad departure from Saint-Cloud, when he was ten years old.

The couple took care of every detail of their home, decor, paintings, furniture.

Philip is very sensitive to new gadgets.

He installs ultra modern machines in the kitchen and linen room.

Sportsman, he keeps in shape by practicing squash and swimming in the swimming pool of Buckingham Palace. 

In October 1949, the Duke of Edinburgh, who until then worked at the Admiralty, was reassigned aboard the Checkers ship, a Fleet destroyer based in Malta.

She is commanded by her uncle Dickie.

The latter, after a very brilliant war in South-East Asia, which earned him the title of Viscount of Burma (Burma), was the last viceroy of India in charge of negotiating the independence of the subcontinent. .

His mission accomplished, he returned to service in the Royal Navy.

Philip is in heaven, he finds his real job.

Elizabeth is also because she knows how much her husband needs to be occupied with what he is passionate about.

She will join him in Malta after having entrusted Charles to his parents.

Elizabeth will say that it is in Malta that she lived, with Philip, the happiest moments of her life.

A sort of enchanted interlude where the couple finds a perfect balance, before the weight of the Crown comes to shake everything ... 

Bibliographic resources:

Sarah Bradford, 

Elizabeth - in English (Penguin Boosks, 1996, new edition updated 2002)

Jean des Cars,

The Windsor saga, from the British Empire to the Commonwealth (Perrin, 2011)

Jean des Cars,

Elizabeth II, the Queen (Perrin, 2018)

"At the heart of History" is a Europe 1 Studio podcast

Author and presentation: Jean des Cars

Production: Timothée Magot

Director: Jean-François Bussière 

Distribution and editing: Clémence Olivier and Salomé Journo 

Graphics: Karelle Villais