Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, passed away yesterday at the age of 99.
In this special episode of the Europe 1 Studio podcast "At the heart of History", Jean des Cars tells you how the life of the Duke of Edinburgh turned upside down following his wife's accession to the throne.
Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, died on Friday, two months before his 100th birthday. In this special episode of the Europe 1 Studio podcast "At the heart of history", Jean des Cars continues his story of the life of this touchy man who had to find a way to exist alongside the most famous woman in the world .
Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, died on Friday, two months before his 100th birthday.
In this special episode of the Europe 1 Studio podcast "At the heart of history", Jean des Cars continues his story of the life of this touchy man who had to find a way to exist alongside the most famous woman in the world .
Elizabeth gave birth to their second child, Princess Anne, on August 15, 1950, at Clarence House.
Philip returned just in time to be with his wife.
He leaves immediately for Malta.
Elizabeth joined him in December, leaving her two children in Sandringham with their grandparents.
The couple is away for seven months.
But in July 51, we have to go home.
Malta is over now.
Lady Mountbatten will say, speaking of the future queen: "They put the bird back in the cage".
Indeed, George VI is doing badly.
He will be operated on for lung cancer and the Crown Princess, accompanied by her husband, will have to replace the king, especially in the trips that had been planned.
During a trip to Canada in October, Philip distinguished himself with one of his first official blunders by publicly declaring that “Canada is a good investment”!
A sentence to say the least unwelcome.
Canadians are logically shocked by the colonialist overtones of this remark.
Then, after Canada, it will be a great tour of the Commonwealth, from Africa to Australia, that George VI was unable to undertake in 1939 due to the war and that he is no longer in physical condition of 'accomplish.
We know the rest.
Elizabeth and Philip left London on January 31, 1952. It was in Kenya on the following February 6, less than a week after their departure that they were informed of the king's death.
Elizabeth ascends to the throne.
A husband annoyed at being withdrawn
In London, as soon as he gets off the plane, Philip is asked to wait a few moments before following his wife.
From now on, he will have to walk three steps behind the queen.
He loves Elizabeth.
In the terrible ordeal of the announcement of the death of George VI, he supported it and will continue to do so.
But at the same time, he knows he will change status.
Now she is the queen.
She becomes head of state and head of the family.
He knew it, but it must have happened too soon.
He will have to find a new place and it will not be easy.
Whatever happens, he will always be behind her, after her.
Immediately after Elizabeth II's funeral and swearing-in, the first shock was the very rapid move from Clarence House to Buckingham Palace.
This is the end of this home that they had fashioned in their image.
The premises are ceded to the Queen Mother and her youngest daughter, Margaret.
The second shock is due to an awkwardness on the part of the young sovereign.
Immediately after his accession to the throne, Dickie Mountbatten declared: “Now House Mountbatten rules”.
Elizabeth, warned by her grandmother, Queen Mary, who was horrified by this projection, drafts a memorandum, approved by the government.
It is published April 7, 1952: "I declare my will and my pleasure that myself and my children will be identified and known as the House and Family of Windsor and that my marrying descendants and their descendants will be named Windsor . "
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It is clear and without appeal.
It is also the first crisis revealed publicly within the royal couple.
If Philip was in no way responsible for his uncle's words and if he had no intention of sharing the role of the queen his wife, the Duke of Edinburgh is deeply hurt by the sharp focus his wife makes in the eyes of the world.
He explodes with anger and launches an aphorism, which becomes famous: "I am only a damned amoeba!"
Unfortunate metaphor from the companion of a sovereign and father of two royal children, because as everyone knows, amoebae reproduce themselves, without needing to live as a couple.
Philip is humiliated, without a real identity, demeaned into an evanescent role.
The Queen is very aware of her husband's suffering.
She decides to put him at the head of the committee responsible for preparing for his coronation.
But the Duke of Edinburgh quickly realizes that this committee has no power.
He is disappointed.
On June 2, 1953, the ceremony was however a total success, its television broadcast a great popular and unprecedented success.
Elizabeth II becomes a queen of the image.
At the moment of the coronation and the coronation, the Duke of Edinburgh advances.
He kneels down, gesture of allegiance.
He takes his wife's hands and says to her: “I am your liege man”.
He swears to submit “with the help of God”, and kisses the queen on the left cheek, which is delicate with the heavy crown she wears!
After the festivities, Elizabeth II and Philip will go on a very great journey through the Commonwealth, the “Coronation Tour”.
He will take them to Bermuda, the Bahamas, they will pass through the Panama Canal to reach the archipelago of Fiji.
At Christmas, they are in New Zealand and then in Australia.
Charles and Anne stayed with their grandmother, “queen mum”.
They will be reunited with their parents in Tobruk, Libya, in May 1954. The children arrive aboard the new royal yacht the “Britannia”, finally completed.
After the forced move from Clarence House to Buckingham Palace, Elizabeth and Philip will regard this luxurious ship as their true home.
There too, they supervised the layout and decoration.
The ship will accompany their lives for forty-three years, both for official journeys and for the annual cruise which, in the summer, takes them to Scotland.
The marital crisis of 1956-1957
Despite the travels, despite the many sponsorships of associations and foundations he takes care of, Philip feels vague.
Rumors are circulating in London.
The queen's husband is credited with nocturnal outings and, perhaps, affairs.
It must be said that he had been introduced by his secretary Michael Parker to the Thursday Club, in the chic district of Mayfair.
Members of this 100% male circle of influence met once a week in an elegant restaurant.
There were journalists, actors like David Niven and Peter Ustinov, a famous photographer named Baron who had previously taken pictures of the royal couple.
Besides lunches, club members sometimes met at dinners and parties in nightclubs.
The Duke of Edinburgh was often seen there.
This club had ended up causing such gossip that he had to resign, as well as his secretary.
It is perhaps to make people forget these rumors - or to sulk and show his annoyance towards his wife - that Philip decides to go, in the company of Michael Parker, to the Olympic Games in Melbourne.
This trip lasts four months.
Next, Philip plans to visit the British science station in Antarctica.
It is the first time that the royal couple have been separated for so long.
It is all the more unfortunate that the Suez crisis breaks out during his absence.
The Queen confronts him with her Prime Minister Anthony Eden.
The operations in Egypt will end in a terrible fiasco.
Philip is absent during the 1956 Christmas holidays, while rumors start to run again about his merry evenings with his secretary during the stopovers in the Pacific ...
The queen did not see her husband again until February 1957 in Lisbon, before an official visit to Portugal.
The reunion is apparently warm and from February 22, on their return, she grants him the title of Prince Consort.
She could have thought about it sooner.
But Philip is happy with this decision.
Finally, there is!
In 1959, Elizabeth II was pregnant again.
The child of reconciliation, Andrew, was born on February 19, 1960. His first name is also a reference to Philip's father, named André.
Another delicate attention from the queen.
Ten days before the birth, she grants him what had been refused to her in 1952 and remained an open sore for her pride.
She issues an important memorandum: "Now and henceforth I declare my will and pleasure that while myself and my children continue to be identified and known as the House and Family of Windsor, my descendants other than those benefiting of the identity of a title and of the privileges of Royal Highnesses and of the titular dignity of prince or princess as well as the female descendants who will marry and their descendants, will bear the name of Mountbatten-Windsor. "
Andrew will bear the name of Mountbatten-Windsor just like his brother Edouard who will be born on May 10, 1964. Philip is no longer an “amoeba”.
He has regained his identity and can finally pass his name on to his descendants.
Philip family man
Upon her accession to the throne, the Queen had conceded to Philip all decisions relating to their first two children, Charles and Anne.
It was then the only way she had to recognize his paternal authority and perhaps allay the frustration he felt at not being able to give them his name.
This decision also allowed Elizabeth II to devote the majority of her time to her duties as a monarch.
Both parents agreed on the essentials so that Charles and Anne could have as normal a life as possible.
It wasn't easy.
Charles didn't go to school right away.
It is a housekeeper who is responsible for teaching him the basics.
It was only at the age of 9 that he was educated at Hill House.
On the first day of the school year, a crowd of photographers gathered in front of the school.
The Queen asks reporters to stop harassing her baby boy.
He will only stay until the summer.
In September 1957, he became a resident in Cheam.
Philip wants his son to receive the same education as his.
If he had appreciated the institution, Charles would never be comfortable there.
However, he remained there until his father took him by helicopter on 1 May 1962 to the Scottish boarding school in Gordonstoun, which he had fondly remembered.
Charles will be even more unhappy there and will be terribly angry with his father for not being aware of his suffering.
He is then only supported by his grandmother.
The Queen Mother phones him whenever she can and sees him as often as possible.
Relations between Philip and his eldest son will always be difficult.
There is no real intimacy between them.
Charles's only confidant will be his godfather, Lord Mountbatten, to whom he has immense affection.
Anne's education was much simpler.
Philip and his daughter have always gotten along well.
His extrovert character enchants his father.
Small, she prefers to play games usually reserved for boys.
She is also close to her mother with whom she shares the passion for dogs and horses.
As soon as she left boarding school, which she endured much better than Charles, horseback riding became the princess' definitive passion.
She trains in Alison Oliver's famous stables, recommended by the queen mother's squire.
For the other children, Andrew and Edward, it will be easier.
Andrew is very accommodating, outgoing, uncomplicated.
Gordonstoun will suit him.
For Edward, it will be different…
For the continuation of the education of Charles in 1965, the decision will be difficult to make.
Both her parents are worried about her unhappiness.
A sort of family council met on December 22, 1965 at Buckingham Palace.
Since it is about the future of the heir, Prime Minister Harold Wilson and the Archbishop of Canterbury are also present.
And it is Lord Mountbatten, supported by the queen mother, who allows his godson to enter the famous Trinity College in Cambridge before enrolling in Dartmouth, like his father.
But unlike Philip, Charles is an intellectual.
Philip, child and grandchildren marriages
At the time of the marriages of the four children, it is obviously the queen who must give her approval, but the decisions are taken in agreement with Philip.
We know the disasters that were the marriages of Charles and Andrew.
If Philip had a certain sympathy, even a relative compassion towards Diana during the first crises, she ended up exasperating him and he strongly supported the queen during the decision of the divorce.
For Sarah Ferguson, Andrew's wife, it was worse.
He hated this stepdaughter for all the humiliations she inflicted on her son.
And if today Andrew and Sarah live under the same roof without remarrying, it is probably because Philip is vehemently opposed to it.
On the other hand, he is a very good grandfather.
When Diana died, like his wife, he took great care of William and Harry.
We know that the two boys accepted the ordeal of the long walk behind their mother's coffin because their grandfather was near them.
The queen's gratitude to her husband
In 2017, on the occasion of their 60th wedding anniversary, the Queen publicly paid tribute to her husband: "He has simply been my strength through all these years and remains so. And me, and his entire family, and this country, and many other countries, we owe him more than he will ever say. "
An extremely rare and true declaration of royal love!
On May 4, 2017, at the age of 95, Prince Philip announced his retirement from public life, believing "to have done his part".
That's right: in seventy years of official life, the Duke of Edinburgh has kept 22,191 commitments, made 637 visits abroad in 67 countries, delivered 5,493 speeches and sponsored 785 associations.
In addition to this busy schedule, he wrote fourteen books and has never given up on his passions, polo, team racing where he was world champion, piloting planes and helicopters.
A well-deserved retirement.
Philip only attends private family events.
He was obviously present at Harry and Meghan's wedding.
Confined with the Queen in Windsor during the coronavirus crisis in 2020, he was hospitalized on February 16, 2021. He finally died in Windsor after several weeks of care, on the eve of his hundred years.
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