Throughout his long life, Prince Philip— aka the Duke of Edinburgh— but known globally as Queen Elizabeth’s husband of almost three quarters of a century— his friends and fellow family members referred to him as “Phil the Greek.”
His birthplace and early religious baptism was the only thing Greek about him. But despite this, “the Greek” would serve as his nickname for the remainder of his life.
None of Greece’s royals who preceded Philip’s parents were ethnically Greek.
Philip’s father, Prince Andrew of Greece, was the fourth son of George I of the Hellenes, formerly Prince Wilhelm of Denmark, who was elected king of Greece following a protocol signed in 1863 by England, France and Russia. His Danish dynastic name was Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg and his lineage included Russian emperors.
Philip was born June 10, 1921, in the famed Mon Repos on the Greek island of Corfu as the youngest child and only son of Prince Andrew and Princess Alice.
He was baptized in the Greek Orthodox Church as an infant although later in life, in order to marry Queen Elizabeth, he would become Anglican.
As a child in Greece, his parents dressed him in the traditional foustanella. It was an effort to connect the non-ethnically-Greek Royal Family with their Greek subjects and create a sense of familiarity and endearment on the part of a family that had been viewed with suspicion and strangeness by many Greeks.
Philip’s grandfather, King George I of Greece, was assassinated in 1913. Later, Prince Andrew (Philip’s father) was a commander in the Greek army during the 1919-1922 war with Turkey but with Greece’s defeat, Andrew and the family were exiled in 1922. At only 18-months old, Philip was smuggled out of the country in an orange box.
At age 7 in 1928, Philip was sent to school in England. He lived with his maternal grandmother, Victoria Mountbatten, and his uncle George Mountbatten.
Philip’s four sisters married German aristocrats, and three of them — Sophie, Cecilie and Margarita — joined the Nazi party.
Philip’s mother, Princess Alice, actually converted to Greek Orthodoxy and became a nun later in her life. During the Second World War she stayed in Athens and worked for the Red Cross, helped organize soup kitchens for the starving populace and flew to Sweden to bring back medical supplies on the pretext of visiting her sister, Louise, who was married to the Crown Prince. She organized two shelters for orphaned and lost children, and a traveling nursing circuit for poor neighborhoods.
His mother’s love for the Greek people never rubbed off on Philip. Later in life he went on record to share his bitterness for Greece and her people.
“I certainly never felt nostalgic about Greece. A grandfather assassinated and a father condemned to death does not endear me to the perpetrators,” he said.
Philip’s ill feelings toward Greece could, according to Royal historian Hugo Vickers, be the reason why Greece was one of the few countries Queen Elizabeth has never visited.
Prince Philip is considered amongst fellow royals to be a “Greek prince,” according to Vickers, so it is an “interesting” omission.
The reason, he believes, is because of the fraught history of the monarchy in Greece, which affected Prince Philip’s immediate family.
“Prince Philip doesn’t like Greece, because they put his father [Prince Andrew] on trial, and he might have been executed,” explained Vickers in a BBC interview.
“In 1922, they all had to flee.” Prince Philip was a baby at the time and rarely returned.
It is not completely true, however, that the Queen has never been to Greece. She did go there at the invitation of King Paul, Prince Philip’s cousin, in 1950, but that was before she became Queen.
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