The Prince of Greece with no Greek blood: How Prince Philip was born on a kitchen table in Corfu 103 years ago – before he was bundled into an orange crate when his family fled their home on a British warship

Born on a kitchen table on June 10, 1921, he was a Prince of Greece with no Greek blood who lived through more upheaval as a child than most people do in a lifetime.

The late Prince Philip, universally known as the beloved husband of Queen Elizabeth II, became one of Britain’s most popular royals.

But he started life a million miles away from any British palace in rather chaotic circumstances.

Philip was the fifth child and only son of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and his wife, Princess Alice of Battenberg.

Shortly after he was born, revolution broke out in Greece and the royal family were exiled after his father was accused of high treason.

Philip was bundled into an orange crate and escaped to Paris with his family on a British warship.

It was a fitting vessel given that Philip would go on to serve with distinction in the Royal Navy during the Second World War – before marrying the love of his life in 1947.

Prince Philip, as a toddler in July 1922, born Prince Philippos Andreou of Schleswig-​Holstein​-Sonderberg-Glücksburg, a Prince of Greece and Denmark

Prince Philip, as a toddler in July 1922, born Prince Philippos Andreou of Schleswig-​Holstein​-Sonderberg-Glücksburg, a Prince of Greece and Denmark

Princess Alice of Battenberg (left) pictured with her son the late Duke of Edinburgh (right) in 1926

Princess Alice of Battenberg (left) pictured with her son the late Duke of Edinburgh (right) in 1926

Prince Philip and Princess Elizabeth pictured in July 1947 after announcing their engagement, the pair met when they were just 18 and 13-years-old

Prince Philip and Princess Elizabeth pictured in July 1947 after announcing their engagement, the pair met when they were just 18 and 13-years-old

Prince Philip's, pictured in Canada in 1984, early life was marked by upheaval and he had to leave his homeland with his family when he was just one year old in December 1922

Prince Philip’s, pictured in Canada in 1984, early life was marked by upheaval and he had to leave his homeland with his family when he was just one year old in December 1922

After escaping Greece, Philip – who was born in Corfu – and his family settled in a leafy suburb in Paris in a house loaned to them by his wealthy aunt, Princess George of Greece and Denmark.

From then on, the Duke’s childhood was incredibly unsettled as he was without a permanent home.

Years later, when an interviewer for The Independent asked him what language he spoke at home, he answered: ‘What do you mean, ‘at home’?’

He told a separate biographer in 2001: ‘It’s simply what happened. The family broke up. My mother was ill, my sisters were married, my father was in the south of France. I just had to get on with it. You do. One does.’

At the age of eight, Philip was sent to Cheam school in Surrey for three years – but then moved to Germany where all four of his sisters had married.

His stint in Germany proved brief when he moved back to Britain and was sent to Gordonstoun, a boarding school in Scotland.

By then, his mother – who had been diagnosed as schizophrenic – had been sent away to a Swiss sanitorium and his father was living with his mistress on the French Riviera.

In sharp contrast to his eldest son King Charles, Philip loved his time at Gordonstoun.

He thrived at the boarding school – captaining the hockey and cricket teams and discovering his passion for boats.

However, when he was 16 and still a student at the school, Philip lost his sister and uncle in the space of a few months.

His sibling Cecile died in a plane crash in with her husband and their two children in November 1937.

Five months later, Philip’s uncle and guardian, the second Marquess of Milford Haven, died suddenly of cancer at the age of 46.

Gordonstoun’s German headmaster, Kurt Hahn, was the one to break the news. ‘His sorrow was that of a man,’ his headmaster is said to have recalled.

It was the funeral of his sister where Philip reconnected with his mother again, who wanted him to return to Greece with her after the restoration of the Greek monarchy.

The young prince refused and wanted to pursue a career in the Navy. In the Second World War, he saw active service against German, Italian and Japanese forces.

In March 1941, he was a searchlight control officer on the battleship HMS Valiant and was mentioned in dispatches for his part in the battle of Matapan against the Italian fleet.

His commanding officer said: ‘Thanks to his alertness and appreciation of the situation, we were able to sink in five minutes two eight-inch gun Italian cruisers.’

Shortly afterwards, he was awarded the Greek War Cross of Valour.

When he moved up through the ranks to become First Lieutenant in the destroyer HMS Wallace (at the age of 21), he was the youngest officer in the service to have an executive job in a ship of its size.

But at Christmas 1943, with ‘nowhere particular to go’, as he nonchalantly put it, Philip went with his cousin, David Milford Haven, to stay at Windsor Castle. Princess Elizabeth, now 17, was animated in a way ‘none of us had ever seen before’, wrote her governess, Marion Crawford.

That weekend of dinner parties, charades, films and dancing to the gramophone proved to be a turning point.

After a subsequent visit to Windsor in July, Philip wrote to the Queen of ‘the simple enjoyment of family pleasures and amusements and the feeling that I am welcome to share them. I am afraid I am not capable of putting all this into the right words and I am certainly incapable of showing you the gratitude that I feel.’

The pair had been properly introduced for the first time in July 1939, when Elizabeth joined her parents on a visit to Dartmouth Naval College, where Philip was training.

After moving from Greece Prince Philip, pictured as a toddler in July 1922, spent his early years living with relatives

After moving from Greece Prince Philip, pictured as a toddler in July 1922, spent his early years living with relatives

By the time Philip (centre) was just nine years old his mother (left) had been sent away to a Swiss sanatorium and his father (right) went off to live with his mistress

By the time Philip (centre) was just nine years old his mother (left) had been sent away to a Swiss sanatorium and his father (right) went off to live with his mistress

Prince Philip's parents Princess Alice (left) and Prince Andrew (right) pictured in 1922

Prince Philip’s parents Princess Alice (left) and Prince Andrew (right) pictured in 1922

Philip attended Scottish boarding school Gordonstoun, where he thrived. Above: The future Duke of Edinburgh checking his running shoes during an inter-schools sports day in 1935

Philip attended Scottish boarding school Gordonstoun, where he thrived. Above: The future Duke of Edinburgh checking his running shoes during an inter-schools sports day in 1935 

He joined the Royal Navy when he left school and found great success - even being awarded the Greek War Cross of Valour. Prince Philip pictured during military service

He joined the Royal Navy when he left school and found great success – even being awarded the Greek War Cross of Valour. Prince Philip pictured during military service 

With Philip being 18-years-old at the time and the princess just 13, they had come across each other previously at a family wedding and her father’s Coronation.

The prince was tasked with showing Elizabeth and her sister around the college and immediately made an impression on his future wife.

By the time Philip married Elizabeth in 1947, at 26-years-old, his absent father was dead. He had passed away in Monaco in 1944.

There was a gap of more than 14 years between the birth of Prince Charles in November 1948 and the arrival of Prince Edward in March 1964.

Philip ended his active naval career in July 1951 and then started to focus on his work in supporting the Queen following her accession to the throne in 1952.

Philip's uncle Louis Mountbatten (left) with the prince ay the National Playing Fields Association dinner in London 1948

Philip’s uncle Louis Mountbatten (left) with the prince ay the National Playing Fields Association dinner in London 1948

He went on to have four children with Elizabeth - Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Edward and Prince Andrew

He went on to have four children with Elizabeth – Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Edward and Prince Andrew

Prince Philip (second right) pictured at his bachelor party at the Dorchester Hotel in 1947 with fellow Royal Navy officers

Prince Philip (second right) pictured at his bachelor party at the Dorchester Hotel in 1947 with fellow Royal Navy officers

Philip thrived in his role of royal duty and founded the Duke of Edinburgh award in 1956 - with its impact still lasting today operating in more than 130 countries

Philip thrived in his role of royal duty and founded the Duke of Edinburgh award in 1956 – with its impact still lasting today operating in more than 130 countries

In November 1952, he began training to be a pilot with the RAF and successfully gained his wings the following year.

By the time he gave up flying in 1997 at the age of 76, he had completed nearly 6,000 hours of time in the sky, in 59 different aircraft.

Philip thrived in his role of royal duty. The Duke of Edinburgh Award, which he founded in 1956, proved to be perhaps his greatest legacy. It now operates in more than 140 countries.

The Duke was a constant companion to the Queen on engagements, state visits and in private.

When he died on April 9, 2021 aged 99, the outpouring of grief reflected his beloved status both among family members and in the eyes of millions across the world.

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