Revealed: The tragic truth about Prince Philip’s family

With great privilege comes great sadness
Loading the player...

No stranger to scandal, the controversial Prince Phillip was known for his outspoken behaviour and questionable commentary, so much so that his antics threatened to destabilise the crown on multiple occasions.

WATCH this video to look back on Prince Philip’s most notorious remarks:

But while there’s no doubt the Duke was a divisive figure, even amongst royal fans, his antics are perhaps easier to understand in the context of his childhood and the very unorthodox upbringing that went with it.

Born in Corfu in 1921 into the Greek and Danish royal families, Philip and his family members were exiled from Greece when he was still an infant.

Prince Philip as a baby in Greece, 1922 (Credit: Getty Images)

With his father, Prince Andrew of Greece, living with a mistress between the south of France and Monte Carlo and his mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg, committed to a German psychiatric facility after suffering a nervous breakdown, Philip and his four sisters – Princess Margarita, Princess Theodora, Princess Cecilie, and Princess Sophie – were left to fend for themselves in Europe as the World War II loomed on the horizon.

prince philip family
Prince Philip with his parents Prince Andrew, Princess Alice and sister Margarita, Theodora, Cecilie and Sophie (Credit: Archive)

In his early years, the young Prince was shunted around the homes of various members of his extended European royal family, first educated at an American school in France before moving to Kensington Palace – today the home of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge – to live with his grandmother Victoria and his uncle George Mountbatten, 2nd Marquess of Milford Haven, who’s surname he assumed as his own.

Over the space of three years, Prince Philip’s sisters all married German noblemen with close ties to the Nazi party, and Princess Alice, Philip’s mother, was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

He had little contact with his mother for the rest of his childhood.

phili and alice
An adult Prince Philip with his mother Princess Alice in London, 1960 (Credit: Getty Images)

On the instruction of his sisters, a young Prince Philip moved to Germany to study but with Hitler’s Nazis on the rise and war imminent, he once again transferred to Gordonstoun boarding school in Scotland.

The notoriously strict institution was founded by Kurt Hahn, a Jewish professor who fled Germany due to Nazi persecution.

Philip’s time there is documented in the hit Netflix drama The Crown.

Philip in a school play at Gordounston in Scotland, 1935 (Credit: Getty Images)

In 1937, tragedy struck Philip when his beloved sister Cecile – said to be his favourite – and her husband Grand Duke Georg Donatus was killed in a plane crash en route to London to attend a family funeral.

Cecilie and Georg – both members of the Nazi party – along with their two young sons and newborn infant, who Cecilie is thought to have delivered mid-air, and Georg’s mother Grand Duchess Eleonore, were killed instantly when their plane crashed into a factory at Ostend in Belgium.

Then just 16 years old, Philip of Greece and Denmark was pictured at his sister’s funeral in Darmstadt, Germany, infamously giving the ‘Heil Hitler’ Nazi salute alongside high-ranking party officials.

philip nazi funeral
A 16-year-old Philip pictured second from right in a row with Nazi officers at the funeral of Cecile and Georg Donatus (Credit: Archive)

One year later, Philip’s beloved uncle and legal guardian Lord Milford Haven died of cancer.

In 1939, Prince Philip took a position in the British Royal Navy and briefly reunited with his mother Alice in Athens.

The same year, King George VI of England visited the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth with his daughters, Princess Margaret and then Princess Elizabeth.

Philip and Elizabeth are third cousins through Queen Victoria.

the crown
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip portrayed in Netflix drama The Crown (Credit: Netflix)

Prince Philip’s uncle, Lord Louis Mountbatten, asked him to escort the young princesses around the college and for Elizabeth at least, it was said to be love at first sight.

During the Second World War, Prince Philip served in the British Navy while two of his brothers-in-law, Prince Christoph of Hesse and Berthold, Margrave of Baden, fought for the German Nazis.

Over the course of the war, the Prince continued to exchange letters with Princess Elizabeth, and in the summer of 1946, Prince Philip asked King George for his permission to marry the future Queen of England.

They were married in the royal wedding of the century at Westminster Abbey in London in November 1947, broadcast by BBC radio to 200 million people across the Commonwealth, and Philip was given the official title Duke of Edinburgh as a new member of the British royal family.

queen philip
Then Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip after their engagement was announced in 1947 (Credit: Getty Images)

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip had four children, Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward.

Today, they share eight grandchildren – including Prince William and Prince Harry – and eight (soon to be nine) great-grandchildren, including Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor.

Related stories