Prince Philip’s Life in 50 Photos
A pictorial tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh, 1921-2021.
Prince Philip – 1921-2021
Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, passed away on April 9, 2021, aged 99. How much, however, do you actually know about this royal, who spent decades upon decades travelling as an ambassador for the United Kingdom alongside his wife, Queen Elizabeth II? To mark his long and full life, check out these rarely-seen images that tell the story of Prince Philip.
In case you didn’t know, the Duke of Edinburgh was originally Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark. The little prince was born on the Greek island of Corfu back in 1921, according to Encyclopedia Brittanica. The son of Prince Andrew and Princess Alice, he had an unconventional childhood marked with controversy. His family fled Greece when he was a baby, and his mother experienced mental health issues, which led her to being institutionalized against her will. Looking at this early photograph, taken in 1922 when he was just around just a year old, you’d never guess at commotion surrounding him.
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Despite his tumultuous family life, early photos showcase a child who doesn’t look unlike many of his peers. When he reached school age, the young prince attended the MacJannet American School in Saint-Cloud, France (not far outside of Paris). Here, he engages in a round of archery with some classmates, appearing as though they are pretending to be Robin Hood. Can you spot the Queen’s future husband? (Spoiler alert: He’s second from the left.)
Prince Philip is pictured here at the age of nine wearing traditional Greek garb. Later in life, Prince Philip would shed his ties to Greece and assume his mother’s surname, Mountbatten. We’ve heard the Mountbatten name a lot more recently, as it is part of the last name given to Harry and Meghan’s son, Archie.
Who would have thought that Prince Philip was a man of the theatre? Sure, we’ve seen the royal on many an occasion showing an appreciation for the arts, but apparently in his younger years (back in 1935, when he was 14-years-old, to be exact), he even took to the stage in a school production of Macbeth.
Macbeth wasn’t Prince Philip’s only turn on the stage. He also played the role of one of the Three Wise Men at the school he attended throughout his teenage years, Gordonstoun School in Moray, Scotland. Self-described as a “co-educational independent school for boarding and day pupils,” it was also the same educational institution that his eldest son, Prince Charles, later attended. According to Vanity Fair, Prince Philip was one of the first students to attend this school, as it opened in 1934. This Christmas pageant photo was taken in 1938.
After graduating from Gordonstoun, Philip enlisted as a cadet in the Royal Navy, according to Army Cadet History. After training at RNC Dartmouth, he went on to work as a midshipman on the HMS Ramillies in 1940. That stint was followed by time aboard the HMS Valiant, a battleship stationed in Alexandria. Here he is pictured in 1947, giving a salute as Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten. This was just a few months before he and Queen Elizabeth married.
Most couples have cutesy nicknames for each other, and the Duke of Edinburgh and Her Majesty are no exception. During the 2006 film The Queen, Philip is about to get in bed and tells his wife to “move over, cabbage.” Wait… cabbage? “I inquired in royal circles and was told on very good authority that that is what the Duke sometimes calls the Queen,” said the film’s screenwriter Peter Morgan tells The Times. The Queen’s biographer, Robert Lacey, confirmed. How cute! Here are the two royal lovebirds before their big wedding.
As you can probably imagine, Elizabeth and Philip had quite an elaborate celebration when they married on November 20, 1947. According to the official royal website, their wedding cake was a whopping nine feet tall, and 2,000 guests were invited to the ceremony. The service, performed at Westminster Abbey, aired on BBC Radio with an audience of 200 million people globally. Although their engagement was just four months long, Elizabeth and Philip had known each other for quite some time. They originally met at another royal wedding that took place in 1934, when Philip was a teenager.
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A true partnership
Ahead of the wedding, Prince Philip was given the title the Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich of Greenwich in the County of London. Try to say that three times fast! His first cousin David Mountbatten served as the best man at the wedding. (Elizabeth, by the way, had eight bridesmaids.) The Duke added a loving touch to the engagement ring he gave to Elizabeth: It used diamonds from a tiara that belonged to his mother, Princess Alice. Needless to say, the platinum and diamond bauble, which was crafted by jeweller Philip Antrobus, is a stunner.
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The balcony wave
A royal wedding wouldn’t be complete without the iconic balcony wave. In this photo, Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth (though at the time, still a princess) wave joyfully to the crowd of onlookers from the balcony at Buckingham Palace, just as we’ve seen more recently during the 2011 wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Sadly, we didn’t get that great balcony moment with Harry and Meghan, who chose to marry at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor, as opposed to the Buckingham-accessible Westminster Abbey. For the record, Elizabeth’s dress was designed by Sir Norman Hartnell, who had to submit designs in order to be considered.
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Choosing where to honeymoon after a wedding is difficult for any newlyweds, but it must be a real headache for royal couples, who will be swarmed wherever they go. Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth spent their wedding night at the home of Earl Mountbatten, Philip’s uncle. As with all royal abodes, this one has a name, Broadlands, and it’s located in Hampshire, England. The couple (along with Elizabeth’s pet corgi Susan) then set off for the rest of their honeymoon at Balmoral Estate. In this image, they’re shown taking a sweet walk through the Broadlands property.
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Princess Elizabeth had her coronation on June 2, 1953, forever changing her life and, in effect, that of Prince Philip. Here, they’re seen driving down Fulham Palace Road on the big day, touring northwest London to the delight of many revellers who wanted to be a part of this very important day in history. Although photos often show him in the Queen’s shadow, the royal worked diligently through the years and took his community duties as the Duke of Edinburgh very seriously.
The coronation continued
Prince Philip was allowed to congratulate Queen Elizabeth at her coronation only after the bishops and archbishops had said their piece, according to the official royal website. Interestingly, should Prince William take the crown as king, Duchess Kate will be crowned as a queen consort. But when it’s a female monarch, her husband does not get to take the title of king, which is why Philip was always considered either a prince or duke. “I thought I was going to have a career in the Navy, but it became obvious there was no hope… there was no choice,” Biography.com quotes Philip as saying of Elizabeth’s early ascension to the throne. “It just happened. You have to make compromises. That’s life. I accepted it. I tried to make the best of it.”
The birth of Prince Charles
Before Elizabeth became Queen, she and Prince Philip welcomed their first child into the world. Prince Charles was born on November 14, 1948, almost a year to the date of his parents’ first wedding anniversary. He was actually born at Buckingham Palace (talk about a royal baby!) and weighed seven pounds and six ounces at birth. He was later christened at the Palace on December 15 of the same year. There are rumours that have long swirled about tension between Prince Philip and Prince Charles, most notably around the Duke of Edinburgh’s decision to send Charles to his alma mater, Gordonstoun School, which Charles described as “hell on earth,” according to Express.
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Prince Philip’s photos showcasing his time in the Royal Navy prove just how much he enjoyed that part of his life. This photo, for example, was taken during his final cruise aboard the HMS Magpie before returning home. He and his fellow naval officers who worked in the Mediterranean really enjoyed waterskiing, and this particular picture was taken on a beach in Turkey. It’s one of those rare accounts showing the royal’s more casual side, a whimsical moment in time in August 1951 not long before Prince Philip decided to end his naval career to better focus on his familial duties.
The birth of Princess Anne
It was in 1950 that the Queen and Duke welcomed their second child, a baby girl whom they named Princess Anne. Philip was promoted to a Royal Navy lieutenant-commander on the same day: August 15. It has been reported that Prince Philip and his daughter had a closer relationship than he did with Charles. In an interview with the Daily Mail, the wife of one of Philip’s close friends said, “[Philip] always had more fun with Anne. Charles is more like the Queen, while Anne is very like Prince Philip.”
A career highlight for Prince Philip was when he qualified for his Royal Air Force wings in 1953. In this photo, the then-32-year-old is pictured in the single-engined Harvard, with which he made three flights at White Waltham in Berkshire. The RAF Museum notes that he was awarded those well-earned wings by the Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir William Dickson at Buckingham Palace during a private ceremony on May 4, 1953. Prince Philip’s grandson, Prince William, famously served as a pilot with the RAF before leaving to perform more royal duties.
It’s fair to say that Prince Philip didn’t spend a lot of time with his mother, Princess Alice of Greece, as she reportedly battled mental health issues throughout her life and was institutionalized at one point. However, he is pictured with her here at the wedding of Princess Margeritha of Baden and Prince Tomislavof of Yugoslavia in 1957. According to CNN, Princess Alice became the founder of the Christian Sisterhood of Martha and Mary, an order of nuns, in 1949. Their primary goal was to care for the sick. Her nickname for Prince Philip? Bubbikins.
It’s naive to think that these photos weren’t staged, at least in some respect, but as Philip and Elizabeth look on at Balmoral Estate while a young Charles and Anne play on a makeshift teeter-totter (simply a piece of plywood atop a log), they almost look “normal.” The castle, one of the family’s many lavish residences, is situated in Royal Deeside, Aberdeenshire, Scotland.
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The birth of Prince Andrew
Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth continued to expand their family, welcoming Prince Andrew in 1960. Here, the family sits atop a picnic blanket in front of Balmoral Castle for a perfectly picturesque image. As a father, Prince Philip was often referred to as a “disciplinarian” and was accused of trying to help his eldest son, Charles, “toughen up.”
However, this approach may not have been all bad. In recent years, Telegraph report suggested that the Palace was struggling because Prince Philip was less involved. “Many royal watchers have noted that it was [Charles’] father, as head of the family, who kept a firm grip on palace business, ruling over the younger generations with an iron fist until he stepped back from public life,” royal watcher Victoria Ward shared with The Telegraph.
And so it begins… the fateful day when Prince Philip brought Prince Charles to his first day as a student at Gordonstoun School. According to Vanity Fair, it was here that Charles experienced a great deal of bullying, but also became an avid polo player (much to his father’s joy) and developed a great interest in Shakespeare. Perhaps Philip’s attitude toward fatherhood had to do with trying to stay humble. “In the first years of the Queen’s reign, the level of adulation—you wouldn’t believe it,” he’s quoted as saying in The Telegraph. “You really wouldn’t. It could have been corroding. It would have been very easy to play to the gallery, but I took a conscious decision not to do that. Safer not to be too popular. You can’t fall too far.”
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Prince Philip loved sports and, according to Polo Weekly, gifted his son Prince Charles with a polo mallet at the age of 15 (he picked up the sport while going to school in Scotland). In fact, the Duke of Edinburgh was responsible for founding England’s Windsor Park polo team, as well as Guards Polo Club. In this photo, taken in 1975, Prince Philip talks to Charles before a polo match at Windsor. It’s said that Philip competed in sports well into his 50s.
For an entire year in 1969, Philip and Elizabeth’s brood was filmed for a BBC documentary appropriately titled Royal Family. It was broadcast on both BBC One and ITV, and while the still photos, like this one of Prince Philip painting, are all kinds of fascinating, the doc was widely panned by audiences and critics alike. According to History.com, the film was produced in an effort to make the Queen appear more personable (stars are just like us, right?), but it backfired.
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In his younger days, Prince Philip did a lot of travelling with the Queen. In fact, he rarely stopped moving until he finally decided to retire from public life in 2017. In another snap from the Royal Family documentary, we see Philip and Elizabeth in flight, returning from a visit to Yorkshire.
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If the name Frogmore Cottage sounds familiar, it’s because the home that was given to Harry and Meghan upon their marriage that created such a ruckus, with rumuors of lavish renovations and ridiculous demands surrounding the cutesy-sounding estate. Take a look at Frogmore Cottage way back when, as the Queen, Prince Philip, and the kiddos hang out on the lush grass outside. This is where Elizabeth celebrated her 39th birthday, with teenaged Charles and Anne, plus little ones Andrew and Edward.
We’re back on the polo field! One common bond Prince Philip and Prince Charles shared was their love for polo. In 1967, the father-son duo were victorious when they won the Junior County Championship alongside their Windsor Park team. The match, which took place in Little Bidworth, Cheshire, ended with a three-point victory over the opposing team, Cowdrey. To make the whole thing even sweeter, it was Charles who scored the winning goal. This photo was taken while Prince Philip was getting in some last-minute practice before the big competition.
Just your average, run-of-the-mill royal family hanging out at one of their many palatial estates. No big deal! Here, Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth share some family time with the kids in the drawing-room at Sandringham House in Norfolk. We’d love to know what Edward is pointing out to his father in the newspaper. And what’s the deal with Prince Andrew and the bow and arrow indoors? Meanwhile, Princess Anne is just looking adoringly at her mother. If only we could have been a fly on one of those expensive walls.
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Princess Anne’s wedding
The world loves a royal wedding, so it was exciting indeed when Princess Anne married Captain Mark Phillips in 1973. The two met five years earlier and bonded over a shared love of horses. The wedding, held at Westminster Abbey, was, of course, televised, and the couple went on to have two children together, Zara and Peter. Sadly their relationship ended in divorce by 1989. Princess Anne went on to marry Sir Timothy Laurence in 1992, not long after her divorce from Phillips was finalized, according to Harper’s Bazaar. At the time, the Church of England didn’t allow second marriages, so the couple wed in Scotland instead.
This snap, taken on September 26, 1976, leaves us with more questions than answers about day-to-day royal life. But we do love that Philip is lovingly petting their dorgi (a corgi and dachshund mix). The family has been known to have corgis as pets for decades, but from 1976 on, they’d been spotted as pet parents to the dorgi mix, reports Woman’s World.
Charles and Diana’s wedding
It was 1981 when the world couldn’t get enough of Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s seemingly fairy-tale wedding at St. Paul’s Cathedral. For the big day, Prince Philip rode to the ceremony alongside Diana’s mother, Mrs. Shand Kydd. Though Charles and Diana’s marriage ended in divorce, letters released by The Telegraph between Prince Philip and his former daughter-in-law appear to prove they remained good friends despite no longer being family. In one letter, Philip wrote, “I will always do my utmost to help you and Charles to the best of my ability.”
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As his polo-playing days began to dwindle, Prince Philip wanted to maintain his love of both horses and sport, so he began competing in the Carriage Driving portion of the Windsor Horse Show. Here he is in 1982, taking his newfound hobby very seriously, with a top hat and all. He was spotted driving around the grounds of Windsor Castle as recently as 2019, reports the Daily Mail. Clearly the elder royal was trying to remain active and continuing to enjoy some of his favourite pastimes. He’d had much more time on his hands to do so after retiring from public life in 2017.
He may have left the Royal Navy behind him decades earlier, but in 1982 Prince Philip returned to the waterways by participating in the Queen’s Cup at the Cowes Regatta. The royal sailed using his Yeoman classic yacht.
Trooping the Colour
Each year, the Queen’s birthday is celebrated with a grandiose event called Trooping the Colour. According to the royal family’s official website, it has marked the birthday of the reigning monarch for more than 260 years. It’s also a truly fun opportunity to see the family merrily gathered together on a balcony. In 1982, Princess Diana was very pregnant with her first child (that would be Prince William), hence the maternity dress. According to The Telegraph’s release of their private letters, Diana used to refer to Prince Philip as “Pa.” This particular Trooping the Colour would have marked the Queen’s 56th birthday.
Prince William’s christening
When the future King was born, it was a really big deal. After all, as the firstborn grandchild to Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, William will one day take over the throne. The little boy was christened in August 1982. In this picture, doting grandfather Philip looks on as Princess Diana tries to quiet the crying baby while the family sits for a portrait in the White Drawing Room at Buckingham Palace. The Palace has 17 staterooms, but the White Drawing Room is considered to be among the most intimate. Even better, it has a hidden door disguised as a mirror.
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Queen Elizabeth’s birthday
When you play second fiddle to the Queen, you’re going to have to accept that her birthday is a much bigger deal than your own. This was something Philip seemed to have taken in stride. “I think the main lesson we have learnt is that tolerance is the one essential ingredient in any happy marriage,” he said during a toast to his wife on their golden wedding anniversary, per Harper’s Bazaar. “You can take it from me, the Queen has the quality of tolerance in abundance.” Well said, Prince Philip.
Princess Diana’s funeral
When Princess Diana was tragically killed in a car crash involving paparazzi in 1997, the world mourned. Despite the fact that she was no longer a member of the royal family, they wanted to honour her with a funeral fit for a princess. According to The Sun, Prince Philip, while always supposed to attend the ceremony, was not supposed to walk behind her coffin with Prince Harry and Prince William. He chose to, however, to comfort a heartbroken William, who wanted to walk with his grandfather by his side. Hence, the appearance of Philip in the procession.
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There are so many royal events, it’s hard to keep up. But the Golden Jubilee is celebrated in England to mark the 50th anniversary of the accession of the king—or, in this case, the queen. In laymen’s turns: In 2002, it was the 50th anniversary of when Queen Elizabeth II took over. For the celebration, the Queen and Prince Philip rode in a cavalcade along the mall to wave to revellers sharing in the excitement of this special moment in time.
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Charles and Camilla’s wedding
When Prince Charles married Camilla Parker-Bowles in April 2005, Prince Philip was obviously in attendance. This photo of the updated royal family also included Prince William, Prince Harry, and Queen Elizabeth, as well as Camilla’s children, Laura and Tom Parker-Bowles, and her father, Bruce Shand. (Here’s why you never see Camilla’s children now.) It was a happy occasion for the reunited lovebirds, who had previously dated before Charles found himself in a relationship with Princess Diana. In fact, when Prince Charles sought counsel from Philip about marrying Diana because he was not in love with her, the patriarch had some ideas.
“My father-in-law said to my husband, ‘If your marriage doesn’t work out, you can always go back to her after five years,'” Princess Diana shared in a private conversation, which was revealed in a documentary that aired 20 years after her death. “Which is exactly—I mean, for real I knew that it had happened after five—I knew something was happening before that, but the fifth year I had confirmation.”
The Queen’s honour
In 1956, Prince Philip started what the British refer to as an “awards scheme” to help young people discover new interests and skills and be recognized for their achievements. To earn the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award, participants must complete four sections, which involve community, fitness, and personal challenges; competitions are open to youths “regardless of ability, gender, background or location.” In 2006, the Duke accepted a Royal Charter from his wife, the Queen, for his own efforts, honoring the 50th anniversary of the organization’s founding. The ceremony took place at Buckingham Palace.
In 2007, Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth celebrated their very impressive diamond anniversary—that’s 60 years of marriage. During a ceremony at Westminster Abbey, Archbishop Rowan Williams said, “Every marriage is a public event, but some couples have to live more than others in the full light of publicity. We are probably more aware than ever these days of the pressures this brings. But it also means that we can give special thanks for the very public character of the witness and the sign offered to us by this marriage, and what it has meant to nation and Commonwealth over the decades.”
The State Opening of Parliament
Though the British royal family doesn’t actually govern modern-day England, the Queen still opens Parliament each year, and there is a lot of pomp and circumstance attached to this ceremony. According to Royal.UK, “The Queen travels to the Palace of Westminster in a State coach, escorted by the Household Cavalry. The Imperial State Crown and regalia travels in front of the Queen in a carriage of its own.” From there, she puts on her royal robes and takes the throne. She sat alongside Prince Philip in 2016, but since then, Prince Charles has taken his special seat.
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Queen Elizabeth’s 90th birthday
When the Queen of England turns 90, it’s time to party. For this particular occasion in 2016, Prince Philip accompanied his wife to the Patrons Lunch on the Mall in London. Though the Queen turned 90 in April, the event was held in June with a whopping 10,000 guests. (Here’s why the Queen has two birthdays.) In fact, there was an entire weekend of events to mark the major milestone. The luncheon didn’t only honor Queen Elizabeth; it also gave a nod to the more than 600 non-profits and organizations she supports. Look at how sweetly Philip supports her back as they wave to onlookers.
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Leave it to the Order of the British Empire to one-up the Queen. Forget 90th birthdays—Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Order of the British Empire in 2017 at St. Paul’s Cathedral. The empire was crafted in 1917 by her father, King George V, to mark civilian achievement at varying degrees. Twice a year, Queen Elizabeth provides lists of the people she would like to honour. There are different rankings, like Knight or Dame Commander of the Order and Officer of the Order.
For years, it has been customary for the royals to descend upon Sandringham to attend a Christmas church service. The mass is held at St. Mary Magdalene Church, close to the royal estate, and it’s typically a big to-do to watch the family walk there. In 2017, we could even spy Meghan Markle making the trek behind the Queen and Prince Philip after becoming engaged to Prince Harry. In 2019, Prince Philip fell ill over the holidays and was unable to make this tradition, much to the concern and dismay of royal watchers.
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Portrait of a prince
In 2017, Prince Philip announced that he was taking a step back from public life as a royal. The same year, this stunning painting of him standing in the halls of Buckingham Palace was released. According to Sky News, the Duke of Edinburgh had carried out 22,191 single engagements since his wife’s coronation in 1952. That doesn’t include the countless events he performed alongside Queen Elizabeth. The fact that he acknowledged this was the right move for him, personally, makes a huge statement to his desire to maintain his health as best he possibly can.
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Harry and Meghan’s wedding
Stepping back from public work didn’t mean Prince Philip had any intention of missing his family’s major life events. He was a happy participant at the May 2018 wedding of his grandson Harry to Meghan Markle, which took place at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. The nuptials marked a modernizing change to the royal family, and as with so many of England’s historical events of the last 90 years, Philip was front and centre to witness it.
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Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank’s wedding
It was wedding fever for the royals in 2018. Less than six months after Harry and Meghan’s big day, Princess Eugenie married her longtime love, Jack Brooksbank. The wedding also took place at St. George’s Chapel, with Prince Philip escorting the Queen to the family affair. Eugenie is the daughter of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, who divorced in May 1996. Their other daughter, Princess Beatrice, was married in a secret ceremony in July 2020.
More wedded bliss
And here was yet another blessed occasion for Prince Philip to attend. This photo shows him back at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle for the wedding of Lady Gabriella Windsor and Thomas Kingston. Gabriella is the daughter of Prince Michael of Kent, the Queen’s cousin. The wedding, which happened in May 2019, shows Prince Philip in seemingly good spirits. Several months later, he was hospitalized over the winter holidays in an abundance of caution after falling ill. He remained there for several days before returning home.
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A long, full life
Throughout 2020, Prince Philip and the Queen remained home, isolating together during the coronavirus pandemic. Express reported that the couple shared a quiet lunch on his 99th birthday, but, as was his usual request, Philip didn’t want a major fuss made about his big day.
Next, learn more about Prince Philip’s special relationship with Canada.