By Sarah Betts with Saira Baker
Today marks 100 years since the birth of Prince Philip on the 10th June 1921 on the island of Corfu as the fifth child, but only son of Prince Andrew (a younger son of King George I of Greece) and his wife Alice of Battenberg (a great-grandchild of Queen Victoria). Philip was thrust on to the global stage in 1947 when he married Princess Elizabeth, who later became Queen Elizabeth II in 1952. Their marriage lasted over 70 years until he died on the 9th April 2021, just a couple of months short of his hundredth birthday, the longest serving consort in the history of the British Royal Family.
Philip and his life have been written about for decades, but rarely (and only relatively recently) in an academic setting. However, both the changing world around, and the personal circumstances of, Philip’s long life provide a vast array of avenues of academic enquiry to explore that match well with many of the directions being seriously pursued within the now well-established, and burgeoning, field of Royal studies. So we have seen, even before his death, that, as the study of modern and contemporary monarchies begins to garner more scholarly weight, essays focused, or part-focused on discussing him have begun to appear in collections such as Charles Beem and Miles Taylor’s, The Man Behind the Queen, (2014), Matthew Glencross, Judith Rowbotham and Michael D. Kandiah’s The Windsor Dynasty: 1910 to the Present, (2016), and The Routledge History of Monarchy (2019), whilst he also appears as an interesting case study in Edward Owens’s monograph, The Family Firm. Monarchy Mass Media and the British Public, (2019).
Most obviously, Philip fits into the study of consorts and consortship which has been for many years a central facet of Royal Studies, and he is set to feature again in this context in the fourth volume of the major forthcoming collection edited by Aidan Norrie, Carolyn Harris, Joanna Laynesmith, Danna Messer, and Elena Woodacre, English Consorts: Power, Influence, Dynasty. However, as someone born into one of Europe’s many exiled/abolished monarchies who married into its most prominent surviving one, a member of an elite European-wide genetic network of influential and royal families who also saw action in the British Navy as plain Lt. Mountbatten, a consort of multiple realms across the world in a global age, an enthusiastic and sometimes visionary patron of innovation in science, technology, arts, sports, youth leadership and the environment, as a man honoured with a grand Royal funeral in a time of restrictions and hardships of a global pandemic, Philip’s life, lifetime, heritage and legacy offers opportunities for comparison and contextualisation across a variety of current and emerging interdisciplinary approaches to Royal Studies.