Prince Philip becomes longest serving royal consort in history

On Saturday, Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, became Britain's longest-serving consort ever, overtaking Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III, who was consort between 1761 and 1818 (George III died in 1820) - a period of 57 years and 70 days.

Prince Philip, who served in the Royal Navy in WWII, became consort on 6th February 1952, when Princess Elizabeth, who he married in 1947, became Queen.

In 2007, the Queen set a new record herself, becoming the oldest British monarch in history by overtaking Queen Victoria.

Philip gave up his naval career to perform his new job, but there have been rumours over the years that he wishes he still has a naval career.

But he has served the Queen well for over 57 years, undertaking 350 engagements each year, despite being almost 88 years old.

The Prince famously has a hatred for questions which just seem pointless. Once he was asked by a TV reporter: "Are you well?"

The Prince just replied: "Do I bloody look ill?"

And after a long trip to Canada, an official asked him: "How was your flight?". "Have you flown in a plane?" the Duke replied. "Yes? Well, it was just like that."

He is also patron of over 800 charities.

According to the rules, a woman who is married to a King becomes Queen, is addressed "Your Majesty" and is given a crown. But a man married to a Queen does not become King, is not addressed "Your Majesty" and is not given a crown.

But, even though the Queen is Head of State, Prince Philip is certainly head of the family.

And, with a recent poll, conducted earlier this year, showing that the Monarchy is as popular as ever in Britain - 76% of people want to retain the Monarchy even after the Queen dies, with just 18% favouring a republic (and Britain will ALWAYS have a Monarchy if the people want one) - the Queen and Prince Philip are obviously doing a great job.

ROBERT HARDMAN: A toast to His Royal Harrumphness, as Philip becomes history's longest serving consort

By Robert Hardman
20th April 2009
Daily Mail

He quaffs beer not wine, eats snail porridge for Christmas lunch and has always loathed small talk. Prince Philip is nothing if not his own man. But is this the secret of his success?

He comes across as a meat and two veg sort of chap, not one of life's lentil or rocket munchers, let alone a fan of nitro-green tea. So the locals might have wondered what was going on a few months ago when an exceedingly familiar face appeared in the Berkshire gastrovillage of Bray, leading a 50-strong office party on a Christmas outing.

After a drink at the Hinds Head pub, he ushered his group next door to one of Britain's most extraordinary restaurants, The Fat Duck. For it was here that Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, had decided to treat all his staff and their spouses to a Christmas lunch.

The average Christmas party might entail a sweating slab of turkey and a couple of overcooked sprouts but this collection of secretaries, equerries and retired military men were being treated to plates of snail porridge, egg-and-bacon ice cream, 'foie gras benzaldehyde' and the rest of the Heston Blumenthal repertoire.

Prince Philip has been a loyal husband to the Queen, and is now the longest serving royal consort in British history

It was all the Duke's idea and culminated in the Duke asking for a tour of the kitchen and the potting shed laboratory with Blumenthal.

Now, the workshop of our most cerebral and eccentric celebrity chef might seem the last place you would expect to find an octogenarian war veteran famous for his no-nonsense opinions. But as far his staff were concerned, this was a classic Prince Philip excursion: unorthodox, fun and with a bit of weird science thrown in.

In any case, this is a man with an extensive collection of cookery books from Elizabeth David to the present (not to mention a library of thousands of books on any subject from meditation to birds). This is a man who prides himself on his ability to produce, single-handed, a perfect barbecue for 20 with no charred offerings. He was in his element.

Queen Charlotte, who was King George III's consort between 1761 and 1818, was the longest serving consort in British history until Saturday

'Prince Philip had seen Heston Blumenthal on television and had met him at an engagement at the Royal Society of Arts and he was keen to try his food,' explains Brigadier Sir Miles Hunt-Davis, the Duke's private secretary.

'Blumenthal is at the cutting edge of what he does - it was a jolly good lunch, by the way - and Prince Philip likes people at the cutting edge of things. He is always on the lookout for fresh ideas. In this office, our job is not so much organising his life as trying to keep up.'

The Palace has been trying to keep up ever since the Duke of Edinburgh moved in here with the Queen and their young family in 1952. An institution stuck in the Edwardian age was suddenly confronted by a young ideas man who has been innovating ever since, ushering in everything from eco-technology to a footman training scheme to that sinister new-fangled device, the television camera.

There has been plenty of opposition along the way. But today, it is the Duke who has the last laugh as he breaks a 191-year-old royal record to become the longest-serving royal consort in history. It is a hell of a milestone. But do not for one minute expect to hear anyone mention the 'R' word. The Duke of Edinburgh does not 'do' retirement any more than the Queen.

At the age of 87 (he will be 88 in two months), he remains an active champion of more than 800 charities and organisations when he is not at the side of the Queen.

'From day one, his top priority has always been: "What's the Queen doing?",' says one of the royal team. 'When they are in public together, his first thought is always to see where the Queen is heading. Then he fills the gaps from behind.'

The Queen and Prince Philip with the Dean of Windsor David Conner (right) after this year's Easter Sunday service at Windsor Castle

The Duke continues to undertake around 350 engagements every year. His contemporaries may all have retired and even his eldest son has qualified for his senior citizen's bus pass. But the Duke just carries on performing one of the most conspicuous and yet ill-defined roles in British public life - consort to the Sovereign.

It is a position which has always been one step back from the front of the procession. It carries no constitutional status.

A woman who marries a King does, at least, get a crown, the style of 'Your Majesty' and the title of Queen. A man who marries a Queen gets no crown, no 'Majesty' and no automatic title. It is a lifetime's billing as best supporting actor.

But, today, the present incumbent is fully entitled to step to the front of the stage and take a bow. He won't, of course.

As of this morning, Prince Philip has been married to the throne for longer than anyone in history, having surpassed Queen Charlotte, who was George III's queen for 57 years and 70 days.

In 2007, the Queen set a new record herself, becoming the oldest British monarch in history by overtaking Queen Victoria. Now that her husband becomes the supreme regal spouse, congratulations are in order. So what will they be doing to celebrate today?

Nothing whatsoever. In fact, I can imagine the Duke groaning at any attempt to raise the subject. 'The Queen and Prince Philip are spending the weekend at Windsor privately and there is certainly no celebration planned,' says a spokesman.

The Duke sees no merit in merely outliving a predecessor. It would jar completely with his character if he did. Indeed, one of Prince Philip's great talents is a capacity to spot waffle and fluffy sentimentality at 50 paces. Occasionally, a third-hand remark will be dressed up as a 'gaffe' but, more often than not, it is a welcome case of pricking the bubble of pomposity.

I have seen it many times. Following the Queen and the Duke on a tour of South Africa, I attended a reception where the Duke found himself in an earnest discussion about the reluctance of captive pandas to breed. One guest argued that the pandas were simply shy. Another maintained that a panda in a zoo becomes too attached to its keeper.

Absorbing the meanderings of the debate, Philip, the president emeritus of the World Wide Fund for Nature, brought the discussion to a close by observing: 'Well, then, the logical solution would seem to be to dress one of the pandas up as a zookeeper so that the other one fancies it.'

No doubt, the comment could have been construed as 'a gaffe' if someone could have been found to take offence. But everyone present was far too busy guffawing.

The Prince shares a joke with France's first lady Carla Bruni and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, with the Queen in the background at Windsor Castle

Behind everything lies an uncompromising loyalty to his wife. 'He never plans anything until he knows what the Queen needs,' says Sir Miles. 'When her officials have drawn up her diary of engagements it goes to the Duke and he ticks off all the things he will do with the Queen and then he sends it down to me. Only then do we start planning anything in this office.'

A typical day begins with letters and briefing notes. A London morning might involve a few charity meetings or engagements with the Queen followed by an official lunch. 'He is extremely self-disciplined about what he eats,' says one of his staff. Prince Philip avoids all wine and restricts himself to the occasional beer or gin.

His only concession to old age is that he tries to limit his afternoons to one engagement but the round of official dinners remains unchanged. Back at home, he likes to type his own letters on a laptop.

'He is completely computer literate - more so than me,' says Sir Miles, a young pup of 70. 'If you get a letter signed by him, it has almost certainly been typed by him.'

Only the Queen is in any position to tell him to slow down. But even the Monarch's powers are limited in this regard.

This February, a back injury prompted a doctor's order to rest for three months. It was obeyed for just three weeks until the Duke was spotted undertaking two days of official engagements at Cambridge University (he is its Chancellor).

In 2012, we will celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. But in applauding her 60 years on the throne, no one can overlook the role of the Duke. As the Queen herself has said, she could not have done it without him.

'He is someone who doesn't take easily to compliments,' she declared on the couple's golden wedding in 1997. 'He has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years, and I, and his whole family, and this and many other countries, owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim or we shall ever know.'

In 2006, presenting the Duke with a Royal Charter for his Award Scheme - which has now helped four million young people in 120 countries - she delivered a similarly poignant public tribute: 'For these remarkable achievements, you have my deep and enduring admiration, an admiration which words alone can never fully express.'

This 1972 picture shows Prince Philip, the Queen and Prince Andrew enjoying the antics of some of the pet dogs in the kennels on the Balmoral estate

On family matters, he has, in fact, been as hands-on as any father. The public perception is of a rather stern, demanding old seadog. When the private reality occasionally leaks out, it reveals a surprisingly sensitive soul with a deep love of philosophy and poetry.

He is an avid art collector. The private secretary's office at the Palace gives a flavour: a couple of naval scenes (Cutty Sark and the Duke's old frigate), a sleepy Australian townscape and a series of portraits, commissioned by the Duke himself, of his relations' various homes. The Duke is a keen painter himself (he prefers oils whereas the Prince of Wales is a watercolourist).

He describes himself as a pragmatist rather than a romantic. On royal walkabouts, the Duke accepts he is not the main attraction. Realising that the Queen can only walk down one side of any street, he will go down the other, lifting up disappointed children and steering them over to the Monarch. His staff call it 'going off-piste'.

In some foreign countries, especially those less familiar with the British monarchy, Prince Philip can be completely ignored. During October's state visit to Slovakia, he was hit on the head by a television camera as a local film crew dashed forward to film the Queen, ignoring the elderly gent in the way. The Duke's staff were appalled, but there was not so much as a murmur from him.

When the Queen came to the throne, there was no rulebook for the Duke. 'He started his household off on the right foot,' says Sir Miles, who still describes himself as a 'new boy' after 18 years at the Palace, following a distinguished career with the Gurkhas.

'Here was this young naval officer who suddenly wasn't a naval officer any more, and the change for him must have been remarkable. But he had good people and his philosophy was "let's try it and see", and his office is run on very much the same lines now.'

The list of princely experiments is a long one. The Duke installed some of Britain's first solar panels on the Sandringham estate. There was his electric van for driving round London (decades later, the Government is now encouraging us to follow suit). 'It was very odd driving around in this entirely silent vehicle which would suddenly stop unannounced,' recalls an aide.

Today, the van has retired to a Sandringham garage while the Duke uses a gas-powered London taxi as his urban runaround. Up on the Sandringham estate, he is trying an experiment underground - Britain's first royal truffle farm.

It may end in failure - like the exploding manure machine which was supposed to produce methane gas for Windsor - but the Duke is always keen to give things a go.

The Duke can be tough taskmaster, although his aides say that he is more forgiving than he once was. But he commands great loyalty among his staff. His former private secretary, Sir Brian McGrath, retired but then came back to help run the Duke's sporting and charitable interests. The Duke's librarian, Dame Anne Griffiths, has been working for him since before the Coronation.

He is a unique national institution. Here is the only public figure in Britain who saw active service in World War II (he was mentioned in despatches at the 1941 Battle of Matapan) who is active in public life today. He has clocked up more air miles and met more world leaders than any serving politician (not only on his travels with the Queen but in his 35 years as an active president of the World Wide Fund for Nature). And, today, he is a royal record-breaker.

So how will he be feeling this morning? If anyone puts this question to him (it is unlikely), his response will probably match his glorious remark at the end of a long trip to Canada. 'How was your flight?' asked an official. 'Have you flown in a plane?' the Duke replied. 'Yes? Well, it was just like that.'
Last edited by Blackleaf; Apr 20th, 2009 at 10:43 AM..
One thing about Philip- he doesn't take any crap. Years ago when reporters and cameramen were getting a little too close for comfort, he grabbed a sprinkler that happened to be nearby and gave them all a good soaking.
lone wolf
Apparently he's a matter-of-fact sort of guy:

Last edited by lone wolf; Apr 20th, 2009 at 12:30 PM..
L Gilbert
lol I like the bit about the sprinkler. It is much better than punching a camera or cameraman like Sean Penn did. Relatively harmless and does the job and raises a chuckle all at the same time.

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