April 9, 2021

Prince Philip Dies, Aged 99: 9 Memorable Things about a Controversial Figure.

“Just got a BBC notification that Prince Philip died.”

When we hear the news of the death of an iconic person—someone we don’t actually know but feel like we do—we have a distinctive reaction.

If it’s someone we admire, revere, even idolize, we may feel grief akin to losing an important person in our lives. Especially if their death is untimely, the loss can leave a permanent hole in our hearts and in our consciousness. But when it’s someone who was long-lived, controversial, even divisive, our reaction might be a little more complex.

That’s what I’m finding after hearing the news of The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip’s death at the age of 99.

Several of my family members have a fascination with the royal family, as is common for many of us…commoners. I say that with my tongue firmly in my cheek.

I’ve never been as enamored with the royal family, being a socialist at heart who is simultaneously mortified by her own colonialist past. Foibles of the monarchy and the “old guard” aside, let’s look at Prince Philip merely as a human being with a story, like all of us. Behind the pomp and ceremony, and even bald-faced white supremacy of the institution he stood for, there remain poignant and relatable things to note about his life.

Here are 9 memorable things I just learned about Prince Philip.

1. He was a refugee.
Born in Corfu, Prince Philip and his family were forced to flee after a military coup.

2. He suffered early relationship trauma.
When he was eight, his mother was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and sent to an asylum.

3. He was a writer.
After joining the royal navy, he was asked to escort a young Princess Elizabeth during a royal visit. Six weeks later, he was sent to war, but he kept in touch with Elizabeth by writing letters. He obviously had a way with words because, after the war ended, the couple married.

4. He gave up his career to support his partner.
In 1952, not long after they had their children, King George VI died. With that, Elizabeth became Queen, and Philip her consort. After the coronation, Prince Philip made the difficult decision to give up his career in the navy.

5. He was a humanitarian.
After giving up his navy career, he carved out a new role for himself, traveling the world and promoting a variety of causes. The Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme was one of his most notable achievements.

6. He was a trustworthy confidante.
According to them, out of the public eye, Prince Philip was also someone his four children could turn to. “Lots of different members of the family would always find him a good person, a good sounding board. But it was always done very quietly. And he would never talk to anybody else about his conversations.” ~ Princess Anne

7. He was sensitive and supportive in the face of tragedy.
When Princess Diana died, it was Prince Philip who encouraged Prince William to walk behind his mother’s coffin, and he walked alongside him. We can only imagine his reasons for doing so, but it seems to me that this was a powerful gesture on his behalf, perhaps his way of helping his young grandson to integrate the trauma of losing his mother so tragically.

8. He knew more about marriage than most relationship coaches.
 “The main lesson that we have learned is that tolerance is the one essential ingredient of any happy marriage. It might not be quite so important when things are going well, but it is absolutely vital when things get difficult.” ~ Prince Philip

9. He gave us a lot of laughs.
This is one thing I actually already knew, having lived in the U.K. for many years and become familiar with the particularly British way of mocking their sacred cows, which I fell in love with through a show called “Mock the Week,” in particular. In 2017, Prince Philip retired from royal duties, leaving behind a legacy of humor and the occasional gaffe, usually resulting from his straight-talking, politically incorrect style, that I at least have found to be typical of British men of his pre-war generation.

I believe it is important for us to remember that famous people are silly and human, too. And no one is above being mocked in good humor, not even the royal family. It’s okay to laugh at ourselves, and one another, even in the face of death. And it’s okay to celebrate and remember our icons, even the flawed ones.

May he rest in peace and be remembered, most of all, for his humanity.


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