In 2016, Netflix's most expensive drama The Crown hit the streaming service, pulling back the doors of Buckingham Palace to reveal a stunning glimpse into the world of one of the longest-reigning monarchs in British history.
Bringing to our television sets the ruler's strengths and vulnerabilities, personal relationships and power struggles, this was a depiction of Queen Elizabeth II like we've never seen before. Relive Netflix's royal affair starring Claire Foy and Matt Smith in the trailer below:
After #TheCrown was released, we must admit that our fascination with the British Queen rocketed. Yet, while we may have marvelled at the secret goings on at newly crowned Elizabeth's royal court and her determination to be a exemplary monarch, it was her marriage to Prince Philip — the Duke of Edinburgh — that swiftly became the focus point.
But how much do we really know about the Prince Consort in the early years of his marriage and does The Crown honestly portray what Philip was really like? Read the true story behind the Duke of Edinburgh's royal antics below:
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'The Crown:' The True Story Behind What Prince Philip Was Really Like
A Tumultuous Start To Life
Born on the Greek island of Corfu on June 10, 1921, Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark was the only son (he had four sisters) born to parents Prince Andrew of Greece and Princess Alice of Battenberg. However, despite the fact he was born into royalty, the young boy had a rather unorthodox childhood — during much of his youth, his mother spent most of her time in a psychiatric clinic and his father abroad.
However, it was the Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922) that proved the most volatile to Prince Philip's start in life. When his uncle, King Constantine I of Greece, was forced to abdicate as a result of heavy war losses, his father Prince Andrew was arrested by the new military government and banished from the country for life. Soon after, a British ship came to evacuate him and his family, with little Philip being carried away to safety in a tiny cot made from a fruit box.
Following exile, the family went to France, where they settled in a Parisian suburb and where the young boy attended the MacJannet American School before being sent to England to study at Cheam School. His family's links to the United Kingdom were as follows: His grandfather on his mother's side — Prince Louis of Battenberg — was a naturalised British citizen, who renounced all of his German titles and adopted the surname Mountbatten just before Philip was born.
Naval And Wartime Service
After a brief stint studying in England, Philip was sent to continue his education in Germany, before returning to attend the prestigious Gordonstoun School in Scotland at the end of the '30s. It was here that he learned that his pregnant sister Cecile, her husband and their two sons had tragically died in a plane accident in 1937 — an event that deeply moved the young prince.
However, Philip could not dwell on his grief for too long for he soon-after joined the Royal Navy. Graduating as the best cadet on his course, he went on to serve in the Second World War on various battleships in European waters. It was during the beginning of the war that the young prince first met Elizabeth at the tender young age of 13 — at the time he was 19-years-old, having already distinguished himself at sea and well on his way to being promoted to the rank of lieutenant (which he would later achieve in 1942.)
Marriage To King George VI's Daughter
After exchanging many letters over a few years, by which point a teenage Elizabeth had fallen head over heels in love with Philip, the young man asked King George VI for his daughter's hand in marriage. Following acceptance, he abandoned his Greek and Danish titles for the Mountbatten name, becoming a naturalized British citizen in preparation for his vows. Having been baptized into the Greek Orthodox Church, he also converted to the Church of England in 1947.
In November of the same year, Philip and Elizabeth were married in a ceremony broadcast to 200 million people around the world and he became the Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich:
After their marriage, the couple moved into Clarence House where Elizabeth gave birth to her first two children, Prince Charles in 1948 and Princess Anne in 1950. During these years, Philip returned to the Mediterranean Fleet, promoted to commander in 1952.
'I Am Nothing But A Bloody Amoeba'
In 1952 however, while on a trip to Kenya — as the Netflix series The Crown shows — Princess Elizabeth learned of her father's death. Her husband Philip was the one to break the news to her.
Immediately returning back to England, preparations were put in place to crown the young princess. It was at this point that the question of the royal house's name was brought up — although Elizabeth would conventionally have taken Philip's last name in marriage (Mountbatten), Prime Minister Winston Churchill advised the future Queen to remain aligned to the House of Windsor. Dissatisfied at this dramatic loss of status, Prince Philip allegedly complained:
“I am nothing but a bloody amoeba. I am the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his own children."
At the coronation ceremony, he knelt before his wife and although not crowned, was sworn in to be her "liege man of life and limb:"
The Netflix series puts a lot of emphasis on the disputes between the Queen and her husband over his loss of power and just like in the show, to remedy this, the Queen was determined to include her husband as much as possible in royal affairs.
After her coronation, she argued that Philip was to have "place, pre-eminence and precedence" next to her "on all occasions and in all meetings, except where otherwise provided by Act of Parliament." In his role as Prince Consort, as well as garnering a strong reputation for scandalous remarks, bluntness and plain speaking, the Duke of Edinburgh went on to accompany his wife to ceremonies, state dinners and tours all over the world for over six decades.
In addition to his marital roles, he has since also involved himself in over 800 charitable organizations, most notably perhaps founding the Duke of Edinburgh Award in the mid-'50s to promote youth achievement.
'Tolerance Is The One Essential Ingredient In Any Happy Marriage'
With the second season of The Crown on its way, much speculation have been made about what the second instalment will be focusing on. During a panel discussion at the Royal Television Society, Peter Morgan — the man behind the writing for the first season — confirmed that the show will follow events from 1956 to 1964. During this time period, the Netflix show is rumored to put the private life of Prince Philip under the microscope, revealing scandalous details about his extra-martial affairs and what he was really like.
However, how much truth is there to these allegations of infidelity? From what we've already seen on The Crown, Philip was fond of attending his weekly gentlemen's club in Soho and there are a number of scenes that imply he had a wandering eye. An account written for The Independent in 1996 describes his evenings away from the Palace as follows:
"On an average night of the Thursday Club there would be 10 or 15 members present. There would be Lord Louis Mountbatten, Arthur Koestler, Prince Philip, Cecil Beaton, and little Larry Adler playing his mouth organ in the corner, and maybe one or other of the Kray brothers. There would also be the ladies, whose names I remember as Flo, Loulou, Beryl, Gertie, Simone, Pat, and one or two others. To begin with, I puzzled over their presence there.
'You men are all distinguished people,' I remember saying to Lord Louis Mountbatten. “You are all distinguished in action, or thought, or culture, or in heredity. But these girls...' 'These girls are all great ladies in their own right,' he said. 'The Duchess of Northumberland, the Percy, the Lady Devonshire...'
'These are their titles?' I said, amazed.
'No,' he said. 'They are the pubs they work at.'"
Since the '50s and '60s — the time period largely focused on in the show — there are many persistent reports of Philip's affairs, all of which were always denied by the Palace on grounds of no evidence. However, many biographers have repeatedly pointed to romantic relations with other women, notably a mystery woman who was once seen boarding the royal yacht Britannia on an overseas tour.
In addition to this, during the early years of his marriage, Prince Philip was also accused of conduction extra-martial affairs with Greek cabaret singer Hélène Cordet, several actresses, a renowned female novelist and even the Queen's own cousin, Princess Alexandra. And although none of these relations have ever been proven, they continue to cast a shadow on the reputation of the British Royal Family.
Yet, despite the vicious rumors, salacious scandals and complex politics surrounding Prince Philip and Elizabeth II, they continue to represent one of the most successful marriages ever seen by the House of Windsor/Mountbatten. What's their secret? Well, during a toast to his wife at their Golden Wedding Anniversary, the Duke of Edinburgh himself put it down to the following:
"I think the main lesson we have learnt is that tolerance is the one essential ingredient in any happy marriage... You can take it from me, the Queen has the quality of tolerance in abundance."
Season 2 of The Crown is set to air in November 2017.
Were you already familiar with Prince Philip's royal life, as shown in The Crown?