Around the age of seven, Prince Philip was sent away by his family to live in London, and he "had a bit of a racketty childhood."
On April 9, at the age of 99, Prince Philip died as the longest-serving royal consort in British history who stood beside Queen Elizabeth II for more than seven decades of married life as well as the trials and turbulences that came with royal life.
He will be laid to rest on the grounds of Windsor Castle on April 17, according to BBC, and people across the world will easily remember the grand moments he was part of while alive. But what people might not know about is the dark childhood that Prince Philip came from, and how his early days were a stark contrast to the opulence he later enjoyed as the Duke of Edinburgh.
"It was a difficult childhood and I think that's really where Philip became a survivor. It was quite a tragic childhood for someone in his position," 9Honey’s royal columnist, Victoria Arbiter, said on The Windsors podcast. "You would think 'Oh, he's a born Royal, he must have had an easy life, it must have been a great early start.' But it really wasn't, it was a very difficult life."
On June 10, 1921, Prince Philip was born as Prince Philippos of Greece and Denmark, and he was sixth in line to the Greek throne. But while he was just a toddler, the country was in the middle of a military uprising against his uncle, King Constantine I, and he had to flee the country with his family not long after his first birthday, according to PEOPLE.
During the escape from Greece, his family put 18-month-old Prince Philip inside an orange cart and smuggled him into an island named Corfu. Also with him as they fled from Greece were his parents and his four older sisters.
"[The question was] whether it will get there in time, or will our throats be cut?" said the prince's cousin, Lady Pamela Hicks, while speaking in a podcast in April 2020.
After a few years in Paris, Prince Philip was around seven when he was sent to live with his maternal grandmother, Victoria Mountbatten, and was passed around between different hands and different boarding schools over the years.
"He was raised by the Mountbatten family and passed from pillar-to-post a little bit, he had a bit of a racketty childhood," Juliet Rieden, author of The Royals in Australia said in The Windsors podcast, as quoted by 9Honey.
"Philip really grew up in and out of boarding schools. He didn't have a warm family life—his father was largely estranged, it was his uncle Louis Mountbatten who raised him," Victoria also added during the podcast.
It was when Prince Philip attended the Gordonstoun School in Scotland that he really came to his own as he excelled in both academics and sports. Although he once crossed paths with Queen Elizabeth II in 1934 while attending a royal family wedding, the two only properly met when they were teenagers. She was 13 and he was 18 then, and over the years, as they started spending time together, there was concern about how different both their backgrounds were, according to NBC News. But the two couldn't have looked happier when they finally got married in 1947.
In a letter the Queen wrote to her parents after their wedding, she said, "We behave as though we had belonged to each other for years. Philip is an angel—he is so kind and thoughtful."
Prince Philip also wrote to his mother-in-law after their wedding and said, "My ambition is to weld the two of us into a new combined existence that will not only be able to withstand the shocks directed at us but will also have a positive existence for the good." And in many ways, that is what onlookers believe he did as the Duke of Edinburgh.
"A huge invisible part of Prince Philip’s work and legacy is the support he gave the queen, which has been invaluable to her," said Sarah Gristwood, a historian and the author of Elizabeth: The Queen and the Crown. "The fact her monarchy has been so long and successful is in large part to his work behind the scenes."
Cover image source: Getty Images | Photos by (L) Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive and (R) Oli Scarff