LONDON (AP) – Born into an age of revolutions in the wake of a pandemic, Prince Philip lived through a tumultuous century and worked to make the British monarchy a rock of stability in changing times.
He bore witness to – and participated in – many of the century’s upheavals: World War II, the dismantling of the British Empire, and the rise and fall of nations during and after the Cold War. He helped anchor the monarchy with his wife, Queen Elizabeth II. However, He died last week at 99, with the United Kingdom still unsettled by its exit from the European Union and in a world of growing nationalism and extremes. “His life started in a moment of crisis, ended in a moment of crisis, and, of course, saw a great deal of crisis throughout that long life,” said Margaret MacMillan, professor emeritus of international history at Oxford University.
Philip was born in Corfu as a prince of Greece and Denmark. When he was a toddler, his family had to flee Greece after a coup. Monarchies across Europe were being toppled as societies faced upheaval in the aftermath of World War I and the deadly influenza pandemic that followed. His grandfather, King George of Greece, had been assassinated eight years before Philip’s birth. His royal Romanov relatives in Russia were slain after the czar’s abdication and the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. “It was a time when a lot of what had seemed like very stable institutions and countries were simply disappearing,” MacMillan said. “There was a lot of fear that what had happened in Russia was going to spread around the world.”
Historian Ed Owens said Philip’s early years “are key to informing how he sees monarchy for the rest of his life.”
He said Philip saw monarchy “as something that isn’t necessarily permanent, that must be kept popular.”