The Duke of Edinburgh: A life of incident and service

Laura Elston, PA Court Reporter
·14-min read

Here is a timeline of the Duke of Edinburgh’s life:

June 10 1921 – Prince Philippos of Greece and Denmark is born to Prince Andrew of Greece and Princess Alice of Battenberg in the family home, Mon Repos, on Corfu. He is the youngest of five children.

December 1922 – Eighteen-month-old Prince Philip, travelling in a makeshift cot made from an orange box, is evacuated from Greece on a Royal Navy ship after King Constantine I is forced to abdicate.

1923 – The family settles in the outskirts of Paris. But Princess Alice begins to suffer mental health problems and her religious beliefs become more eccentric.

King Michael Of Romania, right, rides with his cousin Prince Philip of Greece on the sands at Constanza
King Michael of Romania, right, rides with his cousin Prince Philip of Greece on the sands at Constanza (PA)

1928 – Eight-year-old Philip travels to England to live with his grandmother and his uncle.

1930 – Philip’s mother, Princess Alice, is diagnosed with schizophrenia and committed to a sanatorium in Switzerland for two years. His father, Prince Andrew, heads to the French Riviera. Philip is sent to Cheam Preparatory School in the UK.

Prince Philip’s ancestry
(PA Graphics)

1933 – At the age of 12 he spends two terms at Salem School in south Germany, run by Kurt Hahn, who inspired Philip to set up The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.

1934 – Philip starts at Gordonstoun School in Morayshire, where he thrived and became head boy and captain of hockey and cricket.

A rare picture of Prince Philip of Greece at the public school of Gordonstoun, Elgin, Scotland
A rare picture of Prince Philip of Greece at the public school of Gordonstoun, Elgin, Scotland (PA)

November 1934 – Prince Philip and Princess Elizabeth both attend the wedding of Philip’s cousin, Princess Marina, to Elizabeth’s uncle, George, Duke of Kent, at Westminster Abbey.

1936 – George V dies and is succeeded by his son, Edward VIII, who abdicates 11 months later, in December 1936, because of his love for American divorcee Wallis Simpson.

May 1937 – Princess Elizabeth watches the coronation of her father, George VI. Philip is among the congregation.

November 1937 – Philip attends the funeral in Germany of his sister, Cecilie, who was killed in a plane crash at the age of 26.

May 1939 – In the run-up to the start of the Second World War, Philip finishes at Gordonstoun and begins his naval career at the Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, where he wins two prizes for being the best cadet.

Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, fifth from left, front row, with Course No 17 at the Royal Naval Petty Officers School, Kingsmoor, Corsham, Wiltshire, in 1947
Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, fifth from left, front row, with Course No 17 at the Royal Naval Petty Officers School, Kingsmoor, Corsham, Wiltshire (PA)

July 1939 – A young Princess Elizabeth falls in love with Philip when he escorts her and her sister, Princess Margaret, during a tour of the college.

1940 – Philip joins the battleship HMS Ramillies in Colombo as a midshipman and spends six months in the Indian Ocean.

January 1941 – He serves on HMS Valiant in Alexandria and two months later is mentioned in despatches for his actions in the Battle of Matapan after spotting an unexpected enemy vessel with the search lights. He is later awarded the Greek War Cross of Valour.

1942 – Philip rises through the ranks and becomes one of the youngest officers in the Royal Navy to be made First Lieutenant and second-in-command of a ship – HMS Wallace.

The Duke of Edinburgh was a serving officer in the Royal Navy
The Duke of Edinburgh was a serving officer in the Royal Navy (PA)

1943 – HMS Wallace is despatched to the Mediterranean and provides cover for the Canadian beachhead of the Allied landings in Sicily.

1943 – Philip stays with the Royal Family a number of times during home leave, and, after a Christmas visit, Princess Elizabeth places a photograph of him on her dressing table.

February 1944 – Philip is appointed First Lieutenant and second-in-command of the new Fleet Destroyer HMS Whelp, which sails to the Indian Ocean to join the British Pacific Fleet.

September 2 1945 – Philip is in Tokyo Bay when the Japanese surrender.

1946 – Philip returns to the UK, spending time at naval training schools. He asks George VI for Princess Elizabeth’s hand in marriage.

February 29 1947 – Philip renounces his rights to the Greek throne and becomes a British subject – Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten.

Princess Elizabeth and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten
The engagement of Princess Elizabeth to Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten is announced at Buckingham Palace (PA)

July 9 1947 – The engagement of Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten to Princess Elizabeth is announced.

November 20 1947 – Philip marries Princess Elizabeth at Westminster Abbey. He is made the Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich shortly before his wedding.

October 1948 – The duke attends the Royal Naval Staff College at Greenwich.

November 14 1948 – The duke becomes a father when Princess Elizabeth gives birth to their first child – a son and future king, Prince Charles.

Prince Charles sleeps in the arms of his mother, Princess Elizabeth, after his christening at Buckingham Palace. Looking on are, left, King George VI, the Duke of Edinburgh, and Queen Elizabeth
Prince Charles sleeps in the arms of his mother, Princess Elizabeth, after his christening at Buckingham Palace – looking on are King George VI, the Duke of Edinburgh and Queen Elizabeth (PA)

1949 – Philip is appointed First Lieutenant and second-in-command of HMS Chequers, operating from Malta with the Mediterranean fleet.

1950 – He is promoted to Lieutenant-Commander and then appointed in command of the frigate HMS Magpie in Malta.

October 21 1950 – Philip and Elizabeth’s second child, Princess Anne, is born.

Princess Anne in the arms of Princess Elizabeth, with the Duke of Edinburgh, holding Prince Charles, in the grounds of Clarence House, their London residence
Princess Elizabeth holds Princess Anne, with the Duke of Edinburgh holding Prince Charles, in the grounds of Clarence House, their London residence (PA)

1951 – The duke and Princess Elizabeth return home from Malta to Clarence House. Philip leaves the Navy prematurely because of the deteriorating health of King George VI and Princess Elizabeth is required to take on more royal responsibilities.

1951 – Princess Elizabeth and Philip make their first major tour together to Canada and the United States in October and November 1951, after which the duke is made a Privy Counsellor.

February 6, 1952 – George VI dies and Elizabeth becomes Queen while in Kenya on a Commonwealth tour.

Queen Elizabeth II wearing the Imperial State Crown and the Duke of Edinburgh in uniform of Admiral of the Fleet wave from the balcony to the onlooking crowds around the gates of Buckingham Palace after the Coronation
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh wave from the balcony to the onlooking crowds around the gates of Buckingham Palace after the Coronation (PA)

June 2, 1953 – The Queen’s Coronation at Westminster Abbey. The Duke of Edinburgh swears to be his wife’s “liege man of life and limb” and is the first layman to pay tender homage to the newly crowned monarch.

1956 – Philip launches The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, inspired by his time at Gordonstoun. He tours the Commonwealth on the Royal Yacht Britannia, without the Queen.

February 1957 – The Queen gives the duke the style and title of a Prince of the United Kingdom.

With one hand for his father, the Duke of Edinburgh, and the other for big sister Princess Anne, laughing Prince Andrew sits up in his pram in the grounds of Balmoral
With one hand for his father, the Duke of Edinburgh, and the other for big sister Princess Anne, laughing Prince Andrew sits up in his pram in the grounds of Balmoral (PA)

February 1960 – Prince Andrew is born.

1961 – The duke becomes the first president of the World Wildlife Fund-UK, becoming its international president in 1981. But his shooting of a tiger while in India sparks criticism.

1964 – Prince Edward is born.

1971 – The duke gives up polo, but goes on to take up carriage driving.

The Duke of Edinburgh driving his carriage at Cirencester Park during the Gieves Carriage Driving Championship in which he was competing
The Duke of Edinburgh driving his carriage at Cirencester Park (PA)

1977 – The Queen’s Silver Jubilee, marking 25 years on the throne.

1981 – The Prince of Wales marries Lady Diana Spencer.

1982 – Prince William – a future king – is born and Prince Andrew comes back safely from the Falklands War.

The royal family gather for Prince William’s Christening - the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen, the Princess of Wales and the Queen Mother
The Prince of Wales, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen, the Princess of Wales and the Queen Mother gather for Prince William’s christening (PA)

1984 – Prince Harry is born.

1986 – The duke makes a remark about “slitty eyes” on a state visit to China. The Queen celebrates her 60th birthday.

1986 – The Duke of York marries Sarah Ferguson.

1992 – The Queen’s “annus horribilis” – the Princess Royal and Captain Phillips divorce, the Prince and Princess of Wales and the Duke and Duchess of York separate, and Windsor Castle is hit by a fire.

1993 – The Queen starts to pay income tax to the Government.

1996 – Charles and Diana, and the Duke and Duchess of York divorce.

The Prince of Wales, Prince William, Prince Harry, Earl Althorp and Duke of Edinburgh walk behind Diana, the Princess of Wales’ funeral cortege
The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince William, Earl Althorp, Prince Harry and the Prince of Wales walk behind Diana, the Princess of Wales’ funeral cortege (Adam Butler/PA)

August 31 1997 – Diana, Princess of Wales, dies in a car crash in Paris.

November 20 1997 – The Queen and the duke celebrate their golden wedding anniversary.

April 1999 – A busy and demanding schedule takes its toll when, while accompanying the Queen on a state visit to South Korea, Philip falls asleep at a banquet.

2000 – A new millennium and the Queen Mother’s 100th year.

2002 – The Queen’s Golden Jubilee – 50 years on the throne. The Queen’s younger sister, Princess Margaret, and her mother, the Queen Mother, die.

The Duke of Edinburgh
Philip was known for making gaffes (David Jones/PA)

2002 – During a tour of Australia, Philip asks an Aborigine if they still throw spears at each other.

2005 – The Prince of Wales marries Camilla Parker Bowles.

2007 – The Queen and Philip celebrate their diamond wedding anniversary

April 2008 – The duke is admitted to hospital with a chest infection which forces him to cancel a number of engagements. He spends three nights in the private King Edward VII’s Hospital.

The Queen visits Thames Valley University
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh in 2009 (David Parker/PA)

2009 – The duke becomes the longest-serving royal consort in British history, overtaking Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III.

2010 – Buckingham Palace announces that Philip will step down as patron or president of more than a dozen organisations when he turns 90.

December 2010 – The duke becomes a great-grandfather for the first time with the arrival of Peter and Autumn Phillips’ daughter Savannah.

April 2011 – Prince William marries Kate Middleton at Westminster Abbey. The Queen visits Ireland.

The Duke of Edinburgh receives a pair of ear defenders given to him as a birthday present from Jackie Ballard, chief executive of Action on Hearing Loss charity during a reception for the charity at Buckingham Palace in central London
The duke receives a pair of ear defenders given to him as a birthday present by Jackie Ballard, chief executive of the Action on Hearing Loss charity, at Buckingham Palace (John Stillwell/PA)

June 2011 – The duke celebrates his 90th birthday. The Queen gives him a new title – Lord High Admiral, titular head of the Royal Navy.

Christmas 2011 – The duke is rushed to hospital by helicopter after suffering chest pains. He spends four nights in hospital including Christmas Day and is treated for a blocked coronary artery at Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire.

2012 – The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. The duke is forced to miss most of the celebrations when he falls ill with a bladder infection.

August 2012 – Philip is treated for a bladder infection once again and spends five nights in hospital in Aberdeen, missing the opening of the Paralympic Games.

June 2013 – Two days after the service to mark the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation, he is admitted to hospital for an operation on his abdomen and spends two months recuperating.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh return to Buckingham Palace by carriage following the Trooping the Colour ceremony at Horse Guards Parade
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh return to Buckingham Palace by carriage following the Trooping the Colour ceremony (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

July 2013 – The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s son, Prince George, is born – third in line to the throne, a future king and the duke’s great-grandson.

May 2015 – Princess Charlotte of Cambridge is born.

September 2015 – The Queen becomes the longest-reigning monarch in British history.

April 2016 – The Queen celebrates her 90th birthday.

June 2016 – Philip turns 95 – his birthday coincides with a weekend of festivities for the Queen’s official 90th birthday.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at St Peter and St Paul West Newton in Norfolk, as the Queen approached her Sapphire Jubilee
The Queen and Philip at St Peter and St Paul West Newton in Norfolk, as the Queen approached her Sapphire Jubilee (Gareth Fuller/PA)

October 2016 – The Queen becomes the longest-reigning still serving monarch in the world after the death of the Thai king.

February 2017 – The Queen reaches her Sapphire Jubilee – 65 years on the throne.

May 4 2017 – Buckingham Palace announces that Philip is to step down from public duties in a few months’ time.

June 20 2017 – The duke spends a short spell in hospital for treatment of an infection arising from a pre-existing condition, and later misses the State Opening of Parliament.

August 2 2017 – Philip carries out his final official public duty, meeting Royal Marines who completed in the 1664 Global Challenge, at Buckingham Palace.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh observing from a balcony during the annual Remembrance Sunday Service at the Cenotaph memorial in Whitehall, central London, in 2017
The Queen and the duke observing from a balcony during the annual Remembrance Sunday Service at the Cenotaph memorial in Whitehall in 2017 (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

November 2017 – The duke joins the Queen on a balcony at the Cenotaph as she breaks with tradition and watches the Remembrance Day service for the first time, rather than laying a wreath.

November 20 2017 – The Queen and Philip celebrate their platinum wedding anniversary with a party for family and friends at Windsor Castle.

April 2018 – Philip has a hip replacement operation. Prince Louis of Cambridge born.

May 2018 – The duke joins the royals to see Prince Harry and Meghan Markle wed and become the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

June 2018 – Philip celebrates his 97th birthday.

The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge leave after the wedding of Princess Eugenie of York and Jack Brooksbank in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle
The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge after the wedding of Princess Eugenie of York and Jack Brooksbank in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle (Alastair Grant/PA)

October 2018 – The duke attends Princess Eugenie’s wedding.

November 2018 – The Queen and Philip’s eldest son Charles celebrates his 70th birthday with a private party at the palace.

January 2019 – The duke is left shocked and shaken but unhurt after a serious car crash. The Land Rover Freelander he is driving is hit by another car and flips over as he pulls out of the Sandringham estate on to a busy A-road.

February 2019 – Philip decides to voluntarily surrender his driving licence and five days later the Crown Prosecution Service announce he will face no further action.

May 2019 – The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s son Archie Mountbatten-Windsor is born.

The Duke of Edinburgh at Windsor Castle during a ceremony for the transfer of the Colonel-in-Chief of the Rifles from the duke to the Duchess of Cornwall
The Duke of Edinburgh at Windsor Castle during a ceremony for the transfer of the role of Colonel-in-Chief of the Rifles from the duke to the Duchess of Cornwall (Adrian Dennis/PA)

June 2019 – Philip turns 98.

November 2019 – The Duke of York steps down from public duties following his Newsnight interview about his association with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. The same day, Philip and the Queen reach their 72nd wedding anniversary.

December 2019 – Philip has a short stay at the King Edward VII Hospital in central London for treatment relating to a “pre-existing condition”.

January 2020 – Harry and Meghan announce they are stepping back as senior royals, but carrying on with royal duties and earning their own money. The Queen holds a Sandringham summit, and it is decided the couple will drop their HRH styles and quit royal life completely, and live mostly overseas.

February 2020 – The Queen and Philip’s eldest grandson Peter Phillips confirms he and wife Autumn are to divorce.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh in the quadrangle of Windsor Castle
The Queen and Philip in the quadrangle of Windsor Castle (Steve Parsons/PA)

March 2020 – Philip travels from Sandringham to Windsor Castle to stay with the Queen ahead of the nation going into lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic. Harry and Meghan officially quit the monarchy.

April 2020 – In his first major statement since his retirement, Philip praises key workers including refuse and postal staff who have been keeping essential services running.

June 2020 – Philip turns 99 and is photographed with the Queen to celebrate the occasion.

July 2020 – The duke carries out a rare official public engagement at Windsor as he hands over his role as Colonel-in-Chief of The Rifles. He attends his granddaughter Princess Beatrice’s secret lockdown wedding.

August 2020 – Restrictions allow the Queen and Philip to travel to Balmoral for their annual summer break.

The Duke of Edinburgh at Windsor Castle
The Duke of Edinburgh at Windsor Castle (Adrian Dennis/PA)

November 2020 – The duke returns to Windsor with the Queen after a break in Sandringham, ready for England’s second lockdown.

December 2020 – The Queen and Philip spend Christmas alone at Windsor, away from their family but with their staff support bubble.

January 2021 – The Queen and the duke have their first Covid-19 vaccines.

February 2021 – Philip is admitted to hospital for a precautionary stay after feeling unwell.

March 2021 – The duke has heart surgery and returns to Windsor after a month in hospital. Harry and Meghan accuse the royal family of racism in a televised interview with Oprah Winfrey.

April 2021 – Buckingham Palace announced with “deep sorrow” the Duke had died.