The Duke of Edinburgh succeeded at being a royal consort because he shared the Queen’s dedication to duty without looking as though he was trying to be king, one royal writer suggested.
Charlie Jacoby described Philip as “one of the great characters of royal history of the last 200 years” and said he would prove to be even more memorable than his predecessor and great-great grandfather, Prince Albert.
Queen Victoria’s husband, Albert, who died at the age of 42 in 1861, was the last male consort before the duke – but held the title Prince Consort, which Philip was never awarded.
“Maybe it was something he felt he didn’t want or didn’t want to fight for,” Jacoby told the PA news agency.
“He was not a natural candidate for awards and titles. If he had been a commoner, I could have seen him turning down a knighthood or a peerage.”
Jacoby added: “Perhaps the most overriding thing about the duke was that he was committed to something – his duty.
“Duty is at the forefront of the Queen’s mind and the duke was the same.
“It has always been the mark of a successful consort – the Queen Mother, George V’s wife, Queen Mary, and Edward VII’s wife, Queen Alexandra.”
“We hear the word ‘rock’ applied to people in royal life and he was a rock.”
Jacoby said: “He did it without overstepping the line and looking like he was trying to be king. It’s a line you have to be very careful about crossing.”
Philip also played a fundamental role seeing to the “business” side of the royal family, even using the name The Firm.
“He turned out to have a royal naval ability to organise things,” Jacoby said. “He was the first person to coin the phrase ‘the Royal Firm’ and talk about ‘living above the shop’. He looked after the business side of it.
“At Sandringham he took the farms and estate in hand and sorted out the management. He designed a special shoot vehicle with cupboards for guns and drinks.
“Everybody said you couldn’t go into a meeting with him unbriefed. He used to stay up late at night looking at figures. He had an accountancy brain.
“He was also very forthright. In the seventies, he said to the government ‘We’re going to go bust. You’ve got to do something’. He led the change when it came to renegotiating the Civil List.”
Jacoby described how the duke was placed in a difficult position when Princess Elizabeth became Queen in 1952 and when he was required to take a back seat to the sovereign.
“It must have been galling. It’s not just that he had his wings clipped, but that he was pinioned by the Palace – but it was his duty.”
The duke famously objected to the decision to keep the name Windsor after the Queen’s accession rather than use his surname Mountbatten, declaring he was the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his children and proclaiming: “I’m just a bloody amoeba.”
But he later won a concession when in 1960 it was announced that the Queen’s descendants, when they needed a surname, would use Mountbatten-Windsor.
Jacoby said Philip, who was “incredibly dashing and fabulous when he first appeared on the scene”, performed a vital task in his role as consort.
“He had an extraordinary ability to make the Queen laugh.
“You could see this when they were together – even on official business. He would be following three steps behind her, cracking jokes.”
He added: “I think he will be seen as one of the great characters of royal history of the last 200 years.
“I think he will probably be more memorable than Prince Albert because of his character.”