Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, husband of Queen Elizabeth II and patriarch of a turbulent royal family that he sought to ensure would not be Britain’s last, died on Friday at Windsor Castle in England. He was 99.
His death was announced by Buckingham Palace, which said he had died peacefully. No cause of death was immediately given.
Philip had been hospitalized several times in recent years for various ailments, most recently in February, the palace said.
He died just as Buckingham Palace was again in turmoil, this time over Oprah Winfrey’s explosive televised interview with Philip’s grandson Prince Harry and Harry’s biracial wife, Meghan, on March 7. The couple, in self-imposed exile in California, lodged accusations of racism and cruelty against members of the royal family.
As “the first gentleman in the land,” Philip tried to shepherd into the 20th century a monarchy encrusted with the trappings of the 19th. But as pageantry was upstaged by scandal and as regal weddings were followed by sensational divorces, his mission, as he saw it, changed. Now it was to help preserve the crown itself.
Yet preservation — of Britain, of the throne, of centuries of tradition — had always been the mission. When this tall, handsome prince married the young crown princess, Elizabeth, (he at 26, she at 21) on Nov. 20, 1947, a battered Britain was still recovering from World War II. The sun had all but set on its empire, and the abdication of Edward VIII over his love for Wallis Simpson, a divorced American, was still reverberating a decade later.
The wedding held out the promise that the monarchy, like the nation, would survive, and it offered that reassurance in almost fairy-tale fashion, complete with magnificent horse-drawn coaches resplendent in gold and a throng of adoring subjects lining the route between Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey.
More, it was a heartfelt match. Elizabeth told her father, King George VI, that Philip was the only man she could ever love.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain led tributes to Prince Philip on Friday, praising his lifelong support for Queen Elizabeth II and adding that he had “earned the affection of generations here in the United Kingdom, across the Commonwealth and around the world.”
“He was the longest-serving consort in history and one of the last surviving people in this country to have served in the Second World War,” Mr. Johnson said in a statement read in somber tones.
Referring to the prince’s hobby of driving horse-drawn carriages, Mr. Johnson added that “like the expert carriage driver that he was, he helped to steer the royal family and the monarchy so that it remains an institution indisputably vital to the balance and happiness of our national life.”
The leader of the opposition Labour Party, Keir Starmer, echoed those sentiments, saying that Britain had “lost an extraordinary public servant.”
“Prince Philip dedicated his life to our country — from a distinguished career in the Royal Navy during the Second World War to his decades of service as the Duke of Edinburgh,” Mr. Starmer added in a statement. “However, he will be remembered most of all for his extraordinary commitment and devotion to the queen.”
Scotland’s leader, Nicola Sturgeon, said that she was saddened by the news of Philip’s death and that she was sending her deepest condolences to the royal family.
Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, said that he was grateful for the contributions Philip had made to the city, including his charity work, and that his legacy would positively affect the city for many years to come.
Lindsay Hoyle, the House of Commons speaker, also paid tribute, saying, “His was a long life that saw so much dedication to duty.”
Across the Commonwealth, heads of state also offered their condolences. Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia said in a statement that the prince had “embodied a generation that we will never see again.”
Where and when they first met remains unclear. He was invited to dine on the royal yacht when Elizabeth was 13 or 14. He was also invited to stay at Windsor Castle around that time while on leave from the Navy, and there were reports that he visited the royal family at Balmoral, its country estate in Scotland.
After that weekend, Elizabeth told her father, King George VI, that the naval officer was “the only man I could ever love.” Her father at first cautioned her to be patient.
Whisked off on a royal tour to South Africa, Elizabeth was said to have written to Philip three times a week. By the time she returned to England, Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark had renounced his foreign titles and become Lt. Philip Mountbatten, a British subject.
The engagement was announced on July 10, 1947. That year, on the eve of the wedding, Lieutenant Mountbatten was made the Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron of Greenwich, and given the title His Royal Highness.
The prince, 26, married the young crown princess, who was 21, on Nov. 20, 1947, in a ceremony complete with horse-drawn coaches and a throng of adoring subjects lining the route between Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey.
The birth of their first child, Charles Philip Arthur George, on Nov. 14, 1948, at Buckingham Palace, was followed by Princess Anne, in 1950; Prince Andrew, in 1960, after Elizabeth became queen; and Prince Edward, in 1964.
In addition to the queen and their children, he is survived by eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
After his marriage, Prince Philip took command of the frigate Magpie in Malta. But King George VI had lung cancer, and when his condition worsened, it was announced that Philip would take no more naval appointments.
In 1952, the young couple were in Kenya, their first stop on a commonwealth tour, when word arrived on Feb. 6 that the king was dead. Philip broke the news to his wife.
The same year, the new queen ordained that Philip should be “first gentleman in the land,” giving him “a place of pre-eminence and precedence next to Her Majesty.”
Philip occupied a peculiar place on the world stage as the husband of a queen whose powers were largely ceremonial. He was essentially a second-fiddle figurehead, accompanying her on royal visits and sometimes standing in for her.
By royal warrant, the queen gave Philip the title Prince of the United Kingdom, bringing her husband’s name into the royal line.
While at times there were rumors of trouble in the marriage, their children’s marital difficulties overshadowed any discord between the parents.
Philip was born on the Greek island of Corfu on June 10, 1921, the fifth child and only son of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, who was the brother of King Constantine of Greece. His mother was the former Princess Alice, the oldest daughter of the former Prince Louis of Battenberg, the first Marquess of Milford Haven, who changed the family name to Mountbatten during World War I.
Philip’s family was not Greek but rather descended from a royal Danish house that the European powers had put on the throne of Greece at the end of the 19th century. Philip, who never learned the Greek language, was sixth in line to the Greek throne.
Through his mother, Philip was a great-great-grandson of Queen Victoria, just as Elizabeth is Victoria’s great-great-granddaughter. Both were great-great-great-grandchildren of George III, who presided over Britain’s loss of the American colonies.
A year after Philip was born, the army of King Constantine was overwhelmed by the Turks in Asia Minor. Prince Andrew, Philip’s father, who had commanded an army corps in the routed Greek forces, was banished by a revolutionary Greek junta.
In “Prince Philip: The Turbulent Early Life of the Man Who Married Queen Elizabeth II” (2011), the British writer Philip Eade reported that as an infant Philip was smuggled out of Greece in a fruit crate as his father, eluding execution, found refuge for his family in Paris, where they lived in straitened circumstances.
Philip’s father was said to have been an Anglophile. The boy’s first language was English, taught to him by a British nanny. He grew to 6-foot-1, his blue eyes and blond hair reflecting his Nordic ancestry.
When his parents separated, Philip was sent to live with his mother’s mother, the Dowager Marchioness of Milford Haven, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. He spent four years at the Cheam School in England, an institution bent on toughening privileged children, and then went to Gordonstoun School in Scotland, which was even more austere, promoting a regimen of hard work, cold showers and hard beds. In five years, he said, no one from his family came to visit him.
Even so, Philip sent his son Charles to both schools, to have him follow in his footsteps.
At Gordonstoun, Philip developed a love of the sea, learning seamanship and boatbuilding as a volunteer coast guardsman at the school. He seemed destined to follow his Mountbatten uncles into the British Navy.