The real reason why Prince Philip was never made King

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As the royal family and the world mourns the death of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, aged 99, we take a look at one of the most common questions people asked.

Why was Prince Philip never King of England?

Royal protocol dictates that when a male marries into the royal family, he can’t take his wife’s title in the male form.

This means that wives of British kings become known as ‘queen consorts’ but husbands of ruling queens are given the title of ‘prince consort.’ However, Prince Philip never took the official title of prince consort either, despite it being offered.

Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh attends the wedding of Princess Eugenie of York to Jack Brooksbank at St. George's Chapel on October 12, 2018 in Windsor, England.
Prince Philip, pictured at Princess Eugenie's 2018 wedding, never became King, despite being married to Queen Elizabeth II. Photo: Getty Images.

What title did Philip get when he married the Queen?

The day before Philip married Princess Elizabeth (who was not yet Queen) in 1947, he was given the title Royal Highness by Elizabeth’s father George VI. This means he was referred to as ‘Your Royal Highness’ by others but was not a Prince.

On the morning of the couple’s wedding, he was also made Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth, and Baron Greenwich of Greenwich in the County of London.

When did Prince Philip become a Prince?

Philip was born Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, to Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, and Princess Alice of Battenberg. However, in order to marry Elizabeth, he had to renounce his claim to the Greek and Danish thrones and become a British subject. 

He relinquished his title of Prince Philip and became known as Philip Mountbatten, which was the surname of his maternal grandparents. In February 1957, five years after Elizabeth became Queen, she granted her husband the title of Prince, so he became known as His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

1965: Queen Elizabeth II and The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh with their children (right to left); Charles Prince of Wales, Prince Andrew, Prince Edward and Princess Anne celebrating the Queen's 39th birthday at Windsor.
The father-of-four was said to be upset that his children were not allowed to take his last name. Photo: Getty Images.

Did Prince Philip mind that he wasn’t King?

He never publicly commented on not having the title of King, but it was widely reported that he was unhappy he couldn’t give his four children — Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward — his surname, Mountbatten.

Because Elizabeth was heir to the throne when she married Philip, the question of their family name was not straightforward. Philip wanted the family to work under the name of the House of Mountbatten. However, Elizabeth’s grandmother Queen Mary took issue with this, as it would have meant the name Windsor was lost from the royal family.

Queen Mary informed then Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who decreed the royals were to remain as the House of Windsor. Philip was reportedly extremely unhappy about his, saying: “I am nothing but a bloody amoeba. I am the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his own children.”

In 1960, when Prince Charles was 12, the Queen declared that the surname of their male-descendants, who did not have ‘prince’ titles, would be Mountbatten-Windsor. Today, Prince Harry’s son Archie, has this name.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh attend the wedding of Princess Eugenie of York and Jack Brooksbank at St George's Chapel on October 12, 2018 in Windsor, England.
The Duke walks behind his wife, Queen Elizabeth II, into St George's Chapel for their granddaughter Eugenie's wedding on October 12, 2018. Photo: Getty Images.

Was Philip the King in all but name?

Yes. As heir to the throne, Prince Charles should have had precedence over his father when he was alive. However, the Queen made it clear that Philip ranked as King in her mind by announcing that Philip would have “place, pre-eminence and precedence" next to her "on all occasions and in all meetings, except where otherwise provided by Act of Parliament,” essentially overriding Prince Charles in status.

Did Prince Philip have any other titles?

He was a Knight of the Garter and also became a member of the House of Lords in 1948, although stopped this in 1999. After starting his naval career in 1939 as a cadet, Philip was promoted to Commander in 1952 and also made Lord High Admiral — the head of the navy — on his 90th birthday. 

What was Prince Philip’s job as the Queen’s consort?

At the Queen’s coronation in 1953, Philip was the first to swear allegiance to her, saying he would be her “liege man of life and limb.” 

During his time as her consort, he completed 22,219 solo engagements before retiring in August 2017. Prince William has spoken about the support his grandfather gave to the Queen throughout her reign, saying he “totally put his personal career aside to support her, and he never takes the limelight, never oversteps the mark…always on her side, and he’s an unwavering companion.”

2nd June 1953:  The Duke of Edinburgh pays homage to his wife, the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth II, during her coronation ceremony.  (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)
Prince Philip kneels to pay homage to his wife, the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth II, during her coronation ceremony in 1953. Photo: Getty Images.

However, when the Queen first started her reign, Philip reportedly found it hard to adjust to his role as consort. He had to give up his promising career in the navy in order to serve his Queen — and wife. It’s believed this frustration with his place in the royal hierarchy, led to the Queen giving Prince Philip carte blanche to decide on their children’s education.

This resulted in him sending Prince Charles to the same school he had attended, the notorious private boarding school Gordonstoun, which Charles reportedly hated. “The Queen deferred to the duke in the matter of their children’s education as Prince Philip’s early years as Consort were not easy, especially for someone with his dynamic personality,” said royal expert Richard Fitzwilliams.

The Queen And Prince Philip At The Festival Hall In London For 'the Royal Gala' To Celebrate Their Golden Wedding Anniversary. The Queen Chose A Gold Dress For The Occasion
The Queen called Philip her 'strength' on their golden wedding anniversary in 1997. Photo: Getty Images.

How did the Queen feel about the support of her consort, Prince Philip?

Prince Philip and the Queen were married longer than any other royals in history, and Prince Philip was also the longest-serving royal-consort in history. The Queen credited her husband with always being by her side.

“He has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years,” she said in 1997 in their golden wedding speech. “I, and his whole family, and this and many other countries, owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim or we shall ever know.”

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