Prince Philip: Celebrating Ninety Years

Oil painting of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh by David Poole, 1986
Release date: 
Saturday, 1 January 2011

The Drawings Gallery, Windsor Castle
12 February 2011 - 22 January 2012

His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh celebrates his 90th birthday on 10 June 2011. To mark this occasion, a special exhibition will be shown in the Drawings Gallery at Windsor Castle, home to The Duke of Edinburgh, as Consort of Her Majesty The Queen, for nearly 60 years.  Photographs, memorabilia, paintings and gifts have been selected from the Royal Collection and the Royal Archives, with around a third of the exhibits from The Duke’s own collection. They tell the story of His Royal Highness’s childhood and naval career, his marriage and family life, his work in support of The Queen as Patron or President through some 800 organisations, and his wide-ranging interests and achievements.Prince Philip was born on 10 June 1921 on the Mediterranean island of Corfu.  A great-great-grandson of Queen Victoria, and a Prince of Greece and Denmark, he was the youngest of five children and the only son of Prince and Princess Andrew of Greece.  In 1922 a military coup resulted in the abdication of his uncle, King Constantine I.  Prince Philip’s father was accused of treason, and the family was forced into exile.  When the British cruiser HMS Calypsoconveyed them from Corfu to Italy, the Prince was only 18 months old.  He spent his early years in France and then attended Cheam Preparatory school in England from 1930, Salem School in Germany in 1933, moving to Gordonstoun in Scotland in 1934. The exhibition includes a number of family photographs illustrating Prince Philip’s early life.

The Prince was 18 when in 1939 he joined the Royal Naval College Dartmouth to undertake an officers’ training course. He went on to win the Eardley-Howard-Crockett prize as best cadet, and the King’s Dirk as the best all-round cadet of his term.  As a young naval officer, Prince Philip had an active and distinguished war. He spent 1940 in the battleship HMS Ramillies in the Indian Ocean and in 1941 joined the battleship HMS Valiant, which took part in the Battle of Matapan off the coast of Greece.  The Prince was mentioned in Despatches for his role operating the searchlight during the Night Action. The exhibition includes his account of the battle written in his Midshipman’s Log.

A striking photograph taken by the South East Asian Command Photo Unit in 1944 shows the 23-year-old Prince Philip as First Lieutenant of the new fleet destroyer HMS Whelp. The ship joined the British Pacific Fleet in the Indian Ocean and was present in Tokyo Bay when the Japanese signed the surrender on 2 September 1945. Prince Philip continued to serve in Whelp until the destroyer returned home in January 1946.

In February 1947 Prince Philip became a naturalised British subject, renouncing his royal title and taking the name Philip Mountbatten.  Five months later, on 10 July 1947, the engagement was announced of Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten and the 21-year-old Princess Elizabeth, elder daughter of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.  Shortly before their marriage on 20 November 1947, King George VI named his future
son-in-law Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich with the style of His Royal Highness, and appointed him to the Order of the Garter. The Duke of Edinburgh initially continued with his duties in the Royal Navy, including the command of HMS Magpie in 1950.

On the King’s death in 1952, Princess Elizabeth acceded to the throne as Queen Elizabeth II. Since then, The Duke of Edinburgh has undertaken countless public duties, supporting The Queen on all her Commonwealth tours and State Visits abroad.  He has also made over 620 solo visits to 143 countries, undertaking two world tours (1956-7 and 1959) and becoming the first member of the Royal Family to cross the Antarctic Circle (1 January 1957). The exhibition includes a linocut certificate made by The Duke and the artist Edward Seago to commemorate the event.  The extent of Prince Philip’s travels is reflected in the gifts he has received, such as a Native American headdress sent as a Coronation gift and a grasshopper-shaped wine-cooler presented by President Pompidou of France in 1972.

In 1956, Prince Philip founded The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme to promote the personal development of young people.  Since then the Award has attracted over six million participants in more than 125 countries.  In 1986 Prince Edward, The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh’s youngest son, received the Gold Award from his father.  Prince Edward’s record book, pin and certificate have been lent to the exhibition by Prince Edward,
Earl of Wessex.

Prince Philip is known for his interest in wildlife and support of wildlife organisations. He was the first President of the World Wildlife Fund - UK (WWF) from its formation in 1961 until 1982, and International President of WWF (later the World Wide Fund for Nature) from 1981 to 1996.  He is now President Emeritus of WWF. Some of His Royal Highness’s own wildlife photographs are included in the exhibition.

The Duke of Edinburgh has a particular interest in Science and Technology, and is an energetic and committed patron of the organisations he supports.  In 1976, as President of the Council of Engineering Institutions, he initiated the Fellowship of Engineering, now the Royal Academy of Engineering, which promotes engineering excellence and education.  In 2000 His Royal Highness was presented with a special gold President’s Medal, in recognition of his contribution to engineering.

Sport has played a prominent part in The Duke’s life over the years.  He has been a keen sailor, cricketer and polo player, but is perhaps best known for his association with other equestrian sports. From 1964 to 1986 he was President of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) and took a leading part in the planning of the equestrian events at the Olympic Games from 1968 to 1988.  Since 1973 he has been an active participant in carriage-driving events, representing Great Britain on a number of occasions. Prince Philip’s sporting interests are represented in the exhibition through awards and photographs.

The Duke of Edinburgh has had a life-long interest in art and design, both as a patron and collector, and as an artist himself.  His atmospheric oil painting of Duart Castle from the Sound of Mull in the Western Isles is included in the exhibition. The display concludes with a striking oil painting of His Royal Highness by George Weymouth.  It shows Prince Philip holding a roll of plans in the shell of St George’s Hall at Windsor Castle following the fire of 1992 and represents His Royal Highness’s close involvement in the award-winning restoration of the castle. ENDS

Additional information on Duke of Edinburgh

Prince Philip: Celebrating Ninety Years will be part of a visit to Windsor Castle from 12 February 2011.

Visitor information: or +44 (0)20 7766 7304.

For further information and photographs, please contact the Royal Collection Press Office, +44 (0)20 7839 1377,  A selection of images is also available from the Royal Collection’s folder in the ‘Companies Available’ section on PA’s Picselect at

Admission to Windsor Castle is managed by the Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity in England and Wales (1016972) and in Scotland (SCO39772).