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Looking back at the long and often turbulent life of Prince Philip

Britain's Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth's husband of 73 years, died Friday at Windsor Castle. The Duke of Edinburgh had been hospitalized nearly a month ago for heart surgery. Mourners defied COVID-19 protocols to gather in front of Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle to lay flowers and offer condolences. In this report by Chris Ship, we take a look at his lengthy and often turbulent life.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    We return to the death today of Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth II's husband and partner.

    Here is a look at the lengthy life and often-turbulent times of the duke of Edinburgh.

    This report is by Chris Ship. He's the royal editor of Independent Television News.

  • Chris Ship:

    He was born Prince Philip of Greece in Denmark in 1921 on the Greek island of Corfu. His mother was Princess Alice of Battenberg, which made Philip a great-great-grandchild of Queen Victoria, just like his future wife.

    But Philip and his family were forced to flee Greece after a coup, and he ended up at Gordonstoun School in Scotland, where the disciplines of sport and achievement were to shape his future, because, from Gordonstoun, he went to the Royal Navy in 1939 as a cadet.

  • Announcer:

    His majesty walking down the ranks of the cadets.

  • Chris Ship:

    He was at the Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth before the war. He'd been asked to entertain the king's daughters during a royal visit. Afterwards, they played croquet in the gardens outside. It was clear a romance had started to blossom in Dartmouth that afternoon.

    Elizabeth might have been taken with Philip, but war was to take him far away. With the Navy, he fought the Italians and then the Japanese. But the young princess exchanged letters with Philip throughout the war years, which allowed them, when peace finally came, to pick up their romance.

  • Announcer:

    It's easy to see the radiant happiness of the princess.

  • Chris Ship:

    And in 1947, they got engaged.

  • Announcer:

    And she and her very good-looking husband to be posed for the cameras in the palace.

  • Chris Ship:

    And the wedding, when it came later that year, was to light up a post-war Britain still mired in bomb damage and rations. He had renounced his Greek title, and the king made him the duke of Edinburgh.

  • Announcer:

    Now the duke of Edinburgh takes a fatherly hand, his technique being no better and no worse than most fathers.

  • Chris Ship:

    Prince Charles was the first of the couple's four children, a future king, and the duke of Edinburgh was promoted to commander. He took charge of his own ship, HMS Magpie, in Malta.

    So, at the beginning of the 1950s, the young couple would lead a life about as close to normal as it ever got.

  • Announcer:

    Here, the royal power look out over the harbor and points of interest in Valletta.

  • Chris Ship:

    He had to abandon the career he loved so much. With the sudden death of his father-in-law, his wife had become queen.

    At her coronation the following year, an event he insisted should be televised for the world to see, the duke took an oath to serve his wife, the queen, for the rest of his life. He knelt before her and swore to be her loyal follower.

  • Prince Philip:

    I, Philip, do become your liege man of life and limb, and of earthly worship, and faith and truth I will bear unto you, to live and die against all manner of folks, so help me God.

  • Chris Ship:

    His wife was head of state, but what would this young man, the queen's consort, do now?

  • Announcer:

    Here is Dr. Kurt Hahn, late the headmaster of Gordonstoun School, where the duke was once a pupil.

  • Chris Ship:

    The answer came in part from the duke's former headmaster, Dr. Kurt Hahn. In 1956, they channeled their shared interest in sport and voluntary service to launch the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme.

  • Announcer:

    These are the boys of Dunstable Grammar School out on fire practice, ably assisted by the local fire brigade.

  • Prince Philip:

    The main purpose of the scheme is to help boys to find activities which will give them pleasure and satisfaction, perhaps for the rest of their lives.

  • Chris Ship:

    A thousand completed their award in its first year. More than two million 14-to 24-year-olds have achieved the award since then.

    Prince Philip and his eldest son did share a passion for the outdoors, but, often, they had a different outlook on life, one a pragmatist, the other a thinker, a difference best articulated by Philip loving everything about Gordonstoun School, but Charles never quite fitting in there.

    At the time of the wedding and latterly the breakup of Charles and Diana's marriage, the duke was enormously supportive of Diana. He was once, like her, the royal outsider. But his focus turned to his grandsons William and Harry when Diana's life was cut short by that car crash in Paris. This was a moment when the duke of Edinburgh had to support his wife at what became a very dangerous time for the monarchy.

    But later that year, when the queen and duke celebrated their golden wedding anniversary, she paid him a personal and rare public tribute.

  • Queen Elizabeth II:

    All too often, I fear Prince Philip has had to listen to me speaking.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Queen Elizabeth II:

    He is somebody who doesn't take easily to compliments, but he has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years.

  • Chris Ship:

    And it was also an anniversary for reflecting on how their long and successful partnership had endured.

  • Prince Philip:

    I think that the main lesson that we have learned is that tolerance is the one essential ingredient of any happy marriage. And you can take it from me that the queen has the quality of tolerance in abundance.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Chris Ship:

    And when he announced his retirement from royal duties, Prince Philip did what he does best. He made a joke. This one was about his own advancing years.

  • Man:

    I'm sorry to hear you're standing down.

  • Prince Philip:

    Well, I can't stand up much longer.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Chris Ship:

    And so it was just a few months later that the duke bid farewell. And, at 96, he completed his final official engagement.

    He did attend Harry and Meghan's wedding, even though he had his hip replaced just weeks before. The duke showed the world that, even at 96, surgery was no reason to miss a big royal occasion.

    If Queen Elizabeth's reign will be judged a success, it will be in no small part because of the man she married. Yes, the duke of Edinburgh could sometimes be a little undiplomatic for the diplomats who surrounded him, but, in his adopted country, Prince Philip became the joint author of the second Elizabethan era.

    She is the longest-serving monarch in British history, but at her side throughout was the longest-serving consort.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    That was Chris Ship of Independent Television News.

    And join us Monday night for a "PBS NewsHour" prime-time special, "Prince Philip: A Royal Life."

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