“He Thought of Himself As Scandinavian”: Remembering HRH The Duke of Edinburgh

Born in Corfu, HRH THE PRINCE PHILIP, DUKE OF EDINBURGH was the Greek-Danish prince who, as husband to Queen Elizabeth II, dedicated his life to the service of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. A decorated war hero and passionate environmentalist, his legacy is global. But Prince Philip will be particularly remembered in the Nordic countries…

Xander Brett

As the United Kingdom and Commonwealth enter a period of mourning, around the world leaders and citizens react to the death of HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, whose death on Friday, though not a shock, marked the end of an era. King Harald V and the Norwegian royal family announced they had received the news with ‘great sadness’, and that flags on their palace would fly at half-mast for the rest of the day. A statement from King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden said the Duke of Edinburgh had been ‘a good friend to our family for many years, a friendship we greatly valued’. The Duke of Edinburgh was a particularly fond friend of Princess Lilian of Halland, the Welsh fashion model who married Prince Bertil, uncle of both King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Margrethe II of Denmark.

The President of Finland also extended condolences, while the President of Iceland said his citizens had ‘fond memories’ of the Duke of Edinburgh’s visits to the country. It was in Denmark, however, that the news was particularly important. Queen Margrethe II sent personal condolences to Queen Elizabeth II, while the Danish royal house shared a painting of the Duke of Edinburgh exhibited at Frederiksborg Castle in 2018. In it, the Duke of Edinburgh wears the Danish Order of the Elephant.

Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke of Edinburgh with Queen Margrethe II and Prince Henrik during a state visit to Denmark in 1979

A member of the House of Glücksburg, the Duke of Edinburgh was a prince of Denmark by patrilineal descent from King Christian IX, his great-grandfather. That put him in line to the Danish throne until he renounced the position after marrying into the British royal family. His Danish heritage, however, never left him. The Duke of Edinburgh told biographer Fiammetta Rocco in 1992: “I’ve thought of myself as Scandinavian. Particularly, Danish. We spoke English at home, the others learned Greek. I could understand a certain amount of it, but then the conversation would go into French. Then it went into German, on occasion, because we had German cousins. If you couldn’t think of a word in one language, you tended to go off in another”.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s grandfather was elected King of Greece in 1863. After the First World War, the Second Hellenic Republic temporarily abolished the Greek monarchy (now permanently defunct). But the Duke of Edinburgh never forgot his family’s extraordinary exodus (he left Greece sleeping in an orange crate). He believed monarchies must adapt to survive. From this sprang his desire to meet people from all walks of life, modernising the British monarchy into something more… well, Danish.

HRH THE PRINCE PHILIP, DUKE OF EDINBURGH was born on 10th June 1921. He died peacefully, aged 99, at Windsor Castle on 9th April 2021.

This article is a Fika Online exclusive.

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