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FeaturesThe Duke of Edinburgh

Remembering Philip: The Prince who spoke out ahead of his time


Michael Garnett/CC/Flickr

Born in 1921, throughout his life, the stereotypes and society’s way would change in countless ways. Prince Philip would become a man many years ahead of his time by following behind the woman he loved and speaking openly on different causes important to him.

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In the early 1950s, Philip was forced to retire from naval duties as he and the then-Princess Elizabeth took on more royal duties as her father, King George VI’s health, was failing. Once the King died, Philip’s world completely changed. Talking of the circumstances, he said of the time before The Queen’s accession:

“I suppose I naturally filled the principal position. People used to come and ask me what to do. In 1952 the whole thing changed very, very considerably.”

While he began a lifetime of service to The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh found time to pursue his own interests including sports, industry, and research. He also took on several patronages and projects that focused on youth, science, the outdoors, and sport.

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Philip would orchestrate a documentary in 1969 showcasing the Royal Family as people in their own homes rather than unreachable figureheads of an institution that some believed were out of touch with the real world. The documentary’s filming began on 8 June at the 1968 annual Trooping of the Colour ceremony and would continue to be filmed for another 75 days in 172 different locations.

At one point, he took over the management of the estate at Sandringham and redeveloped it significantly over the years. Addressing British society’s contemporary problems, Philip worked on ways for the monarchy to be involved and responsive.

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In a tweet, the Royal Family account said this week:

The Duke worked with Estate workers, farmers and conservationists to maintain the Estates for future generations, through wildlife conservation and biodiversity initiatives.

“Over recent years, His Royal Highness received regular updates and took a keen interest in developments on the Estates.”

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He had a lifelong passion for wildlife and supported various zoos including ZSL London Zoo and WWF. Serving as President of ZSL from 1960 to 1977, he had been an Honorary Fellow since 1977. Upon his death, ZSL said:

“HRH, The Duke of Edinburgh had a lifelong passion for wildlife. He supported ZSL for many years. We are so grateful to HRH Prince Philip and the Royal Family, who remain in our thoughts at this sad time.

“He leaves a lasting legacy at ZSL, where his passion for wildlife and conservation will live on.”

In 1961, Philip became the first president of the World Wildlife Fund UK, becoming the organisation’s international president in 1981 until 1996. In 1970, the WWF established its highest conservation award – the Duke of Edinburgh Conservation Award, recognising and encouraging significant achievements in the global environmental field.

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Pavan Sukhdev, President of WWF International, said: “The Duke of Edinburgh has been a tireless champion for the environmental cause and a passionate ambassador for conservation issues around the world for decades.

Surrounded by books and overlooking Buckingham Palace’s gardens, Philip was known to research, write, and type out his own speeches. Giving anywhere between 60 and 80 speeches a year, the Prince talked on a number of topics reflecting his vast range of interests. Among his passions was being an environmentalist before anyone really understood what the term meant.

In 1982, Philip began bringing up a topic that had never really been spoken about, the build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which he referred to as the “greenhouse effect.”

Philip also founded Australia’s first-ever environmental organisation. The Australian Conversation Foundation is the country’s most prominent environmental organisation.

About author

My name is Sydney Zatz and I am a University of Iowa graduate. I graduated with a degree in journalism and sports studies, and a minor in sport and recreation management. A highlight of my college career was getting the chance to study abroad in London and experiencing royal history firsthand. I have a passion for royals, royal history, and journalism, which led me to want to write for Royal Central.