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ChatChat - Claudia Cragg

Dec 8, 2011

Historian Philip Eade talks here to Claudia Cragg about his gripping biography of the early life of Prince Philip, published to coincide with the 90th birthday of the Queen's husband. (To listen to the interview, click on the 'Pod' icon, above left).

Married for more than 60 years to Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip is the longest-serving royal consort in British history. However, while he is still one of the most recognisable figures in public life, his origins remain curiously shrouded in obscurity.

Eade explains here how in ‘Young Prince Philip’ (the first book written with a focus exclusively on his pre-coronation life) the Prince had an extraordinary upbringing in Greece, France, Nazi Germany and Britain. Although he inhabited what many would consider a colourful milieu (just read his extraordinary genealogy) he was beset by continual turbulence and a succession of family tragedies.

The book examines the formative psychological effects of having a mother who was born deaf and was committed to a psychiatric clinic when Philip was just nine, and a father who was so traumatised by his treatment at the hands of Greek revolutionaries that he later left his young son to be brought up by his wife’s family, the Milford Havens and Mountbattens, just at the moment Philip needed him most.

Nevertheless, there emerged from this unsettled background a character of singular vitality and dash – self-confident, capable, famously opinionated and devastatingly handsome. Girls fell at his feet, and the princess who would become his wife was smitten from the age of 13. Yet together with considerable charm and intelligence, the young prince was also prone to volcanic outbursts and to putting his foot in it. Detractors perceived in his behaviour emotional shortcomings, a legacy of his traumatic childhood, which would have profound consequences for his family and the future of the monarchy.

The book is published to coincide with the Prince’s 90th birthday and contains new material from interviews, archives and film footage, ‘Young Prince Philip’.