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Why Prince Philip wan’t King and row that means only some royals have his surname

When Prince Philip of Greece and Princess Elizabeth announced their engagement in July 1947, they thought they would have years to enjoy their blissful union before royal duty kicked in.

However the sudden and early death of her father, King George VI, in February 1952 meant she took the throne just a few years into their marriage changing both of their lives forever.

At just 25, the Queen had the huge responsibility of the Crown and needed her supportive husband more than ever.

But despite dedicating his life to her and the country, he would never become King.

On their wedding day he gave up his Greek and Danish titles to become the Duke of Edinburgh.

But he could never be King Philip in the UK as according to the old patriarchal system, Kings outrank Queens, which would mean he would technically be higher than the Queen – which isn’t allowed as he married into the royal family rather than being born into it.

Princess Elizabeth and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten announcing their engagement at Buckingham Palace

On February 22, 1957 the Palace issued a statement which read: “The Queen has been pleased by Letters Patent under the Great Seal of the Realm bearing date 22nd February, 1957, to give and grant unto His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, K.G., K.T., G.B.E., the style and titular dignity of a Prince of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Whitehall.

“The Queen has been pleased to declare her will and pleasure that His ‘Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh shall henceforth be known as His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.”

However, the rules mean it will be a different story when Prince William becomes King one day with Kate by his side.

It’s likely that the Duchess of Cambridge will become Queen Consort, and it’s likely that she will opt to be Queen Catherine.

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Like Philip, as she wasn’t born into the royal family she can never be Queen in her own right but she can take the ‘Consort’ role – which is what many wives have done in the past.

King George VI’s wife became Queen Elizabeth, before becoming better known as The Queen Mother after the King’s death.

King George V’s wife was Queen Mary.

Explaining the role, royal expert Marlene Koenig said: “Catherine’s role will certainly change as she will be the consort of the sovereign.

“There is no real constitutional role for a consort, just by tradition.

“She will be the first lady of the land, in terms of precedence.”

The Queen and Philip will travel to Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire for their annual summer break

When William and Kate become King William and Queen Catherine, their oldest child Prince George will become the Prince of Wales.

While not being King didn’t really bother Philip, he was extremely upset when he found out his family wouldn’t have his surname.

While senior members of the family don’t use a surname as they have HRH titles, those further down the line of succession use Mountbatten-Windsor.

This includes Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s son, Archie.

Before marrying the Queen Philip was Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg.

However this wasn’t neutral enough so he adopted the name Mountbatten after his grandparents.

A family portrait taken in 1968
A family portrait taken in 1968

The Royal Family back in 1952
He assumed the children would have his surname

When the then Princess Elizabeth had the couple’s first child Prince Charles, he assumed they would take on his name in the traditional way.

But Prime Minister Winston Churchill didn’t agree, and wanted them to continue to use the name Windsor, which was the official Royal Family surname.

The Queen’s grandmother Queen Mary agreed, and it caused such a row that the matter was even discussed in Parliament.

In the end the Queen made the decision to go with her family’s views, and the name Windsor was used.

At the time, Philip reportedly said: “I am nothing but a bloody amoeba. I am the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his own children.”

Royal biographer Sally Bedell Smith even went as far as to suggest that the upset over the name was the reason for the 10 year age gap between Princess Anne and Prince Edward.

However when the couple fell pregnant with their third child Elizabeth was sitting on the throne, which changed things slightly.

Philip reportedly refused to drop the issue, and in 1960 she went to see the Harold Macmillan, who had then taken over as PM.

She said “she absolutely needed to revisit” the issue and admitted it “had been irritating her husband since 1952”.

Finally a comprise was met, and on February 8, 1960 – 11 days before Prince Andrew was born – the Queen declared that she had adopted the name Mountbatten-Windsor.

She announced that it would be used by all her descendants who do not enjoy the title of His or Her Royal Highness.



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