Prince Philip was born on the island of Corfu on 10 June 1921, the only son and fifth child of Prince Andrew of Greece and Princess Alice of Battenberg. He was baptised into the Greek Orthodox Church.
When in 1948 HRH Princess Elizabeth, the present Queen, married the Greek Orthodox Prince Philip, the present Duke of Edinburgh, he was officially required to cease to be Orthodox (although he never ceased to make the Orthodox sign of the cross in public)
His mother’s aunt, Elizabeth, married into the Russian royal family and after dying during the Revolution, she was considered a saint by the Russian Orthodox Church.
When Germany invaded Greece in the Second World War, Princess Alice, who was always deeply religious, risked her life to help Greek Jews. Her name is listed among the “Righteous Gentiles”, those recognised by the Israeli government as heroic in helping Jews escape annihilation.
She became an Orthodox nun, and when the Greek royal family was expelled from Athens in the military coup of 1967, Prince Philip brought her to London where she moved into Buckingham Palace and created a private chapel for herself which was hastily dismantled following her death in 1969. She can be seen dressed as an Orthodox nun on the balcony of Buckingham Palace in photographs on various public occasions in the 1950’
At the time of her death, a dispute arose because of the religious problems of burying the Greek Orthodox Princess Andrew with her aunt, the Grand Duchess Elizabeth, in a Russian Orthodox church in Jerusalem.
A compromise was struck, Princess George of Hanover, who at the time was 73 years old and Prince Philip’s eldest sister, flew in with the coffin at the head of a royal delegation.
Her remains were buried at a Russian Orthodox convent in Jerusalem, as she had wished. After a commemoration service on the Mount of Olives led by the Greek Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem, the remains were taken to their final resting place at the nearby onion-domed Russian Orthodox church, St. Mary Magdalene in Gethsemane.
After many years of not practising his faith, HRH Prince Philip returned to Orthodoxy in the early 1990s. In an article of that time written by Giles Milton (‘The Spectator’, 14 March 1992), it was revealed that in May 1991 he had spoken in private to a Russian Orthodox bishop in London and for June 1993 he was planning a meeting with the Patriarch of Constantinople, a visit to the Holy Mountain of Athos in Northern Greece and a visit to the Patriarch of Moscow. In the same article, the Prince’s words to an Orthodox Conference on Ecology in Crete in November 1991 were also quoted.
“The strong relationship between Prince Philip and the Orthodox Church seems to be a meeting of like minds. ‘We all had a very interesting discussion in Crete as to whether Prince Philip was still Orthodox or not,’ says Palmer. ‘The monks said his conversion to Anglicanism 49 years ago didn’t matter because he was baptized Orthodox and that is all that really counts.
His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, born Corfu, 10 June 1921; died 9 April 2021, Windsor.