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A prince of 99

Published : Thursday, 6 May, 2021 at 12:00 AM  Count : 706
Chinmay Prasun Biswas

A prince of 99

A prince of 99

Fairy tale normally begins with a very popular and unforgettable line -once there was a king though nobody knows when and where. Even nobody asks for it but eagerly waits for the tale. The news of death of a 99-year old British prince reminds us of that ever continuing line which almost everyone has read or heard at childhood. At the same time it also throws a burning question to us - Why Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, had to spend his whole life as prince? Why he could not be the king? What was the problem?

As per convention of the British royal family, Philip is never supposed to be the king although it does not match our known pattern of fairy tales and there arises the confusion. Normally we know that the queen's husband is the king and the king's wife is the queen. This is the simple equation but Queen Elizabeth's father was King George VI. After his death Elizabeth received the title of Queen. By then he was married to Philip but why Philip, though husband of the queen, hasn't been called King? Where was the complexity in the case of Philip? The answer lies within the palace. According to tradition of Buckingham Palace even the word Prince is not supposed to be prefixed with the name of Philip. Only the claimant successors acquire the title King if they get opportunity to ascend the throne. Philip was never in that group. Up to 22nd February, 1957, his status was only the Duke of Edinburgh. Then a statement was issued announcing that from now on Philip's position would be equal to Prince but till death he never got the chance to be the king.

Wife of the king will be called the queen but this conventional rule is not applicable to the opposite case. Even husband of the queen will not get the title king. Only males sitting on the British throne deserve it. For this reason Charles, Prince of Wales (Philip Arthur George Charles), the eldest son Philip and Elizabeth, will be called King when he ascends the throne. The next two claimants to the title King are (1) Prince William, the eldest son of Charles and (2) Prince George, son of William.

Simply this is a fence of rules of the British royal family but as consort of the queen Philip remained in the limelight of popularity throughout his life. One of the factors behind this was the chemistry of his marital relationship with Elizabeth. At the beginning of her every speech the queen used to say, "My husband and me ". This chemistry has given birth to a myth. A sweet teenage love story remains behind the more than 73-year long conjugal life. Philip's death seems to bring that love story back to public mind afresh.

It is really a matter of that glorious past when the flag of British imperialism was flowing brightly almost all over the world. It was said that the sun never sets in the British Empire but those proud days have gone away long ago. At that time a dream tower was built between a 13-year old princess and Philip, a bright eyed prince of 18. Yes, Elizabeth was the king's daughter and Philip was also the prince of Greece but then he was in exile and looking for fortune across Europe alone. Soon exchange of mind and letters began between the two teenagers but within a short period World War II had begun. Their opportunity to visit and meet each other shrank. Philip joined the war. As a member of the British Navy young Philip was moving abroad and his photograph was hanging on the wall of the room of the princess.

Bankimchandra,in his famous novel Chandrashekhar, commented that childhood love is perhaps mixed with curse because the lover boy and the beloved are not much independent to express their absolute opinion about marriage. Secondly, he or she is helpless to fulfill the sweet taste of childhood love. Situation, surrounding and time also create distance between them. Therefore, except cherishing this sweet memory of childhood love in old age, no other alternative remains left for them. However, this theory did not work in Elizabeth-Philip's life although obstacles came. Philip's family had close ties with aristocrats of Germany which was a direct enemy of England. So, there was some reluctance from the British royal family but finally that barrier could not stand strong. Their marriage ceremony was solemnised in November 1947 in front of around two thousand guests. That relationship came to an end on Friday, 9th April, 2021 nineteen months ahead of platinum jubilee of their married life.  

In history no royal couple has such a long record of married life. What was the secret behind? An excellent explanation was given by a private secretary of the royal family. In an interview with BBC he said: "Prince Philip was the only male in the world who viewed the Queen as another human being. He was the only person who could do it." How easy but how true. Bringing Elizabeth out of the royal family's glamour Philip considered her as a woman and as his companion but what about the queen? She also always acknowledged the qualities of her companion at every stage of her life. In an emotional speech of their golden jubilee she said, "To speak in a single word, he has been my greatest strength for so many years," Not only that, according to Elizabeth, her family, as well as the whole country, is indebted to Philip but he never claimed anything in return. Behind the pompous royal life this unique sense of mutual respect kept them united for around seventy five years.  
The writer is a former Commissioner of Taxes

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