What is he really like? Bombastic, autocratic, say his critics. Colourful, stimulating, say his admirers.
Tim Heald was given a unique opportunity to find out for himself. Not for twenty years had a biographer been allowed such access to talk to Prince Philip and watch him at work - still very much a man in a hurry, still speaking and questioning on an astonishing variety of subjects and treading the most impossible tightrope between the breezy informality which he first introduced to the royal family and the parade-ground traditions which he has had to accept.
And members of the royal family - among them the Queen Mother, Princes Margaret, Princess Anne and his only surviving sister, Princess Sophie - also share with Heald their thoughts on the man who started life as Philip of Greece, one of a royal family who were deposed and exiled while he was still an infant.
Many other witnesses reveal for the first time the Prince Philip they know. His early days in exile, at schools in France, in England and in Germany - where he had first-hand experience of the 'unpleasant habits' of the Nazis, and then in Scotland at the newly founded Gordonstoun. His service with distinction in the Royal Navy during World War Two. His engagement in 1947 to Princess Elizabeth, twenty-one-year-old daughter of King George VI.
As TIm Heald observes, Prince Philip swiftly emerged as very much his own man, winning over one or two doubters within the Court who might have preferred a home-grown aristocrat as husband to the future Queen.
Written with the co-operation of Buckingham Palace, THE DUKE is a brilliantly informed portrait of a life that has been independent of, but fully supportive to the Queen.
Vicky, Alice, Helena, and Beatrice were historically unique sisters, born to a sovereign who ruled over a quarter of the earth's people and who gave her name to an era: Queen Victoria. Two of these princesses would themselves produce children of immense consequence. All five would curiously come to share many of the social restrictions and familial machinations borne by nineteenth-century women of less-exulted class.
Victoria and Albert's precocious firstborn child, Vicky, wed a Prussian prince in a political match her high-minded father hoped would bring about a more liberal Anglo-German order. That vision met with disaster when Vicky's son Wilhelm-- to be known as Kaiser Wilhelm-- turned against both England and his mother, keeping her out of the public eye for the rest of her life. Gentle, quiet Alice had a happier marriage, one that produced Alexandra, later to become Tsarina of Russia, and yet another Victoria, whose union with a Battenberg prince was to found the present Mountbatten clan. However, she suffered from melancholia and died at age thirty-five of what appears to have been a deliberate, grief-fueled exposure to the diphtheria germs that had carried away her youngest daughter. Middle child Helena struggled against obesity and drug addition but was to have lasting effect as Albert's literary executor. By contrast, her glittering and at times scandalous sister Louise, the most beautiful of the five siblings, escaped the claustrophobic stodginess of the European royal courts by marrying a handsome Scottish commoner, who became governor general of Canada, and eventually settled into artistic salon life as a respected sculptor. And as the baby of the royal brood of nine, rebelling only briefly to forge a short-lived marriage, Beatrice lived under the thumb of her mother as a kind of personal secretary until the queen's death.
Principally researched at the houses and palaces of its five subjects in London, Scotland, Berlin, Darmstadt, and Ottawa-- and entertainingly written by an experienced biographer whose last book concerned Victoria's final days-- Victoria's Daughters closely examines a generation of royal women who were dominated by their mother, married off as much for political advantage as for love, and finally passed over entirely with the accession of their n0 brother Bertie to the throne. Packard provides valuable insights into their complex, oft-tragic lives as daughters of their time.
Princess Alice, mother of Prince Phillip, was something of a mystery figure even within her own family. She was born deaf, at Windsor Castle, in the presence of her grandmother, Queen Victoria, and brought up in England, Darmstadt, and Malta.
In 1903 she married Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, and from then on her life was overshadowed by wars, revolutions, and enforced periods of exile. By the time she was thirty-five, virtually every point of stability was overthrown. Though the British royal family remained in the ascendant, her German family ceased to be ruling princes, her two aunts who had married Russian royalty had come to savage ends, and soon afterwards Alice's own husband was nearly executed as a political scapegoat.
The middle years of her life, which should have followed a conventional and fulfilling path, did the opposite. She suffered from a serious religious crisis and at the age of forty-five was removed from her family and placed in a sanitarium in Switzerland, where she was pronounced a paranoid schizophrenic. As her stay in the clinic became prolonged, there was a time where it seemed she might never walk free again. How she achieved her recovery is just one of the remarkable aspects of her story.