* Prices may differ from that shown
While Queen Elizabeth II may be something of an enigma, a very private person who does not reveal her personal feelings, her husband Prince Philip is often perceived as easier to understand, given that he often appears to speak his mind. However, many biographies of him, or indeed the Queen, are in agreement that he is not as straightforward as he seems, that there is more to him than the occasional blunt remark might indicate. Philip Eade's Young Prince Philip aims to shed some light on the foundations of his character, in a biography of his early years, covering birth up to the 1950s-60s. While very grateful to sources at the Palace, Eade is at pains to point out in his introduction that this biography is not authorised or approved.
Born in 1921, Prince Philip was the only son of Prince Andrea of Greece, and his wife, Princess Alice, granddaughter of Queen Victoria. The family, including Philip's four older sisters, fled Greece when Philip was only eighteen months old, following one of Greece's many revolutions overthrowing the monarchy. Philip's childhood continued to be eventful, with his family breaking up and he spending school holidays with various relatives, notably his grandmother Princess Victoria in Kensington Palace, and his uncle David, Marquess of Milford Haven. It was later in his teens that the infamous Dickie Mountbatten took Philip under his wing.
Philip's first meeting with the then Princess Elizabeth was when he was an eighteen year old naval cadet, and she was only thirteen. Elizabeth was in love almost from that day, but it was obviously some years before a romance developed. The couple were married in 1947, and enjoyed only a few years of quiet married life before George VI died, meaning Elizabeth acceded to the throne.
It certainly can't be said that Philip's story is a dull one. From fleeing Greece as a baby to his years in the Navy, there is plenty to tell about Philip's early years. Eade does an excellent job not only of telling this story, but also of ensuring that Philip's character comes across. As a schoolboy he was fun and lively, and most of his classmates had something good to say about him. Eade has consulted memoirs of Philip's friends, family and teachers in order to understand him, and to paint an accurate and full picture for is readers.
Despite the fact that Philip clearly accepted his somewhat nomadic life as a child and teen, it is hard not to feel a little pity for him - his mother suffered from mental illness, later believed to be bipolar disorder, and his father was a slightly remote figure, although loved. His sister Cecile died in a plane crash with her family, including her stillborn baby. Yet in addition to feeling sympathy for the young Philip, I also felt a great deal of admiration. The man he has become is by no means perfect (but then who is?), but he dealt with all this upheaval in his formative years with cheerfulness and a get-on-with-things attitude, leading to a highly successful naval career, which could have been stellar if not cut short when he left to support his wife full time.
One section of Young Prince Philip which I particularly enjoyed was the period between Philip and Elizabeth's marriage and her accession to the throne. Sometimes I find it disrespectful when a writer refers to the Queen as Elizabeth, but Eade does this when talking about their married life, even after her accession, and it doesn't read as disrespectful - it serves to emphasise the fact that they were, for a brief time, just another young married couple. We learn about their first home in Clarence House, and how they liked to leave a door open so they could chat while at their respective dressing tables. I found it charming, not in the least disrespectful, and also a little sad: I so wanted them to be able to have more of this simple domesticity, without the pressure which comes with being monarch. Of course, in Philip and Elizabeth's case, there was also the struggle to define Philip's role at her side, and the struggle for him to be accepted by the older courtiers.
I have admired Prince Philip for some time, knowing that it has not been easy for a man like him to always come second to his wife, and Young Prince Philip only increases that admiration. Eade writes with a clear respect for his subject, but is not fawning or blind to his faults. It is a well-written and enjoyable biography, showing Prince Philip to be an interesting and admirable person in his own right, separate from his wife and with more depth than we realise from the one line comments of his which tend to be remembered.
This review is of the paperback book "Young Prince Philip - His Turbulent Early Life" by Philip Eade. This is the biography of the current Queen's consort and there are also hardback and Kindle versions.
Whatever people think of the Monarchy, most will agree that Prince Philip has been a constant source of support to the Queen over the 60 years of her reign, and the years when she was the first in line to the Throne when George VI was King. This year, in 2012, they marked their 65th wedding anniversary, so the impact that Prince Philip has had on the Monarchy is crucial.
I didn't previously know a great deal about Prince Philip's early life, other than knowing he was born into the Greek Royal family and later had to go into exile. This book takes the story of Prince Philip's life to around the death of King George VI and starts to make sense of the complex connections between the monarchies of Europe at the time.
The book is semi-authorised, so that friends of Prince Philip were no obstructive in helping with information and quotes, but equally, this is not a fully authorised biography of his early life which the Prince was involved with. This has the substantial advantage that it means the potentially negative areas of his life aren't removed, which helps the biography be much more balanced.
I found the writing style positive and fluent, and I found it provided enough detail about Philip's up-bringing and how he was influenced, without becoming confused with the complex family histories which he was born into. The book doesn't try to make Philip out to be all good, or all bad, and presents the evidence to let the reader make up their own opinion of Prince Philip.
One of the problems that Philip had in his youth was those complex family links, and some of his relatives did become closer to the Nazi regime than he would have personally liked. The author addresses this in chapter seven which is entitled "Dodging the Hitler Youth", and Philip seems to have both been well advised to avoid it, and also well measured enough to not get involved.
I also found the following chapter, "Off to Gordonstoun" fascinating as it details his couple of years which he spent there, and the influence which it had on his life. Shortly after that he went to war, and the chapter entitled "A Good War" shows how that despite the faults he might have had in some areas, he was an inspirational and competent military man.
Although the book doesn't continue into the period when Elizabeth became Queen, one of the most interesting elements was seeing how the British Royal Family welcomed him in. There is a comprehensive section in the book on how the Queen Mother treated him, and the importance of Louis Mountbatten in his life.
I purchased the paperback version which retails at 8.99 pounds, but can be obtained from Amazon at the time of writing for the price of 5.39 pounds including UK delivery. As the paperback has only recently been published there aren't currently any second-hand copies which are much cheaper, but this will of course change over time. The hardback edition retails for 17.50 pounds but is available from Amazon for the price of 17.50 pounds including UK delivery, and these are cheaper second-hand on Amazon, around half the price.
The paperback was published in March 2012 and the hardback book was published in June 2011. The paperback ISBN is 9780007305391 and the hardback ISBN is 9780007305360. There is also a Kindle edition which is priced at 4.99 pounds, disappointingly only 40p cheaper than the paperback version is available for.
Overall I found this a very well researched and interesting book, which added to my knowledge of Prince Philip. The book is well written and is a very good launching point to understanding the character of the Prince, and a recommended read.