On April 9, Prince Philip passed away at the age of 99. Married to Queen Elizabeth for 73 years, he was the longest-serving consort in British history.
“It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen has announced the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh,” Buckingham Palace said in a statement on Friday.
In 2002, Elizabeth called Philip her “main strength and stay all these years.” But Philip was not without his quirks and controversies.
Here are some of the most unusual facts and eyebrow-raising moments from Prince Philip’s life.
Smuggled to safety
Prince Philip was born in Corfu, Greece on June 10, 1921. He was a part of Greek and Danish royalty, and his uncle was King Constantine of Greece. But in 1922, when Philip was only 18 months old, King Constantine was forced to abdicate the throne and his family needed to go into exile.
Fearing for Philip’s safety, his family hid him inside of a fruit crate, specifically an orange box, in order to smuggle him out of Greece. That box was loaded onto a British warship that managed to save Philip as well as his parents and four sisters.
Philip did not let his wealth and status keep him from serving his country. During World War II, Philip was an officer in the British Navy. And he went above and beyond the call of duty, becoming something of a war hero along the way.
In 1943, Philip was a lieutenant on the HMS Wallace when it was being attacked by the Luftwaffe. It looked like the Wallace would be destroyed when Philip came up with a plan. And that was to release rafts with smoke floats to distract the attacking Nazi planes.
His plan worked. The Wallace escaped to safety, and 163 sailors serving on that ship owe Philip their lives.
How Philip caught Elizabeth’s eye
What did Elizabeth really see in Philip? The surprising thing that first caught her eye was his athletic talent.
One of their earliest meetings was in 1939, when Elizabeth was only 13. The 18-year-old Philip escorted Elizabeth and her sister Margaret around Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, and he showed off his athleticism by jumping over the tennis nets.
Royal nanny Marion Crawford wrote in her memoir The Little Princesses that Elizabeth was fascinated with Philip’s athletic prowess. “How good he is, Crawfie. How high he can jump,” Elizabeth said, according to Crawford.
Philip’s surprise nicknames for the Queen
The royal couple got married on November 20, 1947, when Elizabeth was 21 and Philip was 26.
One of the things that often caught people by surprise was that Philip had a wicked sense of humor. And he often entertained Elizabeth with his wild nicknames for her. These nicknames include such sweet terms of endearment as “Sausage” and “Cabbage.”
And if the nicknames didn’t make her smile, Philip wasn’t above performing some practical jokes. In fact, he once put in fake teeth and chased Elizabeth around while they rode a Canadian train back in 1951!
Criticized for a cruise
As he got a little older, Philip became very accustomed to the perks that come with royalty. And this included taking an amazing vacation cruise fueled entirely by taxpayer dollars.
In 1971, Philip gave the Royal Yacht Britannia new orders. It would be taking him and Elizabeth on an unscheduled two-month cruise.
Hopefully, they had a good time. If you account for inflation, the two used the equivalent of $800,000 in today’s dollars on this trip. And all of it came from British taxpayers!
Getting blunt over time
In his elderly years, Philip sometimes exhibited a new quality. And that was being blunt and cranky when the situation called for it!
The best example of this was in May 2015 when Philip appeared for a photo op to help the world remember the Battle of Britain on its 75th anniversary. Philip was 94 at the time and getting annoyed at how long it was taking the photographer to snap a picture of Philip and the other veterans.
According to the NY Post, eventually, Philip snapped and barked, “Just take the f–king picture!” The veterans apparently held their tongues, but some of the other Royals in attendance (Prince William, Prince Edward, and Prince Edward’s spouse Sophie) reportedly started snickering at this outburst.
Although he denied having affairs, Philip was known to make some inappropriate comments to women.
The most famous incident occurred in 1993 at a charity fundraiser. That was when the New York Post reports that Philip asked Canadian reporter Sarah French a shocking question. “You’re not wearing mink knickers, are you?”
And in 2012, Philip met London council worker Hannah Jackson. Taken by her zip-up red frock, The Sun reports that Philip made a disturbingly inappropriate observation: “I would get arrested if I unzipped that dress.”
Philip got away with his comments, but perhaps he would not have fared so well in the #MeToo era.
A self-deprecating sense of humor
In 2000, Philip revealed that he had held onto five decades worth of newspaper and magazine cartoons, many of which offered satirical views of Philip himself. He particularly enjoyed the work of Daily Telegraph cartoonist Matt Pritchett. Pritchett drew a cartoon celebrating Philip’s retirement from public life that featured a plaque covered by curtains bearing the message “Unveil your own damn plaque.”
That self-deprecating sense of humor was at its greatest when Philip discussed his marriage. In 1997, Philip and Elizabeth celebrated their 70th anniversary. And in discussing their marriage, Today reports that Philip cracked a great joke at his own expense.
“Tolerance is the one central ingredient of any happy marriage — it may be not so important when things are going well but it is absolutely vital when things get difficult,” he said. “You can take it from me, the Queen has the quality of tolerance in abundance.”