This post has been updated.
Binge-watching the second season of “The Crown” is in jolly full swing. And Prince Philip is taking a beating.
But are these harsh assessments of Queen Elizabeth II’s husband justified?
On the show — which is factually inspired but dramatized for maximum Netflix pleasure — Prince Philip is portrayed as an impolite lout, a womanizer, a whiner, a sore sport and even a potential Nazi. He regularly demeans his wife, the monarchy and the church. He seems genuinely happy only when Princess Margaret, the queen’s black sheep sister, flouts royal convention by, say, baring her shoulders in the tabloids.
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The monarchy is a bit of a black box — protective, secretive, manipulative. But here’s what (mostly reliable) news accounts and biographers say about Prince Philip:
No filter: Prince Philip is known for his verbal gaffes and occasional temper. On the occasion of his 90th birthday in 2011, the Independent newspaper compiled 90 of his greatest hits. Visiting China, he said this to a British student: “If you stay here much longer, you will go home with slitty eyes.” To a 13-year-old boy who dreamed of becoming an astronaut: “You could do with losing a little bit of weight.” To a nursing home resident in a wheelchair: “Do people trip over you?” Nevertheless, Prince Philip has been a popular figure among the Brits. They see him as honest, down to earth and funny. During her annual Christmas address on Monday, the Queen noted her husband’s recent retirement from public appearances, but said she knew his “unique sense of humor will remain as strong as ever.”
Reluctant husband of the queen: When Philip and Elizabeth married in 1947, neither of them expected she would be crowned queen anytime soon. Her father, King George VI, was in his early 50s. Philip, named Duke of Edinburgh, intended to continue his career in the navy. But the king died five years into their marriage, and Elizabeth became queen at the early age of 25. Philip was forced to quit his naval career. “The Crown” portrays his resentment. In 1992, he told an interviewer, “I’d much rather have stayed in the navy, frankly.” He later called his resignation “naturally disappointing.” By many accounts, there was real tension in the marriage.
The Prince as Ladies’ Man: “The Crown” strongly hints that Philip was a serial cheater. Over the years, the prince has been linked to numerous women — including two dancers — but neither he nor the women have ever confirmed any sexual trysts. One of the most gripping moments in the show’s second season is when Philip’s personal secretary and close friend Mike Parker is accused of adultery and sued for divorce in 1958. A massive scandal ensues — on the show and in real life, with the implication that Philip must be a cheater, too. That episode shows Elizabeth making peace with her husband by making him a prince. However, news reports from back then suggested Philip was made a prince so he couldn’t be forced to testify at Parker’s divorce trial, potentially exposing him to uncomfortable and embarrassing questions.
His nickname for his wife: “Cabbage.”
The Nazi question: Season two also shows an Australian reporter pressing him with questions about his family’s connection to the Nazi Party. His sisters were, indeed, married to German noblemen who were members of the Nazi Party and German army. When his sister Cecile died in a 1937 plane crash, Philip, then 16 years old, was photographed marching in a funeral procession with men wearing Nazi uniforms. Another of Philip’s sisters was said to have lunched with Hitler. Philip’s sisters were not invited to his wedding. In the book “Royals and the Reich,” Philip told European history scholar Jonathan Petropoulos that there was jealousy about the success of Jews in his family but he was never “conscious of anybody in the family actually expressing anti-Semitic views.”
As Prince Philip withdraws from public life, it’s unclear how the show will impact how people remember him. Whether he knows of this portrayal is anyone’s guess. The queen is reportedly a fan of the show, though that was reported before season two, when Philip’s real demons were explored.
Still, some fans of “The Crown” have not lost hope for the couple. They recently celebrated 70 years of marriage.
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