‘The Crown’ Is Right — Philip Actually Wasn’t Always A Prince

Robert Viglasky / Netflix

Netflix's historical drama The Crown largely focuses on the life of Queen Elizabeth, but her story can't be properly told without the inclusion of her husband, Prince Philip. In The Crown Season 2, Philip is given a prince title. The show's version of Elizabeth's husband is often portrayed as uncomfortable with the power imbalance between himself and the Queen, which isn't exactly surprising given the royal roots he came from long before he married Elizabeth. The series doesn't show the process of how the Duke of Edinburgh also became a prince, but fortunately, the actual history is there to fill in the blanks.

According to Vanity Fair, Philip was actually born with more royal blood than Elizabeth was. His parents were Princess Alice of Battenberg — great-granddaughter of the U.K.'s Queen Victoria — and Prince Andrew of Greece. His parents were both direct descendants of monarchs, which wasn't the case with Elizabeth. Elizabeth was born to the King of England, but her mother wasn't royalty — she was nobility with distant links to Scottish and English kings, the magazine reports. Philip was born in Greece but spent very little time there as a child, as Greece's entire royal family was expelled during a coup, according to the same Vanity Fair piece. His strange childhood didn't end there — according to the Telegraph, he endured other hardships such as his sister's tragic death when he was 16, his mother's nervous breakdown, and the subsequent separation of his parents.

Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

After his parents' split, Philip was shuffled from boarding school to boarding school, relative's home to relative's home, and maintained a scarce relationship with his mostly-absent father, the Telegraph also reports. He finally seemed to have found some stability with the British Royal Navy, which he served in from 1939 to 1953, per CNN. Despite his impressive royal background, Philip was always simply too far from the crown to have ever become a monarch himself — according to CNN, he was sixth in line for the Greek throne when he was born, but prior to his wedding to the then-Princess Elizabeth in 1947, he gave up all titles in Greece. When he married Elizabeth, he was given the title of Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, according to BBC News. Though he may have been informally seen as a prince, it wasn't necessarily his technical title — similar to how Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge is casually referred to by some as Princess Kate.

A decade after they wed, though, Elizabeth bestowed on him a nearly identical, but more prestigious title — Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, according to Town and Country magazine, restoring him to the more technically "royal" status he had abandoned years before. "The Queen has been pleased to declare her will and pleasure that His 'Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh shall henceforth be known as His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh," the palace said in a statement on Feb. 22, 1957, the magazine reports.

The exact reasons for this change are unclear, but it's possible Elizabeth may have wanted to ease some of the frustration allegedly felt by Philip when she did not keep his surname, Mountbatten, after taking the throne. The History Channel describes that conflict as an "embarassing battle," which Philip eventually lost, as viewers of The Crown's first season will remember. And the show certainly seems to suggest that his pride played a role in his eventual crowning.

Robert Viglasky / Netflix

The rumored tension between Philip and Elizabeth regarding Philip's role and the family name isn't exactly surprising given the circumstances in which Elizabeth came to power. When Elizabeth took the throne at the young age of 25, it was probably a jarring experience. She was a relatively new mother and wife, and hadn't anticipated her father's death would come so quickly, leaving the crown to her. She likely leaned on Philip for support, but, some reports show he wasn't always warm to the idea of being "the Queen's husband." "I am the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his children," Philip said, according to a biography of Elizabeth by Sally Bedell Smith, another Vanity Fair article reports. "I’m nothing but a bloody amoeba." Another point of contention in the show is the fact that Elizabeth requests Philip kneels before her at her coronation — a suggestion he loathes. She may be the Queen, but she was also a woman in the 1950s — not the greatest time in history for a wife to be attempting to assert any kind of dominance over her husband.

Robert Viglasky / Netflix

However, in real life, it seems that the pair has managed to find a routine that's kept their marriage intact for all these years. "Prince Philip is the only man in the world who treats the queen simply as another human being," Queen Elizabeth's former private secretary Lord Charteris, told Vanity Fair. "He’s the only man who can. Strange as it may seem, I believe she values that."

The Crown, however accurate it may be in many respects, is still a fictional show. It's likely put together through much historical research, but still reserves its right to throw in a dash of drama to make for good TV. Many of the core details are taken right from the public lives of Elizabeth and Philip, however, such as the addition of another title to the real Duke's name, back in 1957.