When it comes to his sons, it would be easy to think that the macho Duke of Edinburgh has most in common with Prince Andrew.
After all, it was Andrew, his third-born son, who risked his life in the Falklands war as a Royal Navy helicopter pilot — just as Philip had risked his own as a naval officer during World War II.
But the boy closest to the Duke’s heart is his youngest; the one who chose to work in the arty world of television and — much to the dismay of the Queen — dropped out of the Royal Marines.
On top of that, he had to face unfounded rumours that he was gay. So it’s perhaps little wonder that few realise just how close he’s always been to his parents — particularly his father.
Interestingly, Philip didn’t press Edward into joining the Services. He wanted the young prince to go into accountancy, or at the very least take a management training course.
But his son wasn’t interested in these careers, which was perhaps just as well. Some in the royal circle regarded the very idea as outre, as any ‘trade’ had long been looked down on by the upper classes — not that this was ever going to influence Philip’s judgment.
But even he had to acknowledge that his son’s royal status might give him an unfair advantage.
In any case, what Edward really wanted to do, since the age of ten, was to make the Royal Marines his full-time career.
In this, he may well have been motivated by the desire to go one better than his brothers, who’d served in the Royal Navy.
So it was a huge surprise when Edward decided to quit the Marines in 1987, just four months after starting. Each of his siblings was horrified and tried to persuade him to stay on.
As for the Queen, her initial shock quickly turned to icy-cold regal displeasure, while the Queen Mother felt her grandson’s decision smacked of dereliction of duty.
And Philip? Given his action-man image and his well-earned reputation for irascibility, many people assumed he was outraged.
A young Prince Andrew seemingly stifles a yawn at the Badminton Horse Trials in Gloucestershire in 1969
Stories soon spread that harsh words had been exchanged between father and son; even that Edward had been reduced to tears by his father’s anger. It was a potent image that grew in the retelling.
The truth was quite the opposite: of all the Royal Family, Philip was in fact the most sympathetic. He understood his son’s decision, which he considered a brave one, and supported him fully.
Edward had explained to him that he felt he was never going to be able to fit in as well as he’d hoped. ‘I was always going to have a policeman there,’ he said. ‘I could never go out with the rest of the lads into the town, as everyone knew who I was. I didn’t see the way, really, it was going to work.’
The Queen was in the driving seat at school
Andrew and Edward began their education at Heatherdown prep school in Berkshire, where the headmaster was able to observe the Queen’s parenting techniques.
‘Some parents who gave their children to nannies hardly knew their children at all, but the Queen knew hers,’ said the head, James Edwards. ‘She’s very on the ball and is one of the best raconteurs I’ve ever met — terribly funny.
‘Prince Philip appeared, but not as much as the Queen. She determined and controlled their early schooling. I discussed their school reports with her rather than him.’
The Queen didn’t pick up her children on their days out from school, but she always ensured that she took them back.
She’d drive them herself in her green Vauxhall estate car, with her detective sitting beside her. ‘She would always come into my study and have a chat about anything and everything,’ added Mr Edwards.
‘When she talked about the children, she was totally aware of their shortcomings and was extremely patient.
‘One thing she absolutely insisted on, however, was good manners, and it showed.
‘The Queen never let them down. She came to almost every school sports day, play and carol service that we had. And over nine years, that is good.
‘She only missed one — and that was when Edward was playing the part of Saul in The Boy David, and she was on tour in Australia on a State visit. So the Queen Mother came instead.’
More worldly than his wife, Philip felt Edward had taken a rational step, while the Queen saw it only in terms of family duty and royal reputation — which, by her logic, were one and the same.
Adam Wise, Edward’s private secretary at the time, recalled: ‘The first person [Edward] went to when he’d really had enough of the Marines was Prince Philip and he was extremely understanding about the whole thing.
‘He was very reasonable and gave very sensible advice. Prince Philip did not get on his high horse at all and did not get cross about the fact that his son was rejecting the Royal Marines, of which he was Captain General.’
In a significant public gesture, father and son were photographed walking together side by side to church at Sandringham the Sunday after his son’s resignation.
Five days before, James Edwards, Edward’s former prep-school headmaster, had received a long letter from the prince, explaining why he’d quit.
‘He said Prince Philip had been extremely supportive and, because of that, he felt he could make the right decision,’ said Mr Edwards.
‘I think he’d had a rough time and had been bullied and teased about ‘gayness’ until he couldn’t take it any more. Physically, he did not have a problem, as he was very tough despite his angelic looks.’
The Queen holds an infant Andrew on Buckingham Palace’s balcony
Edward and Andrew arrived so long after the birth of Charles and Anne that the Queen referred to them as her second family. Her third pregnancy was unplanned, and she made it perfectly plain to Philip that she didn’t want him hanging around in the delivery room, let alone at her side. The very idea was loathsome to her.
So far, so traditional. But after Andrew’s arrival, on February 19, 1960 — more than nine years after Princess Anne’s birth — the Queen and the Duke decided it was time to break with at least one normal royal practice by not immediately showing him off to the world. There were, however, unintended consequences. As the months went by, people began to gossip.
The baby was so deformed, whispered some, that his parents had chosen to hide him away. After all, no one had seen even a christening picture of Andrew and the Palace wasn’t releasing any news about him.
Eventually, after more than a year had passed, the rumours burst into the open, with a report on his disfigurement in a French newspaper. This upset the Queen — and made her husband furious.
They’d protected their baby for what they considered to be the best of reasons. Aware that Charles and Anne had been the focus of enormous attention during their formative years, they’d decided to keep Andrew under wraps.
This meant that instead of going to the park, for instance, his nanny restricted walks to the gardens of Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle.
But now Philip and the Queen had been boxed into a corner: reluctantly, they allowed Andrew to make his public debut, in an embroidered romper suit, on the Buckingham Palace balcony for the Queen’s birthday parade.
A huge cheer went up. He was all of 16 months old, and it was the first time anyone outside their circle had set eyes on him.
Four years later, he was joined by Edward — though the Queen had been so convinced her fourth child was a girl she hadn’t even bothered to think of any boys’ names.
As a young princess, Elizabeth had declared that, when she grew up, she wanted to marry a farmer, live in the country and have lots of animals. Above all, she had wanted four children — two boys and two girls.
She’d married a sailor, not a farmer, but her other wishes had been fulfilled. So why not a second daughter to go with the two sons she already had?
And unlike the births of his other three children, the Duke of Edinburgh was actually holding his wife’s hand as their youngest was born on March 10, 1964. The Queen, by then aged 37, had asked him to be there; she’d been keenly reading women’s magazines that stressed the importance of involving fathers in childbirth and had become fascinated by the idea. Thus Philip became the first royal father in modern history to witness the arrival of one of his children.
The delivery — in the hastily converted bathroom of the Belgian suite at Buckingham Palace — was slower than expected and tension built up among the five doctors in attendance.
It was at this point that the Duke’s presence proved particularly valuable because he did his best to lighten the atmosphere.
‘It’s a solemn thought that only a week ago, General de Gaulle was having a bath in this room,’ he remarked jocularly, when he noticed all the glum faces.
More sensitive than his abrasive public image suggests, he also managed to slip childbirth guru Betty Parsons into the delivery room — though the doctors didn’t want her there.
The Queen did, however: she was finally ready to break from time-honoured tradition and had already had lessons from Betty on breathing and other relaxation techniques. Philip had drawn the line at attending these pre-natal classes — he was prepared to move with the times, but not that far.
Two days after Edward’s birth, Philip left his wife and baby to fly off to the funeral of his cousin, King Paul of the Hellenes — the King of Greece.
For the Queen and Philip, their second family represented a chance to start again, avoiding some of the mistakes they’d made with their elder children.
Even so, it didn’t cross the Queen’s mind to shake up the unswerving routine of the royal nursery. Nanny Mabel Anderson (34 when Andrew was born) ran it with an under-nanny and a nursery footman in the royal manner: unchallenged, unopposed and almost as a private fiefdom.
There’s no question that Mabel was the central pivot in the lives of Andrew and Edward, but the Queen at least made a big effort to see her children whenever she could. So intent was she on spending more time with Edward that she brought forward her weekly meetings with her prime ministers by half an hour so she’d be free to bathe and put him to bed herself.
Andrew also had more ‘mummy time’, which she scheduled into her diary. ‘Leave him with me, Mabel,’ the Queen would say some mornings to the nanny — and he’d be left with his mother, playing on the floor of her study while she worked at her desk on her State papers.
Sometimes, on Mabel’s day off or when she went to her pottery classes in the evenings, the Queen would look after the children. She relished those private moments with her sons, and in later years admitted she felt guilty about not spending more time with them.
Even those nights were still very formal, however: she’d bring her own page and footman along to the nursery, who’d serve her supper in front of the television. And when she and Philip dropped in for tea with the children, they never arrived unannounced — so Mabel had time to fuss around, making sure everything was in place and the boys were clean and tidy.
Fergie, Edward, Andrew and Anne take part in a royal version of It’s a Knockout in 1987
Perhaps because he was older, Philip also found fatherhood more enjoyable third and fourth time round. He’d read the boys stories, inventing some of his own, played games with them and was generally less demanding than he’d been with Anne and Charles.
However, his appearance in the nursery always filled Mabel with apprehension, as it was usually a prelude to tears. Andrew would often become over-excited while playing with his father, once collecting a black eye in the ensuing rough and tumble.
When the Queen wasn’t around, Philip sometimes took charge of both boys, but he was easily distracted and often let them wander off. One weekend, when he was five, Andrew took advantage of this and made his way to the Royal Mews at Windsor while his father was out carriage-driving.
The coachmen and grooms who worked there had little time for the small prince, having often seen him taunting the guardsmen on duty and aiming sly kicks at the dogs.
Sensing their studied indifference, Andrew started beating the ground with a large stick.
No one took any notice, so he took a sideways swipe at the legs of the horses. When he refused to stop, two grooms picked him up, threw him into a dung heap and shovelled manure all over him.
Andrew was too shocked to cry. When he managed to extract himself from the foul-smelling mess, he ran as fast as he could to the castle, shouting: ‘I’ll tell my mummy on you! I’ll tell my mummy.’
No one knows if he ever did, but there were no repercussions. Nor were there on another occasion when his taunting so annoyed a young footman that he took a swipe at Andrew that left him sprawled on the floor with a black eye.
Fearing for his job, the footman confessed what had happened and offered his resignation. But when the Queen came to hear of it, she refused to accept it. Her son, she said, had obviously deserved his punishment and the footman was on no account to be punished for Andrew’s bad behaviour.
In spite of his boorishness, it was plain that she adored him. Philip was harder on Andrew than she was, and was more likely to punish him whenever he upset the staff.
A night out and a kiss goodbye
The Queen and Prince Philip would never go out to dinner without saying goodnight to their young family.
If they were off to an official function, such as a film premiere, nannies would take the children into the corridor so they could wave goodbye.
Just before she manoeuvred her tiara and long dress into a car, the Queen would always look up to the nursery floor to see their anxious faces pressed against the glass.
Then she’d give them a wave, while Philip would blow a kiss.
Andrew himself recalls that his parents divided their responsibilities towards him half and half: ‘Compassion comes from the Queen,’ he said. ‘And the duty and discipline comes from him [Philip].’
The royal couple’s youngest was altogether different from the boisterous Andrew; he was the type of boy, according to his headmaster, James Edwards, who could ‘spend an hour playing in the woods and come out looking like a bandbox [those brightly coloured boxes for keeping hats in]’. At prep school, he added, Edward was easy to teach, well behaved and got on with everyone.
His brother, on the other hand, was no intellectual and never quite rid himself of his rough edges. Throughout Andrew’s school years, he appeared uncertain if he wanted to be a prince or one of the lads. His inability to solve that dilemma would later become something of a handicap.
Philip was particularly proud of Edward, especially when he managed to achieve three Duke of Edinburgh Awards (earned through volunteering, physical activities, life skills and expeditions.) And Edward was equally proud: the one book he kept by his bedside until he married was his handwritten journal about the feats he accomplished on his father’s scheme.
In many ways, it was a symbolic reminder of the empathy between the prince and his father. Edward’s immense respect for him has always been mirrored by Philip’s genuine affection.
The Duke may not have attended all of his youngest son’s school events, but it was he, not the Queen, who came to see him receive his degree from Cambridge on graduation day.
He also forgave Edward his worst faux pas, when he produced the charity TV show It’s A Royal Knockout a few months after leaving the Marines. With the young prince’s encouragement, members of his family had dressed in period costume to act as captains of four teams in a celebrity tournament at Alton Towers theme park. The resulting TV programme was loud and undignified.
To make matters worse, Edward flounced out of the ensuing press conference after reporters made it clear what they thought of the show. All in all, it was both a critical and a PR disaster. The Queen Mother, who was about to celebrate her 87th birthday, was incensed.
She told Andrew, Edward and Anne (who’d each captained a team, along with the Duchess of York) that she’d spent years building the reputation of the monarchy with the King, only to have them try to destroy it in one evening.
Edward’s parents — who were celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary — also considered his TV venture a sorry episode.
From their viewpoint, he had shown a rare lack of judgment.
How Philip ticked off the royal snappers
To mark Prince Andrew’s arrival, the Queen and Philip asked the photographer Cecil Beaton to take some private pictures — which were released much later for public view.
The baby was then one month old and Beaton’s diaries give a revealing and acerbic account of the event.
The bright red dress that the Queen had worn for the occasion was ‘better than most of hers’, he thought.
‘She seemed affable enough but showed no signs of real interest in anything . . . Not one word of conversation — only a little well-bred amusement at the way I gave my instructions in a stream of asides.’
Soon, Beaton had the feeling that no one was bothering to give his photo session the attention it merited.
‘The odds were ganging up against me . . . I clicked like mad at anything that seemed even passable,’ he wrote. ‘But the weight of the Palace crushed me.’ He was particularly irked by Philip — ‘this hearty naval type,’ as Beaton described him in the diary.
The Prince, ‘in that maddening royal way’, kept on butting in and making suggestions — one of which was that Beaton should take his photos from the top of a ladder.
Eventually, Philip decided to take his own pictures with his own camera — the ultimate insult to a professional.
He behaved in the same dismissive way with photographer Terry O’Neill at the christening of Prince Andrew’s younger daughter, Princess Eugenie, in December 1990.
While Terry, who works very quickly, was snapping the christening group at Sandringham, Prince Philip kept saying: ‘Come on! Come on! Haven’t we done enough?’
To cap it all, he added in a rude aside: ‘If he hasn’t got what he wants by now, he’s an even worse photographer than I thought!’
Over the years, the Queen and Philip’s loving relationship with their youngest has never faltered.
Many in their circle, however, know that each has a personal preference for one son over the others. For the Queen, Andrew will always be her favourite, while for the Duke it is Edward.
As a mother, it must have worried the Queen that Philip was never close to their second son.
Indeed, whenever the opportunity arose, the Duke couldn’t resist taking a verbal swipe at her darling Andrew.