At least that was what Lord Louis Mountbatten was hoping when he helped make arrangements for King George VI and his family to visit Dartmouth Naval College in 1939. Mountbatten had a deep plan in mind when he chose which cadet would escort the 13-year-old heiress to the throne, Princess Elizabeth, and her younger sister, Margaret. So, it was Mountbatten’s nephew, 18-year-old Prince Philip of Greece, who spent the morning entertaining the princesses by playing with trains and jumping over tennis nets. Later that day, as the royal yacht departed, many of the cadets rowed out after it. Although most turned back, the boisterous Philip kept recklessly chasing until the irritated king made an officer order “the young fool” back to land. The prince was no stranger to the princesses, but that day would serve as a turning point as the young Elizabeth watched her new hero from the boat through a pair of binoculars.
Philip, by his own admission, enjoyed the novelty of the day—he also dined with the royal family on the yacht—but he wasn’t moonstruck over his new admirer. At 13, Elizabeth was just too young to strike his fancy, but he may have been aware of his family’s dynastic ambitions for him.
After Prince Andrew’s banishment, his family moved about Europe, mostly living on the hospitality of their extended relations, but they were rarely together. By the time Philip was 10, his parents were permanently (though not legally) separated and all four of his older sisters were married to German princes. Philip bounced from sister to cousin to uncle and back, with jaunts at severe boarding schools and sun-filled holidays with numerous young cousins.
Philip spent much of his time with his maternal grandmother, the former Victoria of Hesse, who lived at Kensington Palace although his maternal uncle George Marquess of Milford Haven was his legal guardian. He initially attended school in England, but was later sent to his older sister Theodora in Germany, whose husband's family sponsored a school on their property. When that school's Jewish headmaster had to leave Nazi Germany, young Philip became one of his first pupils at the newly founded Gordonstoun in Scotland. As Philip grew, Lord Louis began to show a greater interest in guiding his future, steering him toward the British Royal Navy with an eye toward making him as English as possible and eventually marrying him to Princess Elizabeth.
At first, Louis and his sister were at odds with this plan. Alice hoped that Philip might eventually gain the Greek throne. The continuing turbulence there inspired her to think her son might supersede the half dozen uncles and male cousins in front of him. Although she finally subscribed to Louis’ ambitions, there were more obstacles standing in Philip’s way.
Shortly after that fateful day at Dartmouth, World War II started and Greece became of puppet state of the Axis Powers. Plus, all of Philip’s German brothers-in-law were serving Hitler.
But, there was one power even more ominous than Hitler opposing the match: Elizabeth’s daddy.
Read Part 2.