Mim has always been captivated by the letters, diaries and journals of late 19th and early 20th Century women, and how so many of these trailblazing women ultimately set the stage for women’s rights. After years of passionate research, she’s now put pen to paper and her historical fiction novels have finally become a reality. Her debut work “A Sparrow Alone” was published by Living Springs Publishers on April 15, 2020 and the sequel, “Muskrat Ramble” was published on March 23, 2021.
Today I am featuring American historical author, Elizabeth Bell, and I must say, just from reading the synopsis of her first book, I am beyond intrigued. I mean, come on, how can you not after reading this catchy blurb from her novel “Necessary Sins” – In antebellum Charleston, a Catholic priest grapples with doubt, his family’s secret African ancestry, and his love for a slave owner’s wife. This is definitely going on my ever-expanding To be read list!!
I’d like to welcome historical fantasy author, Marian L. Thorpe, to the show today. Marian’s unique approach to historical fiction is that she creates imaginary worlds and then tells the history of them in fiction form. She is the author of “Empire’s Legacy” a box set featuring the titles – “Empire’s Daughter”, “Empire’s Hostage”, and “Empire’s Exile”; as well as, “Empire’s Reckoning” and “Oraiaphon: A Novella of the Empire”
I am SO THRILLED to have USA Today’s bestselling historical fiction author, Ellie Midwood, on the blog today for an author interview!!
If you haven’t heard of Ellie’s books, well, where are you? In a cave? Well, even if you are in a cave, you have to go and get her sensational books that are soaring to the top of the book world charts.
I’ve read both her novels “The Violinist of Auschwitz” and “The Girl Who Escaped from Auschwitz”, and needless to say, I adored them both. You can read my reviews (which are both FIVE STARS) at the two links below:
And I cannot wait for the next book, “The Girl on the Platform”!!
So, let me tell you a litte about Ellie Midwood….
Ellie Midwood is a USA Today bestselling and award-winning historical fiction author. She owes her interest in the history of the Second World War to her grandfather, Junior Sergeant in the 2nd Guards Tank Army of the First Belorussian Front, who began telling her about his experiences on the frontline when she was a young girl. Growing up, her interest in history only deepened and transformed from reading about the war to writing about it. After obtaining her BA in Linguistics, Ellie decided to make writing her full-time career and began working on her first full-length historical novel, “The Girl from Berlin.” Ellie is continuously enriching her library with new research material and feeds her passion for WWII and Holocaust history by collecting rare memorabilia and documents.
In her free time, Ellie is a health-obsessed yoga enthusiast, neat freak, adventurer, Nazi Germany history expert, polyglot, philosopher, a proud Jew, and a doggie mama. Ellie lives in New York with her fiancé and their Chihuahua named Shark Bait.
Readers’ Favorite – winner in the Historical fiction category (2016) – “The Girl from Berlin: Standartenführer’s Wife” (first place)
Readers’ Favorite – winner in the Historical fiction category (2016) – “The Austrian” (honorable mention)
New Apple – 2016 Award for Excellence in Independent Publishing – “The Austrian” (official selection)
Readers’ Favorite – winner in the Historical fiction category (2017) – “Emilia”
Readers’ Favorite – winner in the Historical fiction category (2018) – “A Motherland’s Daughter, A Fatherland’s Son”
And now, what we were all waiting for, her author interview!!
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on? – Before the lockdown I’d been fortunate to visit Auschwitz traveling exhibition here in NYC. Even though the real Auschwitz-Birkenau camp/museum is definitely on my list of must-visit places, this traveling exhibition helped me visualize history I’ve been studying mostly through books and Auschwitz-Birkenau’s virtual map. Reading about it is one thing, but seeing all of these uniforms, spoons, bowls, shoes, suitcases, barracks, and gas chamber doors and gas columns is an entirely different matter. It helped me immensely with descriptions I put in my latest books about Auschwitz.
What is the first book that made you cry? – I’m actually very unemotional, so I don’t really cry while reading books or watching movies. I can feel very strongly about the subject but it usually moves me to action in different ways – I either decide to write about it, donate to the cause dedicated to it, bring awareness to it, but I have to do something. All of my strongest emotions are somehow connected to action. I would say, the latest book that made me feel very strongly was “Know My Name” by Chanel Miller. An extremely raw, honest, and powerful memoir which I’d highly recommend to everyone.
What are common traps for aspiring writers? – Not doing enough research and trying to save money on certain things that are simply must be done by professionals. I always say that the first thing in writing is research, research, and more research. It doesn’t matter what you write – historical fiction or legal thrillers – you simply must know what you’re writing about in detail. Have a novel set in Chicago? Make sure you know the city inside and out. Have a protagonist with depression? Make sure you know how it manifests instead of relying on stereotypes. And after you’ve researched your setting, main character’s profession, and procedural details to death, make sure you hire a good structural editor (this is particularly important if it’s your very first work!) to go over your plot and help you make it stronger, tie up all loose ends, develop the characters, and add or cut descriptions where necessary. Then send it to a good proofreader to “clean it up” and only after that submit it to the publisher/agent or, if you’re publishing it yourself, hire a professional formatter and a cover designer to help you make your book baby as beautiful and professional-looking as possible. Don’t try to save your money on these things as it’s these details that can make or break your literary debut. And good luck!
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want? – I never write “for the market”; I don’t think I’d be able to force something out of myself solely because it’s “in” right now but is of no interest to me whatsoever. All of the books I write deal with subjects that either fascinate me personally or have some special meaning to me as an author. I don’t think I’d ever be able to create anything readable just for the big bucks. It would most likely be flat and unreadable, haha!
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly? – Oh yes. This is the case with yours truly – I’m a very unemotional person and always rely on logic rather than heart, but it never stopped me from writing emotional scenes or making the reader feeling the emotions my protagonists experience (according to the reviews and personal messages at least, haha!). I think as long as you can describe emotions in such a way that the reader can virtually feel them as well, you’ll do just fine as an author. It’s the same with historical fiction writers: can you really write a good historical fiction if you never lived in the era you’re writing about? Sure, as long as you can make it real for the reader. Same with emotions.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer? – Oh, there are too many to name here! I’ve been truly fortunate to become friends with so many talented authors, I’ll never run out of books to read if I stick just to the list of my author buddies! One of my first author friends was Carissa Ann Lynch; we began writing approximately at the same time and have been making this incredible journey ever since. We’ve never met in person (I hope to change it soon, when the restrictions are lifted!) but I consider her my writing sister. She’s a truly gifted writer and just a wonderful person I’m very lucky to know. I was extremely lucky to meet my another writing sister, Yolanda Olson, last year and it’s been one of the best afternoons ever spent (in the cemetery. Yes, it was my idea. No, she didn’t think I was weird; she writes horror, so she’s used to it). I have a bookshelf dedicated solely to her signed paperbacks and I guess just by this you can tell that I’m a huge fangirl, haha! Besides these two of my writing besties, I can name so many authors who have supported me, celebrated with me, collaborated with me on different projects, but I’m afraid we’ll run out of time and space. They know who they are. I always thank them in the acknowledgements.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be? – “Don’t abandon that manuscript; this whole writing thing will turn out just fine for you!”
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing? – The process itself, believe it or not, didn’t change all that much. I experimented with styles and different points of view for a while but now I’m very set in my ways. I’ve always been a pantser and my inability to work with outlines certainly didn’t change. I became more rigid with my daily word count, if anything. My writing schedule is more organized now. But that’s the only thing that changed.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer? – I’ve just now got us a second pup and that has definitely been the best money ever spent from my book proceeds! We’ve been wanting a sister for our fur daughter Pupper for quite a long time, so we’re in virtual heaven! They say money can’t buy happiness; I say, it can buy dogs and that’s the same thing!
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power? – I can’t recall a definite moment but it began when I was very young; whenever I read a quote that resonated with me on a personal level or whenever I heard someone make a speech that gave me goosebumps, I realized that words carry a huge weight. The fact that I can call to action or bring awareness to certain subjects through my works only came to me much later, in my twenties, I’d say.
What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters? – Everything. I always say that it’s my utmost honor to be telling their incredible, inspiring stories and that I hope that I do them justice with my words. All of my protagonists who are based on true people are my personal heroes; I decided to tell their stories because they astonished and inspired me so much and that’s why I consider it my duty to research their experiences as best as I can so that I can present them as accurately as possible. I can only hope they would have been satisfied with my modest efforts if they were alive today.
What does literary success look like to you? – You’ll probably laugh at me, but I actually never considered this question. The superficial answer would be, when you get an award or reach a bestseller status or have a movie based on your book… but that’s not really “it” to me personally. I mean, those are all absolutely fabulous milestones but in my personal opinion, literary success is when you write from the heart and readers love your work and can’t wait for your new book to come out. That’s literary success to me.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book? – Research is pretty much a daily occurrence here, so I’m not even sure how to put a timeframe on it. I’ve been interested in the history of WWII since I was a child (I grew up on my grandfather’s war stories), and began researching the subject in my early teens. Since then I’ve been accumulating research sources, collecting memorabilia, digging deeper and deeper into the already-familiar subjects – you get the idea. So, I’d say the basis for my research is always there. As for some specific themes I need to research (Mala’s hair color, for instance, or Edek’s pre-war occupation) I always turn to survivors’ memoirs if they’re available or historical studies and biographies written already after the war. I research before I begin to write, while I write, and when I’m doing rewrites and the first round of editing. I’m a little OCD when it comes to the most minutest details, so I need to make sure that I get everything right. It does take time though, sometimes a few months.
What are the ethics of writing about historical figures? – I think when writing about real people, it’s incredibly important to stick to the facts. Also, it can get quite tricky not to fall into a protagonist/antagonist trap; what I mean here is sometimes authors tend to “villianize” (I think I just invented a new word here) a certain historical figure to the point where they become a cardboard-cut evil caricature or, on the contrary, to idolize another historical figure who serves as their protagonist ascribing qualities to them that they never possessed in real life. In my personal opinion, the more an author explores all shades of gray of their characters based on real historical figures, the more compelling their writing will be. To me personally, as a writer and as a reader, accurate descriptions of historical figures are extremely important, so if I see that a book strays away from it and turns a real person into something they weren’t in real life, I just won’t finish the book. It’s not historical fiction anymore, it’s just fiction.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones? – I do read them, mostly during the first couple of weeks of the release as I’m curious to see how the book is received. Naturally, I love positive reviews but even critical ones can sometimes be very helpful, as long as the criticism is constructive. Of course, some negative reviews don’t even make any sense (a review that is complaining that the plot was weak in the story that is based on true events; or a reviewer claims that something is historically wrong even if you have mentioned that very event in your note in history they clearly were too lazy to read), so I just laugh those off. Reviews never affect me, neither negative not positive. As long as my editor is happy with my book, all is good.
What was your hardest scene to write? – the scene dealing with “Hungarian Action” in “Auschwitz Syndrome.” It was very heavy even for me, who’ve been studying the subject for many years. I think (and many historians agree) that it was the culmination of the Auschwitz hell and naturally, it came out very graphic and very disturbing. I don’t think I’ve re-read it since.
What is the most difficult part of your artistic process? – Overcoming the dreaded “block.” But in this case I usually just write myself out of it. I’ve noticed that it goes away much faster if you actively deal with it rather than waiting for the inspiration to return.
Does your family support your career as a writer? – Oh yes! I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have such a huge support team behind me who cheer all of my accomplishments and celebrate all of my newest releases. My friends have been a huge support throughout my journey and I make sure to always thank them in the acknowledgments for all their love.
Can you tell us a bit about your book/series and why you chose this topic? – I knew that I simply had to write about Mala after I first read about her incredible story in a survivor’s memoir. I was actually amazed that no one has written about this courageous, selfless young woman, who risked her life to help the others and actively resisted against the Nazis in a place where survival itself was considered resistance. But what she did, what she accomplished together with Edek (I’m being purposefully vague here as I don’t want to give away any spoilers) simply had to be written as a novel. Mala was a true hero and such an inspiration to all of the inmates. Many survived only thanks to her efforts. It was my utmost honor to be telling her story.
What is your favourite quote to leave us with? Something that tells us a bit about you and why? – I have a lot of favorite quotes, each fitting different subjects, but since we’re talking about WWII, I’d say this one: “If you’re going through hell, keep going,” by Winston Churchill. I’ve always lived by these words and I recommend everyone to do the same. Never give up. If you keep fighting, eventually you’ll win all of your battles. Just don’t give up. That’s what’s life is all about.
Thank you so much, Ellie, for joining the Hist Fic Chickie today! I wish you continued success on your novels and I am so glad we connected through social media!!
I am happy to have Mark McLaughlin on the show today talking about his sensational books “Throne of Darius” and “Princess of Persia” set during the time of Alexander the Great. This is in conjunction with his author takeover on April 12th at The Historical Fiction Club and his featured spotlight on my blog, The Hist Fic Chickie. Come join us!
In conjunction with the author takeover on my group, The Historical Fiction Club, I am welcoming to the blog and podcast, Mark McLaughlin, the author of “The Throne of Darius” and “Princess of Persia”.
If you would like to listen to his author interview on the Hist Fic Chickie podcast, click on the link below:
If you would like to join Mark for his author takeover of the group on April 12, 2021, please click HERE to join the group (answer all the questions) and you will have the opportunity to read his posts, ask him questions, and enter possible giveaways!!
“Someday, you make a game for me, Daddy?” is what little Ryan McLaughlin asked her father, Mark, many years ago. He designed not one but two games for his daughter, and then wrote a novel based on the later of those: Princess Ryan’s Star Marines. Now he has written another novel – a work of historical fiction: Throne of Darius. It is the first in a series about characters (real and imagined) who fought against Alexander the Great.
A free-lance journalist, Mark is the author of two novels and two books on military history and is the designer of 24 published games – most recent of which is Ancient Civilizations of the Inner Sea by GMT games. Mark also writes for many clients and publications. Although his principal work as a journalist over the last 40 years has been in foreign affairs, he also writes on everything from travel and entertainment to serious position papers.
Ancient Thebes, 335BC. Alexander savagely crushes the Theban revolt against his rule. Swearing revenge for their once glorious city, Dimitrios, a captain of the Theban army, physician Klemes, and soldier Ari, join General Memnon in Asia Minor to fight against Alexander as he sets off to conquer the Persian Empire.
An irreverent portrait of Alexander the Great
Throne of Darius is a story of high adventure, romance and war – especially war, told with heart and a sense of humor. Mark McLaughlin paints a unique and irreverent portrait of Alexander the Great, who certainly was not “great” to everyone. Unlike the majority of historical and literary works, this novel does not glorify the Macedonian king but instead tells the tale of the young conqueror from the point of view of those who fought against him.
What readers say about Throne of Darius
“The description of the Battle of the Granicos River is among the clearest I have ever read. The author knows his history and presents it in a facile style that explains the essentials of the strategy of the campaign and the tactics in skirmishes and battles.” – Christopher Vorder Bruegge
“Military historical fiction is often all about male warriors, complex strategies and vicious battles. There is all of that in this book, but there are also strong female characters in Throne of Darius, like the noble princess Barsine and the brave horsegirl, Halime. Narrating the story from the point of view of Alexander’s opponents is a refreshing take that brings a new understanding of Alexander’s campaign without diminishing historical accuracy. There is humor, fierce battle scenes but also deeply emotional moments – everything to make Throne of Darius an enthralling read that will keep you hooked”. – Krystallia Papadimitriou, editor
“PRINCESS OF PERSIA”
Alexander the Great would have been furious at the disrespect shown to him in this novel. His mother, Olympias, would have surely cursed the author for depicting her son as a blood-thirsty glory-hound with delusions of godhood. On the other hand, Darius, the king whose throne Alexander lusted for, and Memnon, the general who was for a time the young Macedonian’s greatest foe, are likely smiling in their graves, relieved that someone west of the Bosphorus has finally told their side of the story. Princess of Persia is the second book in the series which began with Throne of Darius: A Captain of Thebes. It continues the story of the Greek and Persian men and women – and one woman in particular – to whom Alexander was anything but “great,” and tells the tale of the young world conqueror from the perspective not of those who worshipped him – but of those who fought against him.
Princess of Persia is the second in the series which began with Throne of Darius: A Captain of Thebes. It continues the story of the Greek and Persian men and women – and one woman in particular – to whom Alexander was anything but “great,” and tells the tale of the young world conqueror from the perspective not of those who worshipped him – but of those who fought against him.
Thank you to Mark for being a part of The Hist Fic Chickie blog and podcast today, I truly appreciate it!
Well, today I woke up and the first news I see is that His Royal Highness, Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, has died quietly at the royal residence of Windsor Castle.
And then I see a bevy of nasty and inappropriate tweets across the Twitter board blasting him and the royal family. Dancing memes and laughing emojis are not the sort of thing anyone wants to see when someone has died.
People need to remember that despite their supposed opinions about Prince Phillip, death is a horrible thing for anyone to experience. He is a person like anyone else, the Queen is a person with feelings and has just lost her husband after having spend 73 years with him. That is a remarkable accomplishment and something to be celebrated, AND something to mourn with her over.
73 years, people!!
Yes, Prince Phillip caused stirs throughout his lifetime, no doubt, but when all is said and done he stood by the Queen as Prince Consort for all these years, through all the ups and downs, and their constancy has been a backbone for the Royal Family for all these years.
Death is a tragedy no matter who you are and what your station in life is – it is painful and heart-wrenching to suddenly have someone gone who has been such an important part of your life. I send my heartfelt sympathies to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. If I lost my husband I’m not sure I could keep functioning. And now, she and her feelings and her whole family’s feelings are out there for the world to trample on. Shame on the ones who cannot pause for a moment to be kind!! Just because they are in the position they are does not give people the right to stomp on them, especially during a tragic moment as this.
So, in my endeavor to show a little humanity, perhaps an In Memoriam post is in order for a man who supported his Queen for 73 years.
HRH, The Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, Royal Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, Member of Her Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy Council, Extra Knight of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, Grand Master and First and Principle Knight Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, Member of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada, Member of the Order of Merit, Order of the Dogwood, Extra Companion of the Queen’s Service Order, Companion of the Order of Australia, Knight of the Order of Australia, Royal Chief of the Order of Logohu, Additional Member of the Order of New Zealand, Extraordinary Commander of the Order of Military Merit, Extraordinary Companion of the Order of Canada, Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order.
The Duke of Edinburgh was appointed by King George VI to the Order of the Garter on 19 November 1947, the eve of his wedding. Since then, Philip has received 17 different appointments and decorations in the Commonwealth, and 48 from foreign states. The inhabitants of some villages on the island of Tanna, Vanuatu worship Prince Philip as a god; the islanders possess portraits of the Duke and hold feasts on his birthday. Upon his wife’s accession to the throne in 1952, the Duke was appointed Admiral of the Sea Cadet Corps, Colonel-in-Chief of the British Army Cadet Force, and Air Commodore-in-Chief of the Air Training Corps. The following year, he was appointed to the equivalent positions in Canada and made Admiral of the Fleet, Captain General Royal Marines, Field Marshal, and Marshal of the Royal Air Force in the United Kingdom. Subsequent military appointments were made in New Zealand and Australia. In 1975, he was appointed Colonel of the Grenadier Guards, a position he handed over to his son Andrew in 2017. On 16 December 2015, his role as Honorary Air Commodore-in-Chief was handed over to the Duchess of Cambridge.
To celebrate his 90th birthday, the Queen appointed him Lord High Admiral, as well as to the highest ranks available in all three branches of the Canadian Armed Forces.
On their 70th wedding anniversary, 20 November 2017, the Queen appointed him Knight Grand Cross (GCVO) of the Royal Victorian Order, making him the first British national since his uncle Earl Mountbatten of Burma to be entitled to wear the breast stars of four orders of chivalry in the United Kingdom.
And these are just a smattering of other titles, medals, honors, decorations, appointments, foreign honors, and honorary military positions he held. He was also a patron of many organizations and schools.
Philip was born into the Greek and Danish royal families. He was born in Greece, but his family was exiled from the country when he was an infant. After being educated in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, he joined the British Royal Navy in 1939, aged 18. From July 1939, he began corresponding with the thirteen-year-old Princess Elizabeth, whom he had first met in 1934. During the Second World War he served with distinction in the Mediterranean and Pacific Fleets. After the war, Philip was granted permission by George VI to marry Elizabeth. Before the official announcement of their engagement in July 1947, he abandoned his Greek and Danish titles and styles, became a naturalised British subject, and adopted his maternal grandparents’ surname Mountbatten. He married Elizabeth on 20 November 1947. Just before the wedding, he was granted the style His Royal Highness and created Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth, and Baron Greenwich by King George VI. Philip left active military service when Elizabeth became queen in 1952, having reached the rank of commander, and was made a British prince in 1957.
Philip had four children with Elizabeth: Charles, Prince of Wales; Anne, Princess Royal; Prince Andrew, Duke of York; and Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex. Through a British Order in Council issued in 1960, descendants of the couple not bearing royal styles and titles can use the surname Mountbatten-Windsor, which has also been used by some members of the royal family who do hold titles, such as Anne, Andrew, and Edward.
A sports enthusiast, Philip helped develop the equestrian event of carriage driving. He was a patron, president, or member of over 780 organizations, and he served as chairman of The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, a self-improvement program for young people aged 14 to 24. He was the longest-serving consort of a reigning British monarch and the longest-lived male member of the British royal family. He retired from his royal duties on 2 August 2017, aged 96, having completed 22,219 solo engagements since 1952. Philip died on 9 April 2021, at the age of 99, just two months before his 100th birthday.
The war went badly for Greece, and the Turks made large gains. Philip’s uncle and high commander of the Greek expeditionary force, King Constantine I, was blamed for the defeat and was forced to abdicate on 27 September 1922. The new military government arrested Prince Andrew, along with others. The commanding officer of the army, General Georgios Hatzianestis, and five senior politicians, were arrested, tried, and executed in the Trial of the Six. Prince Andrew’s life was also believed to be in danger, and Princess Alice was under surveillance. Finally in December, a revolutionary court banished Prince Andrew from Greece, for life. The British naval vessel HMS Calypso evacuated Prince Andrew’s family, with Philip carried to safety in a cot made from a fruit box. Philip’s family went to France, where they settled in the Paris suburb of Saint-Cloud in a house lent to them by his wealthy aunt, Princess George of Greece and Denmark.
Because Philip left Greece as a baby, he did not speak Greek. In 1992, he said that he “could understand a certain amount”. Philip stated that he thought of himself as Danish, and his family spoke English, French, and German. Philip, who in his youth was known for his charm, was linked to a number of women, including Osla Benning.
Philip was first educated at The Elms, an American school in Paris run by Donald MacJannet, who described Philip as a “know it all smarty person, but always remarkably polite”. In 1928, he was sent to the United Kingdom to attend Cheam School, living with his maternal grandmother, Victoria Mountbatten, Dowager Marchioness of Milford Haven, at Kensington Palace and his uncle, George Mountbatten, 2nd Marquess of Milford Haven, at Lynden Manor in Bray, Berkshire. In the next three years, his four sisters married German princes and moved to Germany, his mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia and placed in an asylum, and his father took up residence in Monte Carlo. Philip had little contact with his mother for the remainder of his childhood. In 1933, he was sent to Schule Schloss Salem in Germany, which had the “advantage of saving school fees” because it was owned by the family of his brother-in-law, Berthold, Margrave of Baden.With the rise of Nazism in Germany, Salem’s Jewish founder, Kurt Hahn, fled persecution and founded Gordonstoun School in Scotland, to which Philip moved after two terms at Salem. In 1937, his sister Cecilie, her husband Georg Donatus, Hereditary Grand Duke of Hesse, her two young sons, Ludwig and Alexander, her newborn infant, and her mother-in-law, Princess Eleonore of Solms-Hohensolms-Lich, were killed in an air crash at Ostend; Philip, then 16 years old, attended the funeral in Darmstadt. The following year, his uncle and guardian Lord Milford Haven died of bone marrow cancer.
Promotion to lieutenant followed on 16 July 1942. In October of the same year, he became first lieutenant of HMS Wallace, at 21 years old one of the youngest first lieutenants in the Royal Navy. During the invasion of Sicily, in July 1943, as second in command of Wallace, he saved his ship from a night bomber attack. He devised a plan to launch a raft with smoke floats that successfully distracted the bombers, allowing the ship to slip away unnoticed. In 1944, he moved on to the new destroyer, HMS Whelp, where he saw service with the British Pacific Fleet in the 27th Destroyer Flotilla. He was present in Tokyo Bay when the instrument of Japanese surrender was signed. Philip returned to the United Kingdom on the Whelp in January 1946, and was posted as an instructor at HMS Royal Arthur, the Petty Officers’ School in Corsham, Wiltshire.
Eventually, in the summer of 1946, Philip asked the King for his daughter’s hand in marriage. The King granted his request, provided that any formal engagement be delayed until Elizabeth’s 21st birthday the following April. By March 1947, Philip had abandoned his Greek and Danish royal titles, had adopted the surname Mountbatten from his mother’s family, and had become a naturalised British subject. The engagement was announced to the public on 10 July 1947.
Though Philip appeared “always to have regarded himself as an Anglican”, and he had attended Anglican services with his classmates and relations in England and throughout his Royal Navy days, he had been baptised in the Greek Orthodox Church. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Geoffrey Fisher, wanted to “regularise” Philip’s position by officially receiving him into the Church of England, which he did in October 1947.
Philip and Elizabeth were married in a ceremony at Westminster Abbey, recorded and broadcast by BBC radio to 200 million people around the world. In post-war Britain, it was not acceptable for any of the Duke of Edinburgh’s German relations to be invited to the wedding, including Philip’s three surviving sisters, all of whom had married German princes. After their marriage, the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh took up residence at Clarence House. Their first two children were born before Elizabeth succeeded her father as monarch in 1952: Prince Charles in 1948 and Princess Anne in 1950. Their marriage was the longest of any British monarch.
With the King in ill health, Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh were both appointed to the Privy Council on 4 November 1951, after a coast-to-coast tour of Canada. At the end of January 1952, Philip and his wife set out on a tour of the Commonwealth. On 6 February 1952, they were in Kenya when Elizabeth’s father died and she became queen. It was Philip who broke the news to Elizabeth at Sagana Lodge, and the royal party immediately returned to the United Kingdom.
The accession of Elizabeth to the throne brought up the question of the name of the royal house, as Elizabeth would typically have taken Philip’s last name upon marriage. The Duke’s uncle, Earl Mountbatten of Burma, advocated the name House of Mountbatten. Philip suggested House of Edinburgh, after his ducal title. When Queen Mary, Elizabeth’s grandmother, heard of this, she informed the British prime minister, Winston Churchill, who himself later advised the Queen to issue a royal proclamation declaring that the royal house was to remain known as the House of Windsor. Prince Philip privately complained, “I am nothing but a bloody amoeba. I am the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his own children.”
On 8 February 1960, several years after the death of Queen Mary and the resignation of Churchill as prime minister, the Queen issued an Order in Council declaring that Mountbatten-Windsor would be the surname of her and her husband’s male-line descendants who are not styled as Royal Highness or titled as prince or princess. While it seems the Queen had “absolutely set her heart” on such a change and had it in mind for some time, it occurred only 11 days before the birth of Prince Andrew (19 February), and only after three months of protracted correspondence between constitutional expert Edward Iwi (who averred that, without such a change, the royal child would be born with “the Badge of Bastardy”) and Prime Minister Harold Macmillan who had attempted to rebut Iwi’s arguments.
After her accession to the throne, the Queen also announced that the Duke was to have “place, pre-eminence and precedence” next to her “on all occasions and in all meetings, except where otherwise provided by Act of Parliament“. This meant the Duke took precedence over his son, the Prince of Wales, except, officially, in the British parliament. In fact, however, he attended Parliament only when escorting the Queen for the annual State Opening of Parliament, where he walked and sat beside her. Contrary to rumours over the years, the Queen and Duke were said by insiders to have had a strong relationship throughout their marriage, despite the challenges of Elizabeth’s reign. The Queen referred to Prince Philip in a speech on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee in 2012 as her “constant strength and guide”.
Prince Philip received a Parliamentary annuity (of £359,000 since 1990) that serves to meet official expenses in carrying out public duties. The annuity was unaffected by the reform of royal finances under the Sovereign Grant Act 2011. Any part of the allowance that was not used to meet official expenditure was liable for tax. In practice, the entire allowance was used to fund his official duties.
As consort to the Queen, Philip supported his wife in her new duties as sovereign, accompanying her to ceremonies such as the State Opening of Parliament in various countries, state dinners, and tours abroad. As chairman of the Coronation Commission, he was the first member of the royal family to fly in a helicopter, visiting the troops that were to take part in the ceremony. Philip was not crowned in the service, but knelt before Elizabeth, with her hands enclosing his, and swore to be her “liege man of life and limb”.
In 1956, the Duke, with Kurt Hahn, founded The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in order to give young people “a sense of responsibility to themselves and their communities”. In the same year, he also established the Commonwealth Study Conferences. From 1956 to 1957, Philip travelled around the world aboard the newly commissioned HMY Britannia, during which he opened the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne and visited the Antarctic, becoming the first royal to cross the Antarctic Circle. The Queen and the children remained in the UK. On the return leg of the journey, Philip’s private secretary, Mike Parker, was sued for divorce by his wife. As with Townsend, the press still portrayed divorce as a scandal, and eventually Parker resigned. He later said that the Duke was very supportive and “the Queen was wonderful throughout. She regarded divorce as a sadness, not a hanging offence.” In a public show of support, the Queen created Parker a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order.
Further press reports claimed that the Queen and the Duke were drifting apart, which enraged the Duke and dismayed the Queen, who issued a strongly worded denial. On 22 February 1957, she granted her husband the style and title of a Prince of the United Kingdom by Letters Patent, and it was gazetted that he was to be known as “His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh”. Philip was appointed to the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada on 14 October 1957, taking his Oath of Allegiance before the Queen in person at her Canadian residence, Rideau Hall. Remarks he made two years later to the Canadian Medical Association on the subject of youth and sport were taken as a suggestion that Canadian children were out of shape. This was at first considered “tactless”, but Philip was later admired for his encouragement of physical fitness. In Canada in 1969, Philip spoke about his views on republicanism:
“It is a complete misconception to imagine that the monarchy exists in the interests of the monarch. It doesn’t. It exists in the interests of the people. If at any time any nation decides that the system is unacceptable, then it is up to them to change it.”
Philip was patron of some 800 organizations, particularly focused on the environment, industry, sport, and education. His first solo engagement as Duke of Edinburgh was in March 1948, presenting prizes at the boxing finals of the London Federation of Boys’ Clubs at the Royal Albert Hall. He was president of the National Playing Fields Association (now known as Fields in Trust) for 64 years, from 1947 until his grandson Prince William took over the role in 2013. He served as UK president of the World Wildlife Fund from 1961 to 1982, international president from 1981, and president emeritus from 1996. In 1952, he became patron of The Industrial Society (since renamed The Work Foundation). Between 1959 and 1965 Prince Philip was the President of BAFTA. He was president of the International Equestrian Federation from 1964 to 1986, and served as chancellor of the universities of Cambridge, Edinburgh, Salford, and Wales. In 2017, the British Heart Foundation thanked Prince Philip for being its patron for 55 years, during which time, in addition to organising fundraisers, he “supported the creation of nine BHF-funded centres of excellence”. He was an Honorary Fellow of St Edmund’s College, Cambridge.
Philip was the third-longest-lived member of the British royal family (following Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother) and the longest-lived male member ever. His time as royal consort exceeded that of any other British consort.
In 2008, Philip was admitted to King Edward VII’s Hospital, London, for a chest infection; he walked into the hospital unaided, recovered quickly, and was discharged three days later. After the Evening Standard reported that Philip had prostate cancer, Buckingham Palace – which usually refuses to comment on health rumours – denied the story and the paper retracted it.
In June 2011, in an interview marking his 90th birthday he said that he would now slow down and reduce his duties, stating that he had “done [his] bit”. His wife, the Queen, gave him the title Lord High Admiral for his 90th birthday. While staying at Sandringham House, the royal residence in Norfolk, on 23 December 2011, the Duke suffered chest pains and was taken to the cardio-thoracic unit at Papworth Hospital, Cambridgeshire, where he underwent successful coronary angioplasty and stenting. He was discharged on 27 December.
On 4 June 2012, during the celebrations in honour of his wife’s Diamond Jubilee, Philip was taken from Windsor Castle to King Edward VII’s Hospital suffering from a bladder infection. He was released from hospital on 9 June. After a recurrence of infection in August 2012, while staying at Balmoral Castle, he was admitted to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary for five nights as a precautionary measure. In June 2013, Philip was admitted to the London Clinic for an exploratory operation on his abdomen, spending 11 days in hospital. On 21 May 2014, the Prince appeared in public with a bandage on his right hand after a “minor procedure” was performed in Buckingham Palace the preceding day. In June 2017, he was taken from Windsor to London and admitted to King Edward VII’s Hospital after being diagnosed with an infection. He spent two nights in the hospital and was unable to attend the State Opening of Parliament and Royal Ascot.
Prince Philip retired from his royal duties on 2 August 2017, meeting Royal Marines in his final solo public engagement, aged 96. Since 1952 he had completed 22,219 solo engagements. Prime Minister Theresa May thanked him for “a remarkable lifetime of service”. On 20 November 2017, he celebrated his 70th wedding anniversary with the Queen, which made her the first British monarch to celebrate a platinum wedding anniversary.
On 3 April 2018, Philip was admitted to King Edward VII’s Hospital for a planned hip replacement, which took place the next day. This came after the Duke missed the annual Maundy and Easter Sunday services. On 12 April, his daughter, Princess Anne, spent about 50 minutes in the hospital and afterwards said her father was “on good form”. He was discharged the following day. On 19 May, six weeks later, he attended the wedding of his grandson Prince Harry to Meghan Markle and was able to walk with the Queen unaided. That October, he accompanied the Queen to the wedding of their granddaughter Princess Eugenie to Jack Brooksbank, with The Telegraph reporting that Philip works on a “wake up and see how I feel” basis when deciding whether to attend an event or not.
On 17 January 2019, 97-year-old Philip was involved in a car crash as he pulled out onto a main road near the Sandringham Estate. An official statement said he was uninjured. An eyewitness who came to the prince’s aid described having to wipe blood off his hands. The driver and a passenger of the other car were injured and taken to hospital. Philip attended hospital the next morning as a precaution. He apologised, and three weeks later voluntarily surrendered his driving licence. On 14 February, the Crown Prosecution Service announced that prosecuting Philip would not be in the public interest. The Duke was still allowed to drive around private estates, and was seen behind the wheel in the grounds of Windsor Castle in April 2019.
From 20 to 24 December 2019, Philip stayed at King Edward VII’s Hospital and received treatment for a “pre-existing condition”, in a visit described by Buckingham Palace as a “precautionary measure”. He had not been seen in public since attending Lady Gabriella Kingston’s wedding in May 2019. A photo of Philip with the Queen as they isolated at Windsor Castle during the COVID-19 pandemic was released ahead of his 99th birthday in June 2020. In July 2020, he stepped down as Colonel-in-Chief of The Rifles, a position he had held since 2007. He was succeeded by the Duchess of Cornwall.
On 9 January 2021, Philip and the Queen were vaccinated against COVID-19 by a household doctor at Windsor Castle. On 16 February 2021, Philip was admitted to King Edward VII’s Hospital as a “precautionary measure” after feeling unwell. He was visited by Prince Charles on 20 February. On 23 February, it was confirmed by Buckingham Palace that Philip was “responding to treatment” for an infection. On 1 March 2021, Philip was transferred by ambulance to St Bartholomew’s Hospital to continue treatment for an infection, and additionally to undergo “testing and observation” relating to a pre-existing heart condition. He underwent a successful procedure for his heart condition on 3 March, and was transferred back to King Edward VII’s Hospital on 5 March. He was discharged on 16 March.
Personality and Image
Philip played polo until 1971, when he started to compete in carriage driving, a sport which he helped to expand; the early rule book was drafted under his supervision. He was also a keen yachtsman and struck up a friendship in 1949 with Uffa Fox, in Cowes. Philip and the Queen regularly attended Cowes Week in HMY Britannia.
Philip’s first airborne flying lesson took place in 1952; by his 70th birthday he had accrued 5,150 pilot hours. He was presented with Royal Air Force wings in 1953. In April 2014, it was reported that an old British Pathe newsreel film had been discovered of Philip’s 1962 two-month flying tour of South America. Filmed sitting alongside Philip at the aircraft’s controls was his co-pilot Captain Peter Middleton, the grandfather of the Duke’s granddaughter-in-law, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.
He painted with oils, and collected artworks, including contemporary cartoons, which hang at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, Sandringham House, and Balmoral Castle. Hugh Casson described Philip’s own artwork as “exactly what you’d expect … totally direct, no hanging about. Strong colours, vigorous brushstrokes.”
Philip’s down-to-earth manner was attested to by a White House butler who recalled that, on a visit in 1979, Philip engaged him and a fellow butler in a conversation and poured them drinks. As well as a reputation for bluntness and plain speaking, Philip was noted for occasionally making observations and jokes that have been construed as either funny, or as gaffes: awkward, politically incorrect, or even offensive, but sometimes perceived as stereotypical of someone of his age and background. In an address to the General Dental Council in 1960, he jokingly coined a new word for his blunders: “Dontopedalogy is the science of opening your mouth and putting your foot in it, a science which I have practised for a good many years.” Later in life, he suggested his comments may have contributed to the perception that he was “a cantankerous old sod”.
The historian David Starkey described him as a kind of “HRH Victor Meldrew“. For example, in May 1999, British newspapers accused Philip of insulting deaf children at a pop concert in Wales by saying, “No wonder you are deaf listening to this row.” Later, Philip wrote, “The story is largely invention. It so happens that my mother was quite seriously deaf and I have been Patron of the Royal National Institute for the Deaf for ages, so it’s hardly likely that I would do any such thing.” When he and the Queen met Stephen Menary, an army cadet blinded by an IRA bomb, and the Queen enquired how much sight he retained, Philip quipped: “Not a lot, judging by the tie he’s wearing.” Menary later said: “I think he just tries to put people at ease by trying to make a joke. I certainly didn’t take any offence.”
An American Anglophile’s In Memoriam
So, whatever you glean from his life, or whatever you think of the “cantankerous old sod” (as he called himself), he has spent a life of service to the Crown. Most of what we know, I mean ordinary folk like me, we know from newspapers, news reports, movies, and TV series like “The Crown”, so we don’t really know those intimate moments of just sitting together as husband and wife, as just humans. But we can empathize because, after all, we are all human with frailties and faults, humans who love and who make mistakes. If we can be so fortunate to have a marriage that lasts as long as the Queen of England and her Prince, we should be so fortunate.
My deepest sympathies on this sad day for Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II of Britain, and to the rest of the Royal Family.
How I would have loved to talk with Virginia Woolf!! She is one of my favourite authors!! A few years ago I wrote a short story involving an imaginary conversation between the two of us at Monk House. This is the story, I hope you enjoy it!