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Far more vivid in British memories is Victoria's Prince Albert, founder of the present ruling house, who was the great-great-grandfather of both Elizabeth and Philip. Victoria, eager for the whole world to adore her husband as she did, was all for having the people crown Albert King right at the start. "For God's sake, Ma'am," her avuncular Prime Minister Lord Melbourne cried out at the idea, "if you get the English people into the way of making Kings, you will get them into the way of unmaking them."
Well aware of the dislike and distrust in which he was held by Victoria's subjects for most of his life, Albert himself was wisely self-effacing. "The position of Prince Consort requires that the husband should entirely sink his own individual existence in that of his wife," he wrote. But at a time when the Queen could still conduct diplomacy with other chiefs of state over the head of her government, he carried the key to Victoria's dispatch boxes, served as his wife's guide, mentor, confidant and private secretary, drafted her state orders and supervised all her affairs.. "He is King to all intents and purposes,'' muttered one disgruntled critic.
Delicate Task. Philip could not model himself on his great-great-grandfather even if he would. He has no inclination to effacement, and even if he had a desire for power, the throne no longer commands it. Under the tacit terms of the constitution, Elizabeth is not allowed to express an opinion contrary to that of her parliamentary majority.
But the monarchy embodies what might be called the residual stability of the national community, those values which are enduring beyond changes of politicians at 10 Downing Street or Westminster. Queen Elizabeth is a personification of the unspoken social contract Englishmen have made with each other over the centuries, the contract that preserves the continuity of the community and order despite political or economic or social differences. In the atavistic recesses of virtually every Briton's mind is the real, if irrational, sense that the Queen as a person is there, alert and ready with a cool, restraining hand, to protect him from the excesses of his fellow man. It is a delicate arrangement which must depend on an instinctive confidence between the parties involved. It is to foster and nurture that confidence that Elizabeth's husband has dedicated himself.
Just Philip. There must have seemed few less likely candidates for this job than the little Greek princeling who was born on the island of Corfu on June 10, 1921. Philip was the fifth child and only son of tall, monocled Prince Andrew, brother of King Constantine of Greece. By descent the family was not Greek, but belonged to the royal Danish House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg, which the British, French and Russians had put on the throne at the end of the 19th century. Philip's mother was Princess Alice of Battenberg, a great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Young Philip never learned Greek. His father, a lieutenant general, was blamed by clamoring republicans for a disaster in the short (1921-22) war with Turkey, was condemned to permanent exile, and left Greece for Paris, taking 18-month-old Philip with him.