As Queen Elizabeth II is the longest-serving British monarch of all time, Prince Philip held the record for longest-serving consort in the British monarch’s history and had done so for nearly 12 years. Per Guinness World Records, the Duke of Edinburgh achieved the record on April 17, 2009, at which point he had been the royal consort for 57 years and 71 days. At the time of his death on April 9, 2021, he had held this position for a staggering 69 years and 62 days. Although Prince Philip stepped down from his official royal duties in May of 2017, he still had plenty of responsibilities as the queen’s consort in addition to the rules he had to follow as a member of the royal family.
The most publically obvious rule Prince Philip had to follow was walking two paces behind Queen Elizabeth II. As reported by Showbiz Cheat Sheet, this is due to the royal family’s Order of Precedence, which decrees that the reigning monarch must walk at the front of a processession, particularly for formal occasions and state dinners.
In fact, technically the queen’s son Prince Charles, who follows his mother in the line of succession to the throne, should follow behind the queen, but Elizabeth II had the authority to update the Order of Precedence and “issued a letters patent to accord the Duke a position higher than all other male members of the royal family.” Of course, there are many pictures available of the royal couple walking arm in arm, so the “two paces behind” rule is reserved for processionals.
Waiting and bowing: The life of a royal consort
Despite the fact that they were a long-married couple, Prince Philip had to join the rest of the royal family in following the protocols in place for dining with Queen Elizabeth II. Per Readers Digest, this included remaining standing until the queen has taken her seat at the dining table, waiting for the queen to start eating before beginning his meal, and putting down his fork as soon as the queen is finished eating. Presumably, things were a little less formal when the queen and duke were having a casual snack at home, but in public, rules were rules.
Similarly, like the rest of the royal family, Prince Philip was expected to bow to the queen during formal occasions, and performed a full, kneeling bow to Elizabeth at her coronation.
The Netflix show The Crown portrayed Philip as furious at the expectation that he bow and kneel to his wife and unsuccessfully campaigning to get out of doing so. According to royal family expert Christopher Wilson in Marie Claire, this made for dramatic television but was likely not reality: “I doubt Prince Phillip ever spoke those words to his wife because he came from a royal household which had borrowed so much of its ritual and protocol form the British Royal Family. He knew full well what was expected of him in public, and was prepared to go along with it.”
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