Saturday, May 14, 2011

Question of the Day: Did the Duke of Edinburgh join the Anglican Church

Shortly after his birth in June 1921,  Prince Philip was baptized according to the rites of the Greek Orthodox Church.  Unlike other members of his family, Philip was not raised in the Orthodox  Church.  He said he always "regarded himself as an Anglican."

 This is not a surprise.  He spent his childhood in exile.  By the time he was ten years old, all four of his older sisters were married to German princes and living in Germany.   His parents were estranged, and his mother, having suffered a nervous breakdown, was hospitalized for psychiatric care.

Philip's maternal uncle, George, the 2nd Marquess of Milford Haven, became his guardian. It was Uncle George who arranged for Philip to attend Cheam.  In 1933,  Philip moved to Schloss Salem, the home of his sister, Princess Theodora, and her husband, the Margrave of Baden.  Part of Schloss Salem was a school run by Kurt Hahn,  Within a short amount of time, Kurt Hahn, who was Jewish, left the Salem School to start Gordonstoun in Scotland.  Prince Philip transferred to Gordonstoun and continued his education.

It was far more normal for Prince Philip to attend Anglican or Protestant services at school or with his family.  His Uncle George was his guardian, and Philip spent holidays at the Milford Havens' country home, Lynden Manor, or with his maternal grandmother, Victoria, Marquess of Milford Haven, at her apartment in Kensington Palace.

The question of Prince Philip's religion was brought to King George VI's attention some months before Philip was to marry George's daughter, Princess Elizabeth by Dr. Geoffrey Fisher, Archbishop of Canterbury.

"Sir,  There is a matter upon which I should consult Your Majesty.  A paragraph in The Times said that while Lieutenant Mountbatten was baptised into the Greek Orthodox Church, he appears "always to have regarded himself as an Anglican."  The same paragraph also misrepresented the relations between the Church of England and the Orthodox Church, but I need not trouble Your Majesty with that.

In the Church of England, we are always ready to minister to members of the Orthodox Church and to admit to the Sacrament.  No difficulty, therefore, arises of any sort on our side from the fact that Lieutenant Mountbatten was baptised into the Orthodox Church.  At the same time, unless he is officially received into the Church of England, he remains a member of the Greek Orthodox Church, which, though on the closest and most friendly terms with us, is not able to enter into full communion with us.  If it is true that Lieutenant Mountbatten has always regarded himself as an Anglican I suggest for Your Majesty's consideration that there would be an advantage if he were officially received into the Church of England.  It can be done privately and very simply.  It may be that you and Princess Elizabeth would feel it more fitting and happy that he should thus have his position regularised as a member of the Church of England.
If your Majesty agrees that the matter deserves consideration I will most willingly discuss  it further with you, or, if your Majesty thinks fit, with Lieutenant Mountbatten,     I am, Sir, your faithful servant, Geoffrey Cantuar."

Two weeks after this letter was written, the King informed the Archbishop that he had arranged for Philip to "have his position regularised."  In early October 1947, The Times published an article that said "It is understood that Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten has recently been received into membership of the Church of England."

Thus, Philip formalized his membership in a church where he had worshipped for most his of life.

[This letter was published in Prince Philip an Informal Biography by Basil Boothroyd (McCall Publishing: 1971]

Philip's cousin, Marina, did not join the Anglican church after she married the Duke of Kent in Anglican and Orthodox ceremonies.  When she died, however, her funeral was according to the rites of the Church of England. 

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Jennifer J. said...

Thank you for sharing this. My father is an Episcopal (American branch of Anglican) priest. Growing up in North Texas, we had a large family of Orthodox Lebanese who were active in our church. I have wondered about Prince Phillip's religious prederences, particularly as the Queen is the secular Head of my church in England.

Keith said...

Thank you. I have read that Princess Marina's funeral was conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archimandrite of the Greek Orthodox Church. Princess Marina usually worshipped at St. Mary Abbots Church near Kensington (it is a lovely parish church; I visited it in England.) She would be driven to Church, but her Aunt, Princess Alice the Countess of Athlone would walk unless it was raining. The two were neighbours at Kensington.