Although he was married for more than 70 years to the most enduringly famous woman in the world, Prince Philip’s own origins remained strangely shrouded in obscurity. “I don’t think anybody thinks I had a father,” he remarked ruefully in the 1970s. Born in Corfu on June 10, 1921, in the shadow of the First World War and Russian revolution, Philip’s was a childhood characterised by change. By the time he was 18 months old, the family – his parents Prince Andrew of Greece and Princess Alice of Battenberg, and four older sisters Margarita, Theodora, Cecile, Sophie – had been forced to flee Greece after a coup. Philip’s uncle, King George V, ordered a Royal Navy ship to collect them and facilitated their relocation to the outskirts of Paris, at St-Cloud, where they lived on handouts from relations. The young prince, sixth in line to the Greek throne, was famously carried to safety in a cot made from an orange box. Alice, who had been born deaf, had her nerves badly strained by the family’s exile, and the children were regularly packed off to friends and relations for long stints without their parents. The rapid deterioration in her mental state overshadowed much of Philip’s early life. He always robustly played down the ramifications of his mother’s illness, however it can scarcely have failed to have had an effect on him. Alice’s condition has often been described as a “religious crisis,” and indeed the most obvious sign of her decline was her increasingly eccentric religious fervour, and her attendant interest in spiritualism and the supernatural. Another equally plausible suggestion is that she suffered from manic depression, or bipolar disorder. She took to lying on the floor in order to develop “the power conveyed to her from above” and became convinced that she had acquired the power of healing with her hands. Alice’s committal on May 2 1930 marked the end of Philip’s family life. Not that he or his sisters could have realised it when they arrived back after a day out picnicking with their grandmother to find their mother gone – sedated and taken to Bellevue Hospital, a secure psychiatric sanatorium, at the instruction of her mother, Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine (later Victoria Mountbatten, Marchioness of Milford Haven), a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Alice and Andrew’s marriage had been under strain for several years but it effectively finished at this point. Although they would never divorce, Andrew relinquished his role as husband. He liberated himself from many of his responsibilities as father, too, shutting up their family home at St Cloud and thereafter leading a rather aimless life, drifting between Paris, Monte Carlo and Germany. He saw Philip now and again during the school holidays, but otherwise left him in the care of Alice’s family, the Milford Havens and Mountbattens. Philip’s sisters were by this time aged between 16 and 25, and would all be married to German noblemen within 18 months, so the disappearance of both their parents was of far less consequence for them than it was for their eight-year-old brother. Philip went to stay for a time with his grandmother at her apartment in Kensington Palace, before it was decided that Alice’s elder brother, Georgie, who had succeeded his father as the second Marquess of Milford Haven, should take Philip in. Georgie’s younger brother, Dickie Mountbatten is more often thought of as Philip’s surrogate father, but it was only later that he took on the role viewers of The Crown saw portrayed on screen.