So much is said about Prince Charles and his relationship with his mother, Queen Elizabeth. But not as much is said about how Charles gets along with his father, Prince Philip. And while they appear to be close today, the relationship between the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales has a long history of being distant, difficult, and contentious. We take a long look back at what has shaped this relationship — and caused Prince Charles to constantly feud with his father.
For starters, they’re very different
Both Prince Charles and his father have openly recognized how their different personalities have shaped their difficult relationship. Charles has referred to the relationship as “cold” and has said that he even felt bullied by his father at times. (More on that a little later.)
Next: A rebuttal to Prince Charles’ remarks?
What Prince Philip has said
When Prince Philip spoke to royal biographer Gyles Brandreth in 2016, he explained that his and his son’s personal characters were so different that they could never grow close. “He’s a romantic and I’m a pragmatist. That means we do see things differently,” Prince Philip reportedly said. “”And because I don’t see things as a romantic would, I’m unfeeling.”
Next: The roots of this father-son dynamic.
Philip’s childhood says a lot …
A main reason for understanding why Prince Philip is, well, the way he is, is to understand his rough childhood. He spent time moving between countries as a refugee, and would stay with relatives or friends during boarding school holidays because he lacked an established home.. While he grew from that to be confident and driven, it is also what made him a much more stoic individual.
Next: The relationship with his own parents
Philip’s own mother and father
A wandering childhood has a lot to do with Prince Philip’s own parents. His mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg, spent portions of Philip’s childhood in an insane asylum due to schizophrenia that made her hear voices. They were kept apart mostly until Philip was in his 20s, when they had to reunite for a family funeral. His father, Prince Andrew, was allegedly away in France with his mistress while Alice was committed, leaving Philip without a father figure.
Next: Speaking of the funeral…
The rest of Philip’s family
Tragedy struck the duke’s family in 1937 when his older sister Cecilie died in a plane crash at the age of 26. While this offered Philip the opportunity to see his mother, he was set to attend the Royal Naval College, and couldn’t stay with her. He was 16 at this point, and had spent the bulk of his life on his own without much emotional support — which surely shaped him as a father.
Next: For someone who was so alone, he sure found a long-standing life partner.
How this shapes his relationship with the queen
Despite his rough upbringing, Prince Philip has found a long-lasting relationship with his wife, Queen Elizabeth. Although it should be recognized that the two are no lovey-dovey pair. The non-romantic is never seen holding his wife’s hand in public — although he has, in recent years, been seen giving her a helping hand. Their relationship has allegedly been based on Philip’s ability to make Elizabeth laugh, and not dwelling on his lack of romanticism.
Next: His wife may feel supported, but his eldest son never has.
The difficulties for Prince Charles
Prince Philip’s tough exterior made things difficult for a young Prince Charles, who was more the sensitive type. Part of the trouble came when the heir apparent was sent to the Scottish all-boys school Gordonstoun at the insistence of his father. It’s believed that Prince Philip sent Prince Charles to his alma mater because he wanted his son to have the same positive experience he did. Instead, Charles was reportedly bullied and alone — which possibly added to growing resentment towards his father.
Next: Charles’ siblings may not have helped the matter.
What probably made this father-son dynamic even more strained was Prince Philip’s relationship with Prince Charles’ younger siblings. Philip allegedly picked favorites in Princess Anne and his youngest son, Prince Edward. Both shared the duke’s tougher personality and dry wit — characteristics that were the opposite Charles’ nature. (Queen Elizabeth reportedly has always had a soft spot for Prince Andrew.)
Next: What made their relationship the most difficult of all.
How Prince Charles and his father communicated
Communication is at the forefront of this father-son duo. Allegedly, when Prince Philip wanted to discuss something with his oldest son, he would write him a hand-written letter. There were no heart-to-heart conversations. For Philip, whose father was never around, this might have been a more comfortable means of communication. For Prince Charles, it probably added to his feelings of isolation.
Next: Where Charles’ mother comes into all of this.
Why the queen draws more ire
As we stated in the beginning, most of the attention is placed on Prince Charles’ relationship with his mother, not his father. This is especially true since his siblings have argued that his portrayal of Queen Elizabeth as a cold, unfeeling mother is completely false. Keep in mind that Elizabeth was crowned queen not long after Charles was born, and she spent a lot of his youth tending to more royal duties. It’s possible that Charles took this much more to heart.
Next: A time that both Charles’ parents ganged up on him.
When it came to marriage …
It’s no secret that Prince Charles’ relationship with Princess Diana was tumultuous, even before they got married. But was that because he was forced into it? Charles has said that his parents all but bullied him into proposing to her. Prince Philip allegedly told his son — in a hand-written letter, no less — that he needed to either get married stop seeing Diana all together.
Next: When the relationship changed.
When it came to divorce
As detached as Prince Philip has been portrayed, he allegedly tried to help both Charles and Diana out after they divorced. According to a report in The Independent, the duke spent time “talking to both parties in the hope the pair would reconcile.” He even reportedly tried to give Prince Charles marital advice, but he was only met with disdain.
Next: From one father to another.
How this shaped Charles as a father
It’s possible that a hard relationship with his own father, plus a more sensitive disposition, shaped Prince Charles into the father he became. Despite playing second fiddle to Princess Diana’s glowing persona, he was reportedly a very hands-on dad when he raised Princes William and Harry. Charles is also credited with making a huge effort to be home from royal duties to see his sons after Diana died.
Next: Jumping to present day.
How the relationship has evolved
This late in life, Prince Philip and Prince Charles will surely never make up for all the times they could have gotten closer when Charles was a young boy. However, the two do seem to be on better terms in their latter years. Prince Philip was reportedly very appreciative when Prince Charles’ organized a party for the queen’s 90th birthday, and made a point of complimenting him on the event’s success.
Next: What does the next generation think?
Philip with his grandchildren — and great-grandchildren
However stoic he may have been as a father, Prince Philip certainly seems to be a much more fun-loving as a grandpa. There’s a plethora of photos from over the years showing him with his grandkids, whether it’s with William and Harry or with his granddaughters, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie. And also appears to be quite fond of Prince George and Princess Charlotte — which surely makes their grandfather, Prince Charles, very happy.
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