LONDON Prince Philip became Britains longest-serving consort on Saturday, clocking up 57 years and 71 days in the role.

Queen Elizabeth IIs husband overtook the record set by Queen Charlotte, who married King George III in 1761 and died just over a year before him in 1818.

Philip, who at 87 is already the oldest serving partner of a reigning monarch, began his duties as consort on February 6, 1952, when George VI died and his eldest daughter became queen. But the milestone is unlikely to be marked by the former naval officer, who is not a man known for liking a fuss.

The Duke of Edinburgh is spending the weekend at Windsor Castle, west of London, and has no planned official engagements. Prince Philip does not hold the title prince consort, which Queen Victoria gave to her husband Prince Albert.

Some reports say he was frustrated at being restricted by the royal courtiers and not allowed to have Alberts wide-ranging influence on public life but he has nonetheless carved out a niche role for himself at Queen Elizabeths side.

In a speech marking their golden wedding anniversary in 1997, Queen Elizabeth paid tribute to her husbands role in the monarchy and public life. “He is someone who doesnt take easily to compliments,” she said. “But he has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years, and I, and his whole family, and this and many other countries, owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim or we shall ever know.”

Prince Philip shares the queens sense of duty and tradition but not always her diplomatic skills. His plainspeaking and off-the-cuff comments often run contrary to political correctness and are regularly branded gaffes.

In Britain and the Commonwealth, his name is synonomous with the Duke of Edinburghs Award scheme, set up in 1956, and which has helped six million young people from 100 countries to develop new skills.

Prince Philippos of Greece and Denmark was born on a kitchen table on Corfu Island on June 10, 1921, the only son of Prince Andrew of Greece -- the younger brother of Greeces king Constantine -- and Princess Alice of Battenberg. At just 18 months old, he and his family were evacuated amid political instability. The family settled in Paris and Philip was schooled in England, Germany and Scotland.

He became an outstanding Royal Navy cadet before serving on battleships in the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean. By 1945, he was a first lieutenant, and witnessed Japans World War II surrender in Tokyo Bay.

Philip first met Princess Elizabeth, the future queen, in July 1939. They maintained regular contact during the war, but it was not until July 1947 that their engagement was announced and they married that year on November 20 at Westminster Abbey. To marry the princess, he had to give up his titles as a prince of Greece and Denmark and convert from Greek Orthodoxy to Anglicanism.

He took the name Philip Mountbatten his maternal grandfather, Prince Louis of Battenberg, changed the family name during World War I.

He resumed his naval career after the wedding the couple headed to Malta, where he had been posted, and he began to support his wife in her royal work. By now a commander, the Duke of Edinburghs naval career was cut short by the death of King George VI in 1952, which brought his wife to the throne.

Since then, he has accompanied her on countless overseas visits and public engagements all over Britain, always walking one pace behind his wife. In 2008, he undertook more than 350 engagements.

He is patron or president of some 800 organisations, with special interests in scientific and technological research and development, sport, the welfare of young people, conservation and the environment.—AFP

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