It was to be a chance to shine, they told him. A chance to get out from under the long shadow of his wife, The Queen of England.
It was 1956, and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, took off on a trip to Australia to participate in the opening of the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. He and the Queen had actually attended the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, and two years later, went to Australia as that country was gearing up for the Melbourne Summer Games. According to this article in the Daily Telegraph, the Queen accepted an invitation to return to Australia to open up the first Olympics in the southern hemisphere.
As Queen Elizabeth’s schedule would not permit, Prince Philip stepped in. On board the HMY Britannia, the Prince was on an extended tour of the British empire, including New Guinea and nearby islands, as well as a trip to Antarctic, the first member of royalty to travel that far south.
But as is portrayed in the wonderful period series, The Crown, it was not all smooth sailing. The Daily Telegraph stated that the Prince “arrived at the MCG in a Rolls Royce, resplendent in naval uniform, to open the games,” which helped smooth over the rumors of infidelity. But the rumors would gain momentum when it was reported that his close friend, Mike Parker, was being sued for divorce by his wife for adultery among other things. Parker, who was the Prince’s private secretary, resigned on the Brittannia, and the Prince returned home to rumors of worsening relations between he and his wife.
So what was supposed to be a moment of pride for the British empire turned into tawdry tabloid fodder.