On Friday April 9, the world woke up to the sad news of the passing of His Royal Highness Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh. According to the announcement made by the House of Windsor, the Duke passed away peacefully in the morning, at Windsor Castle. He was 99-years-old and he would have celebrated his centenary on June 10.
Philip has left an extraordinary legacy, not only as the longest consort in the history of the British Monarchy, for his devoted life to duty and service to Her Majesty, but also for his contribution to the sport he loved, polo. He was a remarkable player, founder of Guards Polo Club, twice a winner of the Gold Cup for the British Open, and in addition, he played with some legends of the sport, such as Alberto Pedro and Horacio Heguy, Gonzalo Tanoira, Lord Patrick Beresford, among others.
A portrait of a Prince who came from Greece
Prince Philip was born as Philippos, Prince of Greece and Denmark, in Mon Repos, on the Greek island of Corfu, on June 10 1921. He was the youngest and only son to Princess Alice of Battenberg and Prince Andreas of Greece and Denmark. Alice was the daughter of Louis de Battenberg and Victoria of Hesse Darmstadt, the latter a granddaughter of Queen Victoria.
The Duke of Edinburgh and his passion for polo and horses
The Duke of Edinburgh’s long live was split between the royal duties and sports, mainly polo, something Philip was very fond of during his young and adult life. He was encouraged to play polo by his uncle, Lord Louis Mountbatten, nicknamed Uncle Dickie, who started to play polo in 1921, while serving in India. Lord Mountbatten turned out to be a very good polo player rated at 5 goals, he had his own team, The Blue Jackets, the was President of the London Polo Committee, and he even wrote a book, “An Introduction to Polo”, in 1931, which it is, to this date, one of the most valuable polo books ever written.
Uncle Dickie shared his passion with his nephew while in Malta. Like his uncle, Philip also reached a handicap of 5, and his usual position was as back. He used to play tournaments with his friends Archie David, Lord Beresford, el Marqués de Waterford, Paul Withers, and later, in the 60s, with his eldest son, Prince Charles. Unlike other amateur players, Philip took his job as a polo player very seriously, and he always hired the best players of the time to his own Windsor Park foursome. In 1957 and 1966, Windsor Park won the Gold Cup for the British Open, at Cowdray Park Polo Club, in a lineup that included Prince Philip, the Marquis of Waterford, Lord Patrick Beresford and Gonzalo Tanoira, the Argentinian 10-goaler, one of Philip’s best friends whom he admired so much, and nicknamed “Speedy”.
Through 1958 and 1965 he claimed several medium goal torunaments, such as the Royal Windsor Cup and the Cowdray Park Challenge. Windsor Park also played in the US, reaching a final in a tournament in Boca Raton.
Philip also traveled to Argentina on several occassions to play his favorurite sport. He even had the delight to play the Hurlingham Open, in 1966, with the legendary brothers Horacio and Alberto Pedro Heguy, members of the also legendary Coronel Suarez, the first ever team to reach 40 goals, composed by two pair of brothers, Harriott (Juan Carlitos and Alfredo) and the two Heguys. Philip was a huge fan of Coronel Suarez.
Alberto Pedro Heguy remembers about that event: “In 1966, the Argentine Polo Association asked Daniel Gonzalez, Horacio and myself to form a team to play a 30-goal Hurlingham Open with Philip. The Harriotts put a lineup together with Alfredo, Juan Carlitos, Gastón Dorignac and Gonzalo Tanoira. We qualified for the final, where we were going to play against an English team, that included Lord Beresford and Patrick Kemple. We thought that by playing against an English team, the Prince would let us down. But before the game started, he summoned all of us and said – “I want to let you know that I do want to win this match today”. At the end, we defeated the powerful English team 15-5, and up next we lost the final against the team of the Harriotts in the last minute. We provided the Prince with horses, and he did play a great match”.
While in Argentina, Philip used to play at Hurlingham and Club Hípico Militar San Jorge, where he was always greeted very warmly. He thanked the club by donating a trophy. That is the Duke of Edinburgh trophy, which is presented to the winners of the opening tournament of the spring season in Argentina, the San Jorge Open, which finals are played at Palermo every year.
In 1971, at 50-years-old, Philip quit polo, but just as a player. As a spectator, he usually was seen at the Royal Box at Guards Polo Club with his wife, the Queen, and he presented the awards at the Coronation Cup on several occasions. Once he left polo, he decided to move on to carriage drivings, a passion he shared with his granddaughter, Lady Louise Mountbatten, the daughter of the Earl and Countess of Wessex, Edward and Sophie. “When I wuit polo I thought – OK, I have the horses and the carriages, so why not giving a try?. I started in 1973, and I still do it”, said Philip in an interview with Alan Tichmarsh, for All Queen’s horses.
In addition, his position as President of the International Equestrian Federation allowed the Duke of Edinburgh to contribute to put a set of rules together for international carriage competitions, he wrote a book on the issue and represented the United Kingdom in various events.
Guards Polo Club
Philip was not only a remarkable polo player, he also was an active directive. He was the Patron of the Hurlingham Polo Association, the founder and President of one of the most prestigious polo clubs worldwide, Guards Polo Club, a position he hold since the club was founded, in 1955.
For several years, the cavalry officers used to play polo at Cowdray Park. Among the attendants to the club set in Midhurst, West Sussex, were Philip and Elizabeth. But the problem in those days – post war years – going from Windsor to Sussex was not that easy. So Major Archie David, a renowned tea producer and one of the officials who used to play at Cowdray Park, invited his friends to play at his home, Friar Park, set in Henley, near London.
Another of those polo friends, Major Marquis Douro, spoke to Philip about the possibility to play near Windsor; Philip liked the idea, because he wanted to play polo close to his home. Around 1954, the officials asked the Queen for permission to play there. Her Majesty – as everybody is well aware – is also passionate for horses, so she accepted, and suggested to use Smiths Lawn, around Great Windsor Park. Work on the two fields started in 1954-55, and were called Number One and Number Two. Later they became The Queen’s Ground and The Duke’s Ground, respectively. In the meantime, Lord Douro asked Lord Beresford to set the fields to play the first chukkas. Lord Beresford, who started to play polo at Sandringham, was one of the polo friends of Cowdray and Henley.
The Household Brigade Polo Club was born on January 25 1955. During that year, the club hired Argentinian professionals, Tito Lalor and Alfredo Harrington, and other members joined by the late 50s, such as Harold Bamberg, David Brown, Hilton Nicholas, Peter Palumbo, Billy Whitbread and Jim Withycombe. Archie David provided several horses to the club, joined by around 20 Argentinian horses. The first ever tournament played at Guards was a medium goal competition, the Royal Windsor Cup. Five years later, in 1960, Guards established the club’s premier tournament, The Queen’s Cup
Low goal has a place at Guards, as well, through the Archie David Cup, originally named Friar Park Cup, the name of Mayor David’s home, who he sold it to The Beatles’ George Harrison, in 1972. Following Archie David’s death, in 1972, the cup was re named after him. Currently, the club has several grounds; among the most recent unveiled is Castle Ground, in Flemish Farm, one of the best grounds of the club, not only for the high level to play on it, but also for the spectacular overlook to Windsor Castle.
The club changed its name to Guards Polo Club in 1969. Since the foundation, back in 1955, Prince Philip’s creation has an enormous growth and became one of the most renowned and prestigious polo club worldwide. His Royal Highness Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh has definetly left a remarkable legacy within the history of the sport.