Prince Philip showed 'sense of humour' and was 'kind and firm' in school reports

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·5 min read

Watch: Duke of Edinburgh: The Early Years

Prince Philip's teachers thought he was "kind and firm" and showed a "sense of humour" according to reports from his time at Gordonstoun in Scotland.

Philip, who died on 9 April at 99, was a pupil at the boarding school from 1934 until 1939, and came to love his time there.

He forged a friendship with Kurt Hahn, the founder of the school, and visited several times throughout his life.

Sharing tributes and memories of the duke while he was still a pupil, the school released a section of the last report Dr Hahn wrote for him.

It said Philip was "never failing where he has to consider other people’s rights or interests. He does not know what boredom is when intent on discharging his duties and has the making of a first-class organiser, who is both kind and firm. 

"A sense of humour and a rapid understanding of human nature have proved a great help to him in tasks of leadership."

The report added: "As a leader of games he is at times too irritable."

July 1935:  Prince Philip of Greece dressed for the Gordonstoun School's production of 'MacBeth', in Scotland.  (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)
Prince Philip, then of Greece, dressed for the Gordonstoun School's production of 'MacBeth', in Scotland in July 1935. (Fox Photos/Getty Images)
(Eingeschränkte Rechte für bestimmte redaktionelle Kunden in Deutschland. Limited rights for specific editorial clients in Germany.) Prinz Philip*10.06.1921- Duke of EdinburghPrince consort to Queen Elizabeth IIPhilip (bottom row, 3rd from l) with members of the student cricket team of Gordonstoun- around 1938 (Photo by ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
Prince Philip (bottom row, third from left) with members of the student cricket team of Gordonstoun in about 1938. (Ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

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As well as the report, Dr Hahn wrote a letter about Philip after he announced his engagement to then-Princess Elizabeth in 1947, which looked back at his time as a pupil.

Dr Hahn said: "When Philip came to Gordonstoun his marked trait was his undefeatable spirit. He enjoyed life, his laughter was heard everywhere and created merriness around him...In work he showed lively intelligence. 

"Once he had made a task his own he showed meticulous attention to detail and a pride in workmanship which was never content with mediocre results."

Philip had a difficult childhood, as his family had to flee Greece when he was 18 months old, as the king was forced to abdicate. 

At the age of eight he moved to England to live with his grandmother and uncle, and attended prep school in Cheam, where he once received an award for his French.

In 1933 he spent two terms at Salem School in south Germany which was also founded by Dr Hahn. 

Prince Philip of Greece (centre left, kneeling) performs as King Melchior in a nativity play at his public school, Gordonstoun, Elgin, Scotland.   (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
Prince Philip (centre left, kneeling) performs as King Melchior in a nativity play at his public school, Gordonstoun in the 1930s. (PA Images via Getty Images)
A rare picture of Prince Philip of Greece at the public school of Gordonstoun, Elgin, Scotland.   (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
Prince Philip at Gordonstoun, year unknown. The prince enjoyed his time at the school. (PA Images via Getty Images)

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But Dr Hahn was imprisoned for "the decadent corruption of German youth". He managed to flee to the UK where he set up Gordonstoun in 1934 – with Philip as one of the first pupils.

The young prince excelled at sport and was captain of both the hockey and the cricket teams. He became guardian, or head boy, in his last year.

Dr Hahn also spotted Philip's talent for languages and said he had an "unusual grasp of cause and effect in human affairs".

His time at the school allowed him to develop his love for sailing, and he went on to begin a successful naval career thanks to the training.

Philip's sailing instructor said he was a "cheerful shipmate and very conscientious in carrying out both major and minor duties. He is thoroughly trustworthy and not afraid of dirty and arduous work".

And Dr Hahn said he was a "born leader" with "the greatest sense of service of all the boys in the school".

Prince Philip also took part in the school's Moray Badge, which became a precursor to the Duke of Edinburgh award. 

Philip was awarded the Senior Silver Moray Badge in his last term at school.

The Prince of Wales, with his father the Duke of Edinburgh (left) and Captain Iain Tennant, Chairman of the Gordonstoun Board of Governors, arriving at Gordonstoun for the Prince's first day at Pulic School.   (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
Charles and the Duke of Edinburgh (left) with Captain Iain Tennant, chairman of the Gordonstoun board of governors, arriving at Gordonstoun for the Prince's first day. (PA Images via Getty Images)
Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, ex pupil of Gordonstoun, meets his old headmaster, Dr. Kurt Hahn, at a dinner given in the doctor's honour by The Friends of Gordonstoun. Dr. Hahn, who is 77, founded Salem School in Germany and the Duke studied there for a year. When Dr. Hahn moved the school to Scotland, the Duke went with it. Dr. Hahn retired in 1953   (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
Prince Philip with his old headmaster, Dr Kurt Hahn, in 1964. (PA Images via Getty Images)

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He went onto help Dr Hahn develop the programme to which he would give his name - and millions of people around the world have now learnt skills through the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme.

Philip sent three of his own children to the institution, though his son Prince Charles did not regard it with the same favour. Charles once dubbed it 'Colditz in kilts'. 

Princess Anne was not able to go herself, but sent her children, Peter and Zara, as the school was by then accepting both girls and boys. 

She is now warden of the school. 

ELGIN, SCOTLAND - SEPTEMBER 14:  Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh unveil a plaque during a visit to Gordonstoun School to open a new sports hall on September 14, 2010 in Elgin, United Kingdom. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)
The Queen and Prince Philip unveiling a plaque during a visit to Gordonstoun School to open a new sports hall in 2010. (Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)

The Duke of Edinburgh made trips back to Gordonstoun when he could, and was there most recently in 2014, where he queued with the pupils for lunch instead of having it brought to him.

Lisa Kerr, principal of Gordonstoun said: "Students and staff at Gordonstoun remember HRH The Duke of Edinburgh as someone who made students feel at ease in his presence and who shared their love of Gordonstoun. 

"He had an immensely strong character, combined with a unique sense of fun, infectious optimism and strong sense of duty."

Philip's funeral is due to be held on Saturday at Windsor Castle. The guest list will be limited to just 30 people because of the current COVID guidelines.

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