Yet as a child born into the turmoil of inter-war Europe, a naval officer decorated for heroism in World War II, and one half of one of the most-enduring modern royal marriages, the Duke of Edinburgh is an extraordinary figure in his own right.
And as Britain celebrates 60 years since the queen succeeded as monarch, celebrations will also be focused on the man who has rarely left her side during her time in the spotlight.
Prince Philip's life was dramatic from the outset. The nephew of Greece's King Constantine I, he was born in 1921 on the dining room table of a villa on the Greek island of Corfu.
Known then simply as Philip -- he had no official surname -- he was forced into exile just 18 months later when the Greek monarchy was overthrown by a military revolt. Sailors on board HMS Calypso, the British cruiser given the secret mission to carry his family to safety, made him a crib out of an old fruit box.
Stateless and (by royal standards) poor, Philip's family spent the next few years wandering between the homes of European relatives as the continent descended into the political and economic upheaval that would lead to World War II.